May 12, 2016 1:48:09 pm
The media centre at the Newlands Stadium in Cape Town, all of three floors up from the ground level, has a walkway which connects it to the VIP area in the adjoining building.
Or at least that’s how the layout was when the IUCC World Cup began, on February 9, 2004.
This walkway was quite the place to be on that day. The view wasn’t the best – the media centre building blocked off parts of the ground, but the noise and music of the opening ceremony and the excitement during the subsequent match between hosts South Africa and the West Indies was quite something.
This walkway was also the shortest conduit to the VIP area, which seated, among others, Fanie de Villiers, the South African fast bowler.
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There was reason to approach De Villiers on that day. He was then being touted as India’s bowling coach, and it was a sworn duty of every reporter to catch him.
To cut a long story short, De Villiers couldn’t, or wouldn’t, be caught. But that wasn’t reason enough to leave the walkway.
The atmosphere, and the Cape Doctor, the near-gale force wind that comes in from the Atlantic Ocean, kept us hooked to the bridge.
“This is quite a place to be, eh gentlemen?” The question was barely audible in the noise and through the wind. We turned around to find this gentleman holding on to the railing, like we were, to avoid being blown away off.
Tony Cozier, wasn’t it?
Yes indeed. It was Cozier, and my introduction to the man who made West Indies as immortal as Brian Lara, Michael Holding and others.
The meeting wasn’t long. He had another stint of commentary to return to. “Looks like our man Lara is going to get a big one tonight,” he said as he waved goodbye and left.
He did indeed, a century that was the big difference between the two teams as the West Indies won the opening game by three runs.
I came across Cozier off and on during that trip, and on occasion later too. There was always a wave and a wink and a wisecrack. So when I heard of good old Tony waving goodbye for the last time, I thought it would be fair to honour him with a wave back as he leaves, and a smile for adding flair to the game of cricket.
So long, Tony Cozier. The game was richer through your life.
This is possibly the lowest season for the Indian Premier League. For one, the stands are empty. Irrespective of how the BCCI and its big boys want to sell it, many of the matches have seen big swathes of empty seats, especially in the North, with the weather beginning to take its toll.
It seems there are way too many things going on in India for people to take notice of the IPL. The only time the event was really in the limelight was in April, when the issue of playing the tournament in drought-ravaged Maharashtra was hot.
Thereafter, it’s all been a little quiet, barring an occasional teaser which keeps the sports pages alive. For example, exactly who won the toss when Kolkata Knight Riders played Kings XI Punjab at Eden Gardens?
Whatever you say about the IPL, it is never bereft of questions.
Here is another one. This may be a stretch, but I think its a fair question. Quinton de Kock and Rishabh Pant were involved in a 115-run opening stand as Delhi Daredevils beat Gujarat Lions by eight wickets at Rajkot.
Cut to Ferozshah Kotla and DD take on Rising Pune Supergiants on May 5. No De Kock and no Chris Morris. Pune go on to win by seven wickets.
OK, I know this sounds like a conspiracy theory, but I thought the first mantra of most sports was never to change a winning combination. Pune couldn’t win an argument at the moment, so to host them with a relatively weaker team isn’t exactly a great tactic, especially with the playoffs still not decided.
The one passed relatively unnoticed, but it needs some cynicism from the likes of yours truly to see the dark side.
Sure, throw up your hands in horror. But the IPL isn’t exactly a paragon of purity and integrity, is it? How did teams like Pune Supergiants come into being in the first place?
What is unfortunate is that the IPL, regardless of the fine performances by many players, will never ever completely throw off the mantle of grey areas. It could be the drought, it could be dubious tosses, or questionable team selections – the event is always under the microscope.
It isn’t the media or the people who’re responsible for that. These grey areas have been allowed to fester by the BCCI and its much-vaunted Anti-Corruption Unit, which really doesn’t do much. If the IPL goes to distant shores in the coming year, it will be another rather decisive blow on something that was a goose that laid golden eggs. Maybe one too many.
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