It couldn’t be a coincidence that Leicester’s hosting the Indian team for the World Cup. A third of the population of this city 100 miles north of London is Indian; no other city in the West comes close to that. Boards at railway stations welcome visitors in Hindi and Gujarati (also English). The local Indians plan a grand party for the team immediately after India beat Zimbabwe (as if it’s a fait accompli) on May 19. High Commissioner Lalit Mansingh will be there to cheer the team. India have a reputation for doing better on home grounds (at least till recently). But net practice within smelling distance of bhajias means the team is in danger of feeling too much at home. All an English plot, who knows, to dull the competitive edge and to see our fine players distracted by those Gujaratan ankles.
If table tennis can be a rage, why not table cricket? Tickets aren’t quite sold out for the World Cup Table Cricket matches now underway, but the game is certainly here. Thirty-five teams are playing in the competition organised by the English Cricket Board at Headingly, Old Trafford, Edgbaston and the like. The final will, obviously, be at Lord’s on May 4. Table cricket actually uses a table tennis table as a cricket field. A launcher bowls plastic balls and the batsman handles them with a wooden bat. Side controls send fielders sliding about the field. The teams have six players each, with two seventh men. Each team begins with a score, which decreases every time you lose a wicket. But the batsmen also score—in twos, fours, and if they dare, sixes.
Cricket and fashion have come together for the World Cup. British models Caprice and Tim Vincent have been modelling cricket couture in the build-up to the tournament, with England captain Alec Stewart catwalking to promote the new look. It’s easy to see why England picked those two. A columnist’s theory to explain England’s bad form: English players have the world’s biggest backsides. Hinders quick movement, that sort of thing. Those changes cannot be made at this stage, but with national flags designed on to colourful costumes, they’ll certainly look good parading them-selves out there. It might not look very nice, though, if they’re made to trudge out after an early exit.
The World Cup will be played with an English Duke’s ball, which offers the bowler more assistance than the Australian Kookaburra, according to Paul Newman of The Sunday Telegraph, London. Says former Indian skipper K. Srikkanth: "In the early part of the summer in England, the ball literally talks. It seams, moves in the air a lot, and comes on nicely to the bat. Batsmen like Sachin and Rahul will enjoy batting, the movement in the air is something to watch out for."
All too Brief
The reign of the World Champions is getting shorter with every successive tournament. The winners of the first two World Cups, the West Indies, held the title for a total of 8 years and 6 days, India for 4 years and 134 days, Australia for 4 years and 131 days, Pakistan for 3 years and 350 days, and for current holders Sri Lanka it’ll be 3 years and 96 days. Unless...
The Amarnath Fit
When Hero Honda wanted to shoot the commercial wishing Azhar’s team good luck, only Amarnath of Kapil’s Devils could fit the blazer he was presented when India won the World Cup in 1983.
The chief threat will, of course, be the weather. Although the early-season pitches are likely to favour the hosts with their seamers and slow medium pacers. The tournament also has to be staged before Wimbledon for TV reasons (the World Cup is the BBC’s last fling in cricket). After Wimbledon, the Rugby World Cup is the next major sporting event.