What a month it is turning out to be for India and Indian cricket. First there were celebrations when India defied recent history to win their first series in the West Indies after 35 years. Then the acceptance of twenty20 format by the Indian board, and then came the news of full and final recovery of the living god of the Indian cricket. To cap it, the World Cup final in 2011 will also be held in India.
From sensational to symbolic, and may be for some, substantial to sham -- the various hues are visible in the kaleidoscope of the Indian cricket and it is something the most discerning of eyes must have observed.
Well done in Windies
The historic win is now part of the folklore. Though commentators have cautioned against reading too much into this victory but they may have forgotten that when Australia ended their drought of series losses against a strong Caribbean side in 1994-95, they did not certainly beat a side boasting the presence of the likes of Lloyd, Richards, Holding and Garner. Walsh and Ambrose were not threatening too much, though there was certainly one Brian Charles Lara to give them a good, but in vain, fight.
Similarly, the West Indies of 2006 may not be a patch on the other West Indian sides of the seventies, eighties or early nineties, but an overseas win is a win. Even if it comes against teams like Zimbabwe, it must be celebrated because it is so rare...and because over the decades we have proved to be inept on foreign pitches with real or imaginary demons.
The God finally recovers
We are so much personality obsessed that at times, injury to the living God of Indian cricket causes more concern than any injury to national pride. Predictably, Tendulkar's fitness draws more celebrations than may be a win at Kingston.
The reason why personalities matter more than performances is because the game in India is not sold on performance alone. After all, how many solo ads has Kumble done in a career equally chequered!
That Tendulkar is fit and will tear Sri Lanka and South Africa to shreds is enough to send the adrenalin flowing for the next one month. It may or may not happen is another matter. The event could also send the ad rates soaring and must be celebrated by the spectators and sponsors alike. And it will be!
There is a piece of irony in the torrent of news concerning Sachin's health and the collective approval of his recent big scores, even if against B or C grade sides in England.
At times, it smacks of the disapproval of the institutionalized approach being undertaken under Greg Chappell. Sachin Tendukar has been, and may still be the biggest cricketer in Post-Bradman era in terms of cricketing genius and marketing appeal, still a fit Tendulkar ought not be confused with Tendulkar in form. But, may be, that is not how the board and the public feel and their sentiments must be respected in this joyous July.
Twenty20 - prefect recipe for India eye
While how much Tendulkar's fitness translates into his match-winning form will be seen very soon, in just about a month's time, the immediate concern is India embracing Twenty20, the next revolutionary concept after the cricket world tumbled into a gold mile about three decades back, in the form of ODIs.
Among the current players, three significant views have emerged for Twenty20, which has potential to see a whole three-nation tournament with seven matches finishing in just about three days!
There is also a fear that slow bowlers, who had become flatter with the ODIs losing their loop in the process, will be flattened out of the game. Harbhajan is not off the mark when he says that ''bowlers will always be under pressure'' in this format of the game.
However, the Indian public is not likely to be too upset about what Harbhajan says will be the ''katle-aam'' of the bowlers. If given a choice between a low-scoring close contests and a run-feast, most spectators will only be interested in choke-chhake and an Indian victory. So when Dhoni welcomes the concept, conveying the sentiments of all free-stroking batsmen, he is also reading the psyche of the Indian public little too well.
Perhaps the most objective comment on the issue has come from, and not surprisingly, skipper Rahul Dravid who probably will find it difficult to hold his place in this format of the game, like in the initial period of his ODI career.
The Indian skipper is categorical that ''we've got to be careful that Twenty20 does not dilute 50-over cricket." Though Dravid would like the competition to be played mostly at the domestic level, the Indian cricket board has accepted the inevitability of the format at international level.
The format is also likely to provide level playing field to teams like Holland and UAE, who have found it difficult to keep pace with the majors in the longer version of 50-overs a side. Much in the same way as 50-overs tournaments eventually allowed sides like Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh to gain test status.
A feast for subcontinent's cricket loving people, the format today is also ideal for making cricket well and truly an international game. The foreign broadcasters, for its international appeal and increasing advertising pie, will also lap up a three-hours game, or a weekend tourney greedily.
The only issue of some concern will be players' burnout. But that can certainly been taken care of with specialists needed for each version.
More cricket, more money, more celebrities (players). Who's complaining! July 2006 will indeed be remembered as month of celebration!