Without Anushka Sharma, can this tour go on?
After WAGs ban, media threatens to boycott Sri Lanka series.
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"Anushka (Sharma) is like the opening batsman in my best cricket stories," declares Abhijeet Sarkar, an erstwhile cub reporter on Bollywood beat. He continues, "Bollywood was never my true calling, not that cricket is, but when Bollywood flirts with cricket, I really get turned on by their chemistry. Till last year I couldn't tell mid-off from mid-on, but now I know all about maidens and the overs they bowl to their mad men outside the maidan". Sarkar is part of a growing tribe of cricket journalists who cover what goes on under the covers - Bollywood's nexus with Indian cricket.
When Sarkar learnt that wives and girlfriends (WAGs) would not be allowed on tour, he cancelled his air tickets to Colombo. "Without Anushka, Indian cricket is zilch, zero, shunya... I'd rather do a story on Anushka and her separation albeit brief from her loved one, something that has an emotional connect than a dour one-dimensional series with Sri Lanka that has no interest whatsoever."
Suraj Rai Gangaram, a journalist with BollyStump.com nails it when he says, "Without Anushka, who will India blame for their misfortunes? Without Anushka, who will India thank for their good fortune?" Gangaram harks back to the golden era of Tiger Pataudi, "Frankly, more than how Tiger played cricket with one eye, wish I could have been a fly on the wall to see how he romanced Sharmila Tagore with one eye."
Meanwhile the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has actually had the gall to say, "Most of the players on tour are coming off a month-long break where they had enough time to spend with their families. And we've decided that their wives will not be allowed on tour". But what about the media? What do they expect us to write about, cricket? Even MS Dhoni's return to the one day international (ODI) team will be of little consequence without his better half, Sakshi Dhoni, holding on to their little bundle of joy, Ziva. And Shikhar Dhawan is half the batsman without his wife, Ayesha Mukherjee and their cutie, Zoravar.
"Think about it, without their glamorous wives, Jayawardene and Sangakkara wouldn't have been half the players they were. Certainly, no telecast would've been the same - every time they were in the nineties, who did the camera focus on - not Mahela or Sanga, but their lovely ladies praying or holding on to each other nervously. That's what the public wants to see, the glamour, the human connect, not two batsmen under helmets whose facial expressions are hidden from them. For me, more than these two greats retiring from the game, it's the first ladies of Sri Lankan cricket bidding us adieu," opines world famous sports psychologist, WADP Gurusinghe.
Dhoni's replacement behind the stumps, Wriddhiman Saha, looks at the ban on WAGs as a lost opportunity for him. "I really was looking at this Sri Lankan tour as an opportunity to be better known by virtue of my wife spending time with Anushka. It was too good to be true. I could almost hear the commentator saying, "... and that is the lovely Romi Saha sharing a few laughs with Anushka while their men muscle their way through the Lankan attack".
For a player like Cheteshwar Pujara whose wife, Puja Pujara has been regularly seen with Anushka Sharma in the stands, this is a bolt out of the blue. "I'm not sure of my place in the playing 11 anymore, and without Puja, I will also be missing out on a strong support structure. Puja and Anushka had previously built strong partnerships in the stands, and always been there for each other, especially with heavy overhead conditions when an early wicket or two fell and Virat and I were batting together. Yes, they had seen each other through some nervous moments, especially in England and Australia."
If Virat Kohli was bothered about Anushka's absence he didn't show it. "I just learnt that Ravi Shastri will be there for the first Test so all's good here."
(However plausible this might sound, this is largely a work of fiction.)