Holy fucking shit, that was exciting!
You know what I’m talking about, right? The cricket. At the weekend. Bell-gate. The dismissal that never was. The doubtful out. The tea-time reprieve… The shit-storm of controversy that became, just one informal chitchat later, the feel-good story of the summer – as epitomized by the boos of a baying crowd morphing seamlessly into jubilant applause.
People say “pure theatre” to describe such a thing, don’t they? Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had that much fun gawping at a stage. No, as this latest occasion definitively demonstrates – likewise, previously, too many more to count – whenever an especially compelling Lear rages into the teeth of a storm, or a Stanley Kowalski cries out for ‘Stella!’ or a Lady Bracknell for “a handbag!”, theatre-goers ought by now to exclaim “pure sport” to register the thrill. Maybe even do away with the “bravo” of old and greet a well-played performance, instead, with both arms aloft – like a cricket umpire signaling a six.
Because, as I think I may have mentioned already, HOLY FUCKING SHIT, THAT WAS EXCITING! I sure do hope against hope you didn’t miss it… Miss-
Irish Morgan clipping the ball easy off his pads, and scrappy Kumar diving headfirst to stop it at the boundary’s edge. And then Kumar upright again and dazed, and stout-chested Bell ambling off to tea, figuring (wrongly!) the final act of the session was over with and done. And Kumar tossing lazily back the ball, and Dhoni helping it along, and Mukund, in the middle of his game to forget, using it at last to knock off the bails – nonchalant, like the rest, as tired bodies started lopping off the field. And Bell out of his crease and therefore technically out.
India’s afterthought appeal… and long minutes following, of confusion, first, and a messy kind of clarity, second, slowly overtaking it: Kumar’s initial reaction was erroneous, the ball hadn’t crossed the boundary; the umpires hadn’t called ‘time;’ play hadn’t stopped, the ball wasn’t dead; by hook or by crook, Ian Ronald Bell was out.
A bathetic end to a masterful, game-winning innings. A bountiful display of rare skill cut short by low cunning. By sharp practice. (Damn those filthy cheats!) by skullduggery and gamesmanship at its unedifying worst. “Disgrace,” I kept on saying out loud – though I alone was transfixed by the TV in front of me. “Disgrace, disgrace, disgrace!”
Ah, but of course, by now you already know the rest… In the end, team India edged back from the precipice of ruin. Their captain, MS Dhoni chose grace over grabbing. Sportsmanship over that most hotheaded modern ill, ‘winning at all costs.’ Over the course of tea-time, he withdrew his team’s earlier appeal – allowing our umpires to hand Bell his high-noon reprieve. The ‘out’ of twenty minutes earlier – for so much of the time, cricket’s one irreversible fate – was simply scrubbed away. Like it never even happened. An ugly something gloriously transformed into a noble, precious nothing.
Oh, I really do hope you didn’t miss it! That you were lucky, like me, to watch it live. Lucky, like me, to crave that same cacophony of boos and jeers and whistles to rain down on all of India at once as their players came back out to play – before finally realizing only moments later, like me, like everyone, that they absolutely did do the ‘right’ thing, after all. That, when calmer heads’ prevailed, they made a great game better and more beautiful.
No wonder it got to me over here by way a satellite dish, after bouncing round the stars. The gods they saw it first, then winked their celestial consent.