It was a bitter moment of truth for Indian pace bowler Vikram Mehra (name changed on request) as he walked up to captain Suresh Shetty (name changed on request), during India’s first World T20 tie with Afghanistan. Vikram was just following the protocol when he asked Shetty – “How many boundaries in this over captain? Do you want the 5-wide that goes behind the wicketkeeper first up or shall I save it for the end of the over? More drama…eh?” The captain’s moist-eyed reminder to him that “IPL is over”, and this is World T20, left the party-animal Mehra shaken.
Mehra is not alone. If sources are to be believed, almost every player in Indian dressing room is feeling the pinch. Says Rajendra Makwana (name changed on payment), India’s biggest-hitter in T20s: “It’s insulting to get out just because the bowler has bowled a good ball. Earlier, in IPL, we got out only when we wanted. And were getting paid for it too! This is crap.” For new players like Arjun Paliwal (name changed to protect identity), who is incidentally making his International debut with this World T20, the situation is even more disorienting. “I grew up listening to the tales of late night parties, babes, and a lap-dance for Sid Mallya. The atmosphere here is highly disillusionary” he says, before casually reciting an over-by-over “fixing-table” to show how prepared he had come to this format. “I can really cram the whole ball-by-ball fixing pattern – I could’ve been an asset”, he bets.
Team coach and manager KK (name shortened on request) though chooses to look at the silver linings. “Shonali Nagrani is still here. So is Rameez Raja! We are not really misisng Mandira and Sameer Kochhar that much”, he smiles. But prod a little deeper and Kotla-like cracks start to appear in his ‘all-is-well’ demeanour. “I see Lalit Modi in my dreams”, he confesses while hiding his eyes behind dark glasses. “Those were good times”, he adds before walking off.
Though the team has won its first two encounters, and captain Shetty is confident they can shrug-off the memories of a Preity Zinta DLF maximum hug, an SRK maxx-mobile pep talk, a Lalit Modi MRF smile, and a late night Russian-accented karbonn kamaal phone call, the road ahead looks tough. Team veteran and India’s off-spin hope James Bond (name swapped with who he thinks he is) puts things in perspective when he says – “T20 is dying!”