Shahid Afridi has added a new dimension to being hungry for the game and dramatically demonstrated that khiladi jeet ke liye kuch bhi karega. And though his tactics are deplorable, it must be admitted that players, under pressure to succeed, are occasionally pushed into doing silly things.
Nothing justifies unfair play but there is plenty that is bizarre in contemporary cricket. This is the era of openness, of liberalism, of revisiting tradition and convention. Informality is cool and contemporary takes precedence over normal correctness.
In a way, what is correct is itself undergoing change. Aggression, for instance, is the new mantra. Players, trained to win at any cost, are forever on the front foot even if it is to rubbish opponents. A recent example: Harbhajan trashing Ponting, ridiculing his batting ability.
Much of the contemporary casual cool is reflected in cricket reporting, especially in the electronic media. One feature of the modern trend of breathless breaking news is players are mentioned by their pet names — Sehwag is Viru and Dhoni invariably Mahi. Some think this is fashionable, others find it unnecessary and jarring.
Cricket coverage, refreshing and energetic, becomes more interesting when spiked by a slice of irreverence. News now consists of part truth, part fiction; there is some masala, juicy gossip and trivia, and some hard khabar. Opinion is king but there is also the risk of reporting becoming judgemental and a verdict being pronounced without sufficient evidence.
Perhaps this is a matter of survival because TV has to catch and retain the attention of empowered, remote-wielding viewers. With this pressure, without a bit of sansani, how do they hold the interest of the housewife and the distracted fan? Strangely, TV puts out a lot of serious, solid cricket content as well. This is a part of live coverage where experts dissect technicalities in extensive detail, and the heavy-duty gyaan teaches youngsters.
Gone are the days when newspapers devoted space to serious technical analysis. Apparently, readers prefer light stuff.
Ultimately, whether it is Twenty20 over Tests, or easy informality over profound seriousness, popular choice and market forces will prevail. Therefore, no point quarrelling over Viru, Bhajji and Mahi … but Srikkanth, chairman of the selection committee, as Cheeka?!