It does not matter if wishes are never fulfilled, it is the making of them which brings the pleasure, writes Rohit Brijnath
Part of the thrill of sport is to dream, to manufacture elaborate fantasies where Ronaldinho plays for East Bengal, to imagine perfect worlds where Sehwag's stomach has no discernible bulge to it, to wish for an impossible time when cricket does not hold every Indian hostage. It does not matter if wishes are never fulfilled, it is the making of them which brings the pleasure. As we fall into a new calendar, everyone has a wish list for 2006. This is mine: - That the Ivory Coast elegantly slides into the World Cup football final to the sound of a cheering world. For all the universality of football, for all the images of kids deftly dribbling tin cans in raucous side streets across the planet, the cup has remained the domain of Europe and South America. It is time for Africa to rise.
Of course, they must play Brazil in the final, and Ronaldinho and Ronaldo will produce a duet of such delicate, deceitful delight, ghosting past opponents with such fluency that even Maradona will be moved to tears.
- That athletes are mindful of history. Too many modern stars believe courtesy cars, presidential suites, million dollar pay-days are their birthright, but it was all built on the sacrifice of their predecessors who played for nothing and fought for a better deal. Knowing their contribution is essential, yet today's athletes can't even recognise champions from the past.
- That Indian cricket finally breaks its obsession with the individual, young boys in Zimbabwe find an avenue for their cricketing dreams, and the riches earned from the Nike deal percolate down to lesser players (Ranji teams) and the public (better stadium facilities).
- That the phrase "I gave 100 per cent", takes a holiday for it is the most over-worked utterance in sport (still, at least it makes sense. "I gave 125 per cent" doesn't).
- That for one day we put aside cheap talk of hefty batting averages and faster scoring rates this era, and batsmen impress us simply by arriving at the crease to face Brett Lee without a helmet. How did Gavaskar do it, we need a reminder.
- That in a chauvinistic Indian sporting world men's players learn from Sania Mirza, a hockey coach lasts more than a year without being fired, and Indian athletes without a cricket bat get their due.
- That politicians-turned-sporting-body-bosses stop blabbering about medals and listen to Prakash Padukone, Viswanathan Anand, Ramanathan Krishnan, Michael Ferreira, Geet Sethi, Milkha Singh, Gopichand, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore about what it truly takes to make a champion.
- That Andrew Flintoff exercises his right to drive a flock of sheep through the streets of Preston (how much fun would that be?), Valentino Rossi switches to Formula One, Nadal produces a muscular rivalry with Federer, and single-handed backhands become the rage again.
Becomes the fashion
- That soccer balls with chips, electronic line-calling in tennis, and technologically-fully-armed cricket umpires become the fashion. While on the subject, cricketers who constantly badger umpires about why an appeal was turned down should be told it's none of their business. Not everything in cricket must be a debate.
- That everyone who believes that sport must be played as if it is a matter of life and death is aware that in truth it is nothing of the sort.
- That opening ceremonies are made illegal and the millions budgeted are spent instead on impoverished, deserving athletes who wonder where their first pair of spikes is coming from.
- That more athletes appear in public service advertisements to highlight AIDS, or combat poverty, or ask for better facilities for handicapped people. Fame is not just about getting a table in a crowded restaurant.
- That Kolkata will erect a statue of Greg Chappell, Lleyton Hewitt hugs an opponent, and wait, let's not get ridiculous here. Even dreams and years have their limits.