Cricket pitch

“Commodity markets rocked by strong demand for Sahara sand”,

“Sahara sand advances on demand from cricket Board”,

“Dunes lose height overnight as Sahara sand changes into dollars”

screamed the headlines in popular daily newspapers.

The run-up to the cricket Test series had well and truly begun.

A day earlier the visiting Australians had fired the first salvo by claiming that they have a fast bowling attack that can scythe through any team, on any surface.

In response, and a fitting one at that, the captain of the home team petulantly demanded that pitches for all the matches be covered with imported sand.

Like any powerful, self-respecting governing body in a popular sport, the cricket Board promptly gave in to unreasonable demands of its players. But, to their eternal credit, not without putting up stiff resistance.

“Look what happened against England in the recent home series”, the captain is said to have queried officials of the Board when they suggested sticking to sand from the local Thar desert while preparing pitches. The home team’s recent capitulation against the visiting English team still fresh in everyone’s minds, the officials had no response to this well-researched and thought-out query, and promptly agreed. He did have another query in his mind; could our players not work hard on their game and fitness levels to obviate the need for such measures? But better sense prevailed and the query did not leave the safe confines of his mind.

For the uninitiated, coating the playing surface with sand is a traditional ritual, carried out with much fanfare in the country prior to any Test series against a visiting country that does not have a better spin bowling attack. Which equates to Nil nowadays. But the ritual continues. Because it is also carried out with much fanfare in the country prior to any Test series against a visiting country that has a better fast bowling attack. Which equates to all Test playing countries. Though recent performances may lead the impartial observer to other conclusions, the objective of this ritual has been victory over the visiting team.

The traditional ceremony has relied on sand from the Thar, an expanse of desert on the western periphery of the nation, bordering an often hostile nation to the west. But, it now seems this sand has been afflicted by a strange virus because of which even visiting teams are able to win matches.

The decision to import sand has got nationalist elements up in arms.

Members of the opposition have bombarded the government with allegations on mishandling the quality of sand in the Thar desert which has led the country to become dependent on foreign elements for critical commodities like sand from the Sahara. “Can the nation afford to be dependent on foreign sand in as critical a matter as cricket?” they have rightfully queried.

The government has, meanwhile, levelled allegations of the presence of a “foreign hand” in the Thar desert. Considering that the Thar desert straddles the country’s boundary with an often hostile  western neighbour, the government has instituted a commission of enquiry into the origins of the subversive nature of Thar sand.

In keeping with the current trends of litigating for no reason, and eager to demonstrate his passion for cricket, a Member of Parliament has filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the Thar desert for actions amounting to treason. In his petition he has stated “It is a huge letdown for all cricket fans in the country. Every fan eagerly awaits for a cricket Test series till the time it starts. Once it starts, and it becomes clear that it is a losing cause, he even more eagerly awaits for the next series. The Thar desert is playing with the emotions of innocent people and needs to be punished.”

Environmentalists have cautioned the Board to tread cautiously as it could play havoc with a fragile ecosystem; that of the emotional landscape of the country’s cricket lovers. If not handled properly, and if it does not yield the desired results, it could lead to irreversible long-term damage to that ecosystem.

People living in the plains are, long accustomed to being bruised and battered by Thar sand carried by the “loo”, the swirling westerly winds that blow across the dry plains in the hot months of May and June every year, are rejoicing as they look forward to the prospect of being bruised and battered by some particles of foreign sand mixed with the local Thar sand.

The soft-drink giant sponsoring the series has had to re-shoot all commercials to reflect the new reality. In the new commercial, the black liquid spurting from the sands of the Sahara turns out to be their best-selling product. The entire team has been busy with the shoot, gambolling on the dunes and quenching their thirst afterwards with a refreshing sip of the sponsors’ best-selling product.

Leaving the cricket to the visiting team, which continues to work on its game and fitness.

The new battle-cry of the local team is:

“Pepsi or Coke, glass-bottle or tin-can,

If Thar’s sand can’t do the trick, Sahara’s surely can”.