Saturday, April 08, 2006

Guwahati promises

Yet another city in India that I've never visited prepares to play host to England and India as they gear up for the fifth one-day international. What with all the lexicographic corrections going on as far as place names are concerned, I'm not sure any more about how to spell or pronounce Guwahati. Most folks I know would go with Gauhati, but there you have it. Assam demands fidelity, as do other regions and languages, and so it shall be. I've only flirted with the borders of Assam, while visiting a friend's tea estate in the Dooars (in West Bengal) a long, long, time ago (back in 1981 in fact), and the highlight was, sorry to be such a cliche, a tiger sighting. We went for a late afternoon/early evening swim, and on the way back, stopped in the late dusk to ogle a tiger standing by the roadside. I was stunned; I had been to national parks like Bandogarh before but other than a few remote roars, had never come close to actually seeing a tiger in the flesh. After a few seconds of lazy observance, the tiger bounded away, leaving us all breathless.

I doubt anything quite so dramatic awaits the English tourists. Mainly, they'll be hoping for good weather, cool winds, low humidity, perhaps some assistance for the swing bowlers. India will be hoping that old hands like Sehwag and Kaif will regain form, and new hands like VRV Singh and Rao will strike it rich. England will play for pride; India too (despite what people say about the lack of attention paid to test cricket, the score in this series is viewed by lots of fans as partial recompense for the Mumbai disaster).

Assam's recent political history has been volatile; but today, if no thunderstoms interfere, most of the volatility should come from the youngsters straining to make their presence felt on an international arena. It might be India's wild north-east, but its still international cricket.


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