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   The people I felt most sorry about yesterday... (November 15, 1991)

The people I felt most sorry about yesterday, as the South Africans out-played and out-classed India, were not the Indian players, or the crowds, or myself, but Bishan Bedi and his group of Doordarshan commentators.

All evening they used up thousands of words patronising the visitors and more or less telling them how sorry they were for giving the South Africans such a licking, but nevertheless they were sure the visitors would learn from the experience.

In the early evening and till much after lighting up time, it did appear that everybody was justified in feeling sorry for the South Africans and apologetic for the display of Indian batting, as first Srikkanth and shastri and then Manjrekar and Shastri attacked the bowling and kept the score mounting. Bedi went so far as declare the match as a no-contest or a one-sided contest and wondered what the crowds were enjoying so much. He for one had lost all interest in the game, whose results seemed to before doomed.

Anant Setalvad put in his words of wisdom, admitting that the South Africans, after 21 years of isolation, were not ready for a contest, but their Indian experience would be memorable. In fact, everybody kept repeating hyow memorable this experience was going to be for the South Africans.

The Hindi commentaor was more circumspect. He confined his comments to frequently observing that Ravi Shastri must be seeing the cricket ball like a football. But he could not resist telling the South Africans how useful even these series of defeats were going to be in their preparation for the World Cup.

After luch (or dinner), South African official (not poor Ali Bacher, who overnight has fallen from being South African cricket's grace to disgrace) were invited into th commentators' box to lavish their praises on the pace and rhythm of Indian batting. The South African board's president went on to say that at dinner all his 150-odd visiting countrymen had told him that never in their lives had they seen anything like the Indian batting.

Meanwhile, the visiting batsmen at the crease in the now floodlit stadium (the Hindi commentator described it as, "Doodh ki mafak - bilkool safed") were stepping up their pace of scoring. And Indian bowling seemed to have reached its barrel bottom with Srikkahnth and Tendulkar spinning away.

It took Bishan Bedi quite some time to realise that the no-contest had turned first into a contest and then into a one-sided contest, with the odds clearly and totally on the side of South Africa. And Bedi being what he is, honest and outspoken to the core, did admit his misreading of the match. And hearing him - my heart broke.

 
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