It was with awe that Mumbai’s glitterati drawn from sports, industry, commerce, arts looked at Mr. Shashi Tharoor at a book launch function organised by Mukesh and Nita Ambani at the Sea Lounge, Taj Mahal Palace and Tower on Friday evening. They were in rapt attention when Harsha Bhogle kindled Tharoor’s intellect in the course of a half hour Q & A session on India-Pakistan cricket.
Tharoor’s articulation on specifics reminiscing the not so hostile contests between India and Pakistan in the immediate post-partition time, the dull, dreary encounters and drawn results between the 60s and 90s and the outstanding exploits of Hanif Mohammed, Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag and India’s official stand for the potential resumption of India-Pakistan rivalry, positioned his discernment of the cricket relations between the two countries.
He also said it can never be a case of their god versus our god, touching upon ‘Man of the Match’ Shoaib Malik’s post series comment thanking all the Muslims in the world for their support after Pakistan won the 2004-05 one-day series in India 4-2. “There were Muslims in the Indian squad even then, so it’s never a case of their and our god.”
There was a bit of repartee too, that went down well with the audience, amongst whom were S. Ramadorai of Tata Consultancy Services, Deepak Parekh of HDFC, Ashok Hinduja of the Hinduja Group, Naina
Kidwai Lal of HSBC, theatre personality Alyque Padamsee, MPs Rajiv Shukla and Priya Dutt.
After Mukesh Ambani and Sachin Tendulkar launched the book Shadows Across The Playing Field, the Minister of State for External Affairs, said he’s been a cricket nut right through from the age of seven when
he strolled with his father from his residence at Kasturi Buildings, Churchgate to the Brabourne Stadium and saw Ajit Wadekar score 323 against Mysore and that it was a horror time when he was forced to distance himself from the game while working out of Geneva and New York and just able to snatch news of happenings in cricket from the BBC. “I became more passionate and dabbled in cricket writing and wrote for the Club Cricketer in England.”
Tharoor did not refer to the wars, but said there was a phenomenal change in attitude and that teams from either side of the border were scared of losing after the not so hostile environment in the Test series played in the 1950s. “There was a sigh of relief when the dull, dreary matches and drawn results brought a halt to the cricket series between the two countries. Things have changed generally from Indian cricket’s point of view. There was a time when we looked apologetic against the West Indies fast bowlers, now we stand up and are ready to face,” referring to Tendulkar and Sehwag’s exploits and also to Yuvraj Singh’s six 6s in an over in the ICC Twenty20 match against England in South Africa in 2007.
The former Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman and diplomat Shaharyar Khan, co-author of the book that captures 60 years of Indo-Pak cricket, was not present. Pramod Kumar Kapoor, Publisher, Roli Books informed that Khan doesn’t miss an Ashes series and is in England.
Tendulkar recalled the fickle nature of the Indians soon after the back-to-back one-day series against Pakistan in Toronto in 1997 and in Pakistan.
“We were greeted by 5000 odd people at 2 a.m at the Delhi airport after we won the Toronto series 4-1 against Pakistan. They threw rose petals on us. People react to the team’s recent performances and within ten days when we lost 1-2 to Pakistan in Pakistan, we were looked upon as sort of criminals. Ijaz Ahmed played an outstanding knock in the deciding one-dayer and we lost.”
Tendulkar also recalled his first Test against Pakistan. “I scored some runs in the warm-up game to impress the tour selection committee and I was selected for the first Test. I had made mental notes of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. I expected a yorker-length after Akram bowled a first bouncer and each time I expected a yorker-length, he bowled a bouncer. It was four in a row, which was the welcome I got to Test cricket.’’
Surrounded by autograph hunters and those wanting a snap, the Minister took the centre stage even as Tendulkar nibbled at variety of sorts at the Sushi counter.