The similarities between cricket and Bollywood are many.
Immediate appreciation is in the form of a 'good shot!', timing is of the essence, good hits is what people look for, cricketers and actors are both made idols and idols are made of both.
Actors perform in gardens, players perform in Eden Gardens.
Cricket has Balaji, Bollywood has Madhubala ji.
Bollywood has dhak-dhak girl Madhuri, cricket has duck-duck boy Agarkar.
The reason why I am suddenly reminded of all these and many other similarities between the two is because I'd the pleasure of watching a 30 overs a side cricket match between Amir Khan's 11 and Kapil Dev's 11 which was played at the Wankhede Stadium on 28/01/05 to raise funds for the Tsunami victims. The players included actors, directors, commentators, cricketers and Parthiv Patel. Sachin Tendulkar could not play because he was nursing his tennis elbow and Leander Paes pulled out at the last moment because of a cricket knee.
Kapil's 11 - Amir Khan, Md. Azharuddin, Jawagal Srinath, Irfan Khan, Farhan Akhtar, Ajay Jadeja, Veeru, Arbaaz Khan, Harsha. Harbhajan Singh - 11th man. Parthiv Patel was among the etc.
Amir's 11 - Kapil Dev, Arvind D'Silva, Zaheer Khan, Md. Kaif, Ritesh Deshmukh, Makarand Deshpande, Sunil Shetty, Rahul Dravid, Babul Supriyo
Where there is a cricket match, there is a Mandira Bedi and she was seen engaged in serious conversation with Kapil Dev, trying to persuade him to let her represent the female fraternity and be allowed to field at fine-leg but Kapil dismissed it as a silly-point.
Kapil 'paaji' won the toss and asked Amir to elect to bat. On a slight digression- I am amazed by the sheer enthusiasm that exists among one and all to call Kapil Dev, 'Paaji'. It can get a bit irritating at times when someone calls him paaji some 15 times in a sentence of 12 words. Okay. So that is an exaggeration, but sample this. There was a time during the presentation ceremony when Atul Wassan, the former Indian medium pacer, asked him, "Paaji, I think paaji, your leg paaji, the muscle paaji, paaji in your leg that is paaji, looked paaji...kind of paaji, a little stiff paaji?" Now who is paaji? The leg? The muscle? The man? Thankfully, paaji did not get notorious and answered the question without asking him to repeat it.
Anyway. So Ritesh Deshmukh and Yuvi came out to open for Amir's 11. Srinath opened the bowling for Kapil's 11 and Parthiv was behind the stumps, keeping up to his reputation and dropping, missing and misreading quite a few during the course of the innings. Yuvraj Singh, who, these days, is looking to stake his claim for the opener's slot, opened the face of his bat and guided Kapil's ball into the hands of Parthiv who surprised everyone including himself by latching on to it. In the rare moments when Parthiv is actually able to catch the ball, the surprise is too much for him to take and he tries to hide the surprise in a screaming appeal, reminiscent of a damsel in distress in a Ramsay movie. The umpire looked quite bemused with Parthiv's never ending appeal which started after he had given the batsman out and his team-mates were celebrating. Yuvi was on his way back and the crowd sung - Yuvi tum khelne chale aate ho, yaa kabhi tikne ka iraaaa daaaa hai?
After the fall of a couple of quick wickets, in walked a moustache, wearing a nice li'l Amir Khan. Though the turban and the dhoti were missing, the loudspeakers in the stadium blared out Koi humse naa takraaye, Chale Chalo Chale Chalo. Knowing Amir Khan and his committment to his projects, it was hardly surprising that he was walking back before Chale Chalo got over, shaking his ponytail in exaggerated disappointment. Sadly, he was not hair to stay.
The next few overs saw some lusty hitting from Md. Kaif who ended up making 108. The lighter moments occured when Kapil handed over the ball to Harsha Bhogle who brought it near his mouth and started commenting over the pitch and weather conditions. When someone drew his attention to the fact that what he had in his hand was a cricket ball, he started running, without stopping the commentary though. His run-up reminded one of Ashish Nehra and much like him, he appeared confused whether the batsman was at third-man or fine-leg and having finally figured that out, ended up bowling towards cover-point. Mithun Da was next to chip in with his leg-breaks and bowled a few good off-spinners with a footballer's action. Having graciously given away all the light bulbs from his dress to be used in the floodlights, he approached the popping-crease like he used to approach his heroines in the 80s. He was not called by the umpire for jerking though.
Towards the end we had the slog overs and hence some wild slogging from Zaheer Khan and Makarand 'Makdee' Deshpande, the hair-apparent to Merv Hughes. Amir's 11 ended up making a pretty respectable 246 in 30 overs.
The stage was set and there were rumours of an item number by Vinod Kambli during the break but the rumours were not true and so the stage was dismantled.
Aftab Shivdasani and Ajay Jadeja came out in alphabetical order to open for Kapil's 11. Given the huge target, the team required Jadeja to play a long innings but he was gone in the third over. Everyone had a sense of Ja-deja vu. This brought Sehwag to the crease who was somehow under the impression that the target had to be reached in 15 overs and started off with the intention of finishing it in 10 so that he can utilise the rest in drinking some duddh-shuddh. He started playing his usual 'no man move' shots and Amir Khan could be seen pulling at his hair and doing a great job of it considering that there was abundant raw material required for his enterprise. It was only after Sehwag got out having made 80 of 40 odd balls that Amir shifted his hands from his hair to his moustache. As the next couple of wickets fell quickly without too many runs being added, the reqd. run-rate and Amir's moustache could be seen rising. Two finely twisted bunch of bristles-one pointing towards long-off and the other towards long-on.
But this was no ordinary match or occasion. The script was straight out of Hrishi Da's pen or typewriter, I don't really know what he used. So it was not only the moustache that had the twists. (Okay. Last reference to any form of hair. From hair on, I shall abstain from any hairesy.)
The twist began with the entry of the mighty gladiator, the silent assassin, the smiling terminator, the spectacular spectacle-Jalwagal Srinath, the batsman. A batsman is said to be of the highest calibre when his sight gives the oppostion bowlers the scares. But what do you say about a batsman, who, while walking out towards the crease, is viewed like a butcher would be, by a hen which is next in the slaughter-list. Can you blame the poor fellow for chickening?
Any moment, Srinath will give his bat a mighty heave, his follow-through would end at exactly 210 degrees from his legs, the fielders' initial reaction would be to look towards the sky in the direction of long-on, the ball would actually have dropped somewhere near second slip, Srinath would thump his chest with the bat and beckon with the roar of a ferocious lion to take a run and would start running wildy towards the non-striker's end before his partner has the time to react. The other batsman has no option but to start running because a ferocious lion's beckoning roar is hard to ignore. As his partner has just about reached hand-shaking distance, there would be another deafening roar from Srinath. NOOOOO!! This time in a lion-meets-hyena voice. And he would start running back towards his crease. Before the non-striker knows what to do, Srinath would turn again and...YESSSS....NOOO.... YESSS, @##%$^. The fielders are confused, the umpire is confused, the non-striker is confused and by the time someone from the fielding side wisely decides to remove the bails on both ends, Srinath is comfortably placed inside the crease on one of the ends he has randomly chosen and would be seen making agitated gestures to the next batsman to run faster towards the centre. A job has to be done and the butcher cant wait.
Unfortunately for the spectators, such high drama was not to be seen in this match but the pair of Srinath and Kapil did have its moments. With the required rate in the last five overs almost touching 10, Srinath decided to take matters in his own hands and started to play baseball. Charging half-way down the pitch to Babul Supriyo's bowling, he gave his bat a wild swing and no one could see where the ball went because everbody was busy watching the bat fly all the way to long-on. After few such mind-boggling acts, wherein both of them were able to connect, edge, swing and miss, the circus finally ended on the 5th ball of the last over when Kapil paaji hit the winning run and fainted after Srinath jumped on him.
A match that was scripted? No.
A script that would have done Hrishikesh Mukherji proud? Yes.
The match had ended but not the madness. The cake was deservedly taken by Kapil paaji. During the presentation he said, "Sabse zaada main dhanyawaad denaa chaahoonga apne saathi players aur actors ka jinhone apne busy... Us se zaada main dhanyawaad dena chaahoonga....".
Though we love them for what they are best at, we also know that there is nothing quite like a ball in Harsha Bhogle's hand, a mic in Kapil's and a bat in Srinath's.