The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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India leaves, cricket stays
off the field

South Africa, which had been backing India ever since their team exited only because “you guys looked like the only ones who could give it to the arrogant Australians”, just cannot get over the final fiasco.

From receptionist to restaurateur, driver to diplomat, businessman to bureaucrat, everyone has something to say the minute they spy an Indian look.

“How could you do this to us' What happened to Tendulkar, maan' Was the captain told to field first' Did some powerful people in India want the team to lose'..” Cup queries carry on.

The post-mortem of the Indian surrender — not Australian sweep — cuts across boundaries. At a diplomatic-cum-business do on Monday, an American settled in Jo’burg is as intrigued by whispers of the Indians not having “put enough thought into the final” as a European guest who “found some young Indian players anything but crestfallen” at the team hotel late on Sunday.

Saddam slips behind Sourav on the most-discussed-man list, as every move the skipper made — and those he did not — is put under the microscope by whites, blacks and browns.

At another social setting, an Australian cricket writer adds to the needle that Ponting had tossed on to the post-match pitch, when he had talked about his team being mentally better prepared for the big game than the Indians.

“We heard your guys were all doing their own stuff, and some were busy eating out and socialising, on Saturday night. The Aussies, despite having players who had been in World Cup finals before, kept to themselves and focused on the job at hand. Did the Indians feel they had done enough' Were they less hungry'” asks the scribe.

Idle chat about a north-west axis working against our man from the east is also growing more animated by the passing hour, with a fly on the wall of the Jo’burg hotel lobby picking up a politico-biz tete-a-tete about who the next Indian captain should be and how soon. Come on, let the boy from Bengal be.

Around 150 km from the Sandton hotel that hosted Team India, in Sun City — the Bangali brigade could almost lead you to believe (for a second, no more) that this is Thakurpukur’s Fun City, instead — the writing of the Cup final is still on the wall.

Race and Sports Bar, where bets on soccer matches, horse and motor races are won and lost, the white-board on Tuesday morning reads: “Cricket, To win the World Cup, Australia 3/10, Indian 2/1.”

If you think this is time standing still, check out the cricket action by the board — Craig McDermott running into bowl, Nicky Boje in delivery stride and Vinod Kambli with bat raised. Time to get a move on, maan!

Curves ahead

From the succinct (“You have every right not to remain silent”, a radio FM board in blue and white) to the subtle (“Six minutes from a smile” — Eno, with bubbles in a glass) to the sensuous (“It’s not just your face that needs body care”, Dove, with a soap resting on the smooth curve of a woman’s waist).

From the corny (“Hasbeans”, pointing to a “pure veg” eatery) to the horny (“Just released”, a new drink, showing a well-endowed woman’s jacket zipper in slip mode).

And then they complain of high highway accident rates!

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