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Play it again, Sam by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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11 October 2012

Play it again, Sam

One of the oft misquoted lines in movie history is the simple one 'Play it again, Sam' (the original quote never had the word 'again') which is about recollecting the good times for old times' sake from the movie 'Casablanca'. The sweet sorrow caused when dying down embers of fond moments flare up for one last time at the slightest hint of good times that had long passed on, are the best there are when it comes to nostalgic pangs. And there is an even cruel twist to ruing about things that were once in the tight grip of the fist, but has since slipped through the cracks of the fingers - if the one that had let go of what probably had been the best thing that ever happened to him never quite recovered from it and continued on a downward spiral ever since, well, that's just the stuff that dramatists live and die for. A book or a movie opens with a protagonist, projecting a tough exterior but inwardly nursing a bruised heart, runs across his lost lady love, now doing quite well for herself. And then ensues the tug of strings when our battered hero guilt trips his once love interest with his noble gestures, making sure that win or lose, the rest of the world is rooting for him. This might probably be how the world views the current West Indian team - a down, but not out, squad who had more than their fare share in the sun, but now could not shake past the clouds of gloom that has been hanging over its head like the sword of Damocles. And that this team, during its halcyon days, never rubbed its opponents, weak or otherwise, the wrong way throwing its mighty weight around, like the Australians during the 90s and 00s, makes its that much harder to rub the current poor form in its face and say 'they had it coming'. It is quite strange that the perverse pleasure in seeing the strong bite the dust in near absent in this case. The world feels sorry for how far they have fallen, but when they rise, in times like these, it is not just them jumping up and down in jubilation, the cricketing fraternity joins them. Misquotation be damned, Play it AGAIN, Sam.

The euphoria behind this Caribbean victory has so little with the actual game itself, though their amazing turnaround while batting, and the stifling choke-hold they put on the opposition while bowling and the superb athleticism while on the field, were no less spectacular. World Championship is still World Championship, even if in a format where Afghanisthan has just as much a chance at humbling Australia on a given day. The fact that the title has yet to see a successful defender says something about the glorious uncertainty of the format. Regardless, runs still have to be scored and wickets ought to be taken, and the current Caribbean team, with bits and pieces players rallying around a couple of superstars, has exactly what it is needed in this version to swing the fortunes from one extreme to another, as was witnessed in the final. T20 might be the perfect shot in the arm for the bottom feeders of the game, for this where, when they shine, enough momentum and interest is generated for future generations to take up the sport and try their luck in the longer version. Despite the Championship, West Indies are still a far cry from being counted seriously in the Test version, and to a certain extent, in ODIs. Its batsmen cannot come out the hangover of 'hit hard or perish' approach, its bowlers still majorly depend on the benevolence of the oppostions' stupidity for wickets, and they are pretty unbothering tourists, rarely upsetting the well laid plans of thier hosts. Add to that the team's eternal contractual litigations, players and rulers tussles, temper tantrums, sulkings, sponsors' switcheroos, the islands' infighting, it is amazing that the game hasn't driven its supporters with a huge stick. And this why, however inconsequential in the larger scheme of things, this win is important not just for the team, but for the survival of the game itself in the Caribbean. For it is the festive spirit of its fans and followers that has been resuscitating the near moribund interest in an ailing and failing home team, that has sustained the game for the past decade and half, ever since Paradise was lost.

So beat the drums, toot the horns, break into a jig and groove to the Calypso, it is celebration not just for the islanders but for the rest of the world too. The Lankans would eventually see it, but this is just a token of gratitude for the Carribean fan. Play it again, Sammy.

P.S. Hang on there Kiwis, the carnival might just take a turn to your part of the town pretty soon, for, if anything, T20 is an equal opportunity crowd pleaser.

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