|The Somaliland Times||Home | Contact us | Links | Archives|
|ISSUE 52 January 18, 2003||
Praying For A Miracle
Mohamed Abdi Hassan (Diridhaba), Karachi, Pakistan
Have the Americans given sufficient thought to the calendar they propose for their war against Iraq? According to serious analysts, the date for the invasion is juggling between 15 and 21 February. Washington is expected to wait till the end of January for United Nations inspectors to deliver their full report (which, so far, has not discovered a 'smoking gun' in Iraq, leave alone a smoking weapon of mass destruction).
The White House will then spend a fortnight trying to get another, and hopefully unequivocal, resolution passed by the Security Council to serve as the international cloak before the dagger. Come 15 February: bang! Does America realize that the dates clash directly with the Cricket World Cup in South Africa and Zimbabwe?
The Americans could win the war on the ground and lose it in the air. Given a choice, what would you watch on television: cricket or war? President George Bush cannot be so isolationist as to be indifferent to the fact that the whole of the former British Empire, plus Holland, will be riveted to cricket rather than the second Gulf war. It is obvious that Britain does not care, but that is no surprise. Britain has left its empire behind, physically, psychologically, emotionally; even erased it from its memory. But surely America cannot be so irresponsible. After all, America has to run the world, and do so, according to Texan optimists, for the rest of this century. That is a long haul. America could need the help of client states, as available from the old Empire.
It is true that China, Russia, Germany, France, Turkey and Japan will not be watching the Cricket World Cup, and will therefore concentrate their whole attention on America's techno-military prowess in the deserts, marshes and mountains of Iraq. However, I hope the penny has dropped. All these nations are potential competitors of America, not allies, either singly or together, in the race to dominate the world in this century. Europe has already stated its claim to equality, and the euro is now valued above the dollar. The French already hate Americans (except as tourists). The Germans are more guarded and the Italians are checking out both sides.
But France and Germany are determined to turn Europe into the superpower of the 21st century, and prevent the unchallenged sway of the dollar and the gunship. Russia has not given up its ambitions; it is only a matter of time before it begins to growl again, this time with more Tsarist cadence than Communist. China is well on its way to economic superstardom, backed by steely military muscle. As for Japan, who can really predict what it will do? It is the only race that actually dared to invade America, did so with smashing success, and then fought a long war against the Americans. Who knows where it will sit when an opportunity beckons?
So, loyal and useful, client states can only come from the English-speaking, cricket-playing world. Useful, because there is no point in having a client state that cannot look after itself: a superpower wants a comprador, not a leech. And how is the old Empire going to be impressed if we spend February and March rooting for Sachin Tendulkar instead of General Tommy Franks? What would you rather watch on February 12? India vs Holland or America vs Iraq? Actually since India is playing Holland and I can't recall the name of a single Dutch cricketer, I might actually switch to the America-Iraq encounter. On the other hand, since India were turned into toast by New Zealand, one can never be sure of what India does against any team. Even this one could become a thriller, with India losing in the last over still two runs behind Holland's score of 167. You never know.
There is no doubt in my mind about the next match, though. On February 15, India plays Australia, and I am going to stick to this even if George Bush is celebrating victory with a mass in Baghdad Cathedral. Australia will already have beaten Pakistan by then. Glen McGrath and Shane Warne will have recovered from their injuries, and fired up by match play. Frankly, if you ask me, I don't think that either of them was in any serious trouble last month. They just wanted some rest from beating up England.
Even for an Australian, smashing England into pulp can become boring. They wanted rest, in order to be fresh and fully fit for the World Cup. You notice this in Sachin as well. He has become a minimalist against New Zealand. They are all gearing up for the Real Thing. They also know that this will be their last World Cup. Sachin Tendulkar is 30, as are Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly. The Australians are much older. The next World Cup will be in the West Indies, four years later. You cannot be fit for World Cup fielding at the age of 34 or more. Your body is past it.
The Warnes and Tendulkars will squeeze every ounce of glory from this Cup. A lifetime of product endorsements depends upon it. Big Cricket is Big Money. The only person who will not retire by then will be Saurav Ganguly, because he will not go until he is pushed and no one will push him as long as Jagmohan Dalmiya is around, and Dalmiya is going to be around forever. So there you are.
Even a nuclear war would not drag me away from the India-Pakistan match on the first of March. This will be a hinge game. So much could hinge on it. For instance, who of the two teams would make it to the next round, the Super Six category. Who would be sacked by their Board for losing could depend on this match. And, of course, this match could lead to a resumption of Indo-Pakistan cricket on the subcontinent (if you can play in South Africa, why not here?), thereby ushering in a new era of peace, defusing the terrorism-induced crisis, changing the mood on Kashmir, persuading Islamabad to take firm steps towards the regime of SAPTA and SAFTA (agreed by all at Kathmandu in January 2002), and eventually eliminating the possibility of nuclear war between India and Pakistan. Saurav Ganguly and Waqar Younus could be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize if they get it right at the Super Sport Park in Centurion on March 1.
We all know who is going to win the America-Iraq match. That is a no-brainer. The World Cup is more difficult to predict. Australia is the George Bush of the Cup. India is giving every indication of being the Saddam Hussein: lots of support from people who cannot influence the result, immense posturing but no real hope.
There is of course what might be called the Pepsi Option. It is sleazy but it is there. It has been featured in Pepsi ads on television: you must have seen it, it always comes when something interesting is about to happen in the game. A clever clever Indian unplugs the Pepsi dispenser and Warne, Nasser Hussein, Jonty Rhodes et al injure themselves in frustration. You get the idea? If you can't defeat them fair and square, injure them through subterfuge. Alas, Pepsi Sleaze won't work. Warne and Company may be greedy, but they are not stupid.
Will real sleaze work? It is estimated that some 80 per cent of the Cup money will be provided by the Indian advertiser. The Indian advertiser will not pay unless India plays. Ratings drop like a stone in a pond if India is not on the field. You can take a ten-second ad for Rs 10,000 when Australia plays South Africa, which is a proper game of cricket. Let India play Namibia and the same ad costs you Rs 100,000. You see how crucial it is to ensure that India get into the Super Six round?
So could the multinationals (it sometimes seems that the economic future of South Korea and Japan depends on the World Cup) spread the goodies to ensure that a few games are thrown? The idea has its merits. Cricket is money, not national pride. If money can work over ground, it can also work underground.
Corruption has already entered the game. It is also multi-racial. Remember Hansie Cronje? May his soul rest in peace since his last days were so tortured. The problem is that administrators have now equipped themselves with hawk-eyes. Everything is monitored. They are even keeping tabs on bowlers who leave the field after finishing their ten overs so that a better fielder can replace them in the crucial last over. Unfortunately, even bribery and corruption must be ruled out.
We cannot however rule out miracles. Both Saddam Hussein and Saurav Ganguly are currently praying for one.