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The embarrassing theatrics of Shah Rukh Khan

It had been a long, arduous week of work pressure, Chennai’s kattiri heat, power cuts and intermittent IPL watching. By the time Sunday evening came around, sheer fatigue and a sense of foreboding about the week ahead at work made it difficult to keep awake through the final, but CSK’s impressive total—led by the nonchalant opening pair of Vijay and Hussey—made me curious enough about the Knight Riders’ reply to seek the aid of a shower and coffee to be able to watch the second innings.

And what a treat that innings turned out to be, with Manvinder Bisla demonstrating rare courage, equanimity and class as he put the Chennai attack to sword. For the first time in IPL V, he showed that R Ashwin’s super slows could be collared, his decisive footwork and full-face-of-the-bat strikes a refreshing change from the standard fare of horizontal cleverness of sweeps, paddle sweeps, scoopshots and reverse sweeps. Jacques Kallis was an ocean of calm in the midst of high-octane pyrotechnics. Between them the unlikely pair made up for Gambhir’s rare failure.

Kolkata Knight Riders owner Shahrukh Khan hugs the team player Manvinder Bisla as they celebrate their win against Chennai Super Kings in IPL 5. PTI

Earlier Suresh Raina’s brilliance had proved that Sunil Narine is human after all. Throughout the match, the great competitors of both teams—from Badrinath to Hilfenhaus, Shakib al Hassan to Manoj Tiwari—time and again made vital contributions bowling, batting or fielding, repeatedly altering the course of the match this way and that. As captain, MS Dhoni did not miss a trick, and never failed to calm frayed nerves, never really gave up the match till the winning shot by Tiwari in the last over.

At the start of the match, Sunil Gavaskar prayed for a 40th over finish and the two teams ensured that the prayer was answered. It was a contest of high quality, and wide-awake at the end of it, I waited with bated breath for the post match interviews, the prize ceremony. I wanted to hear what Dhoni had to say about his boys’ professionalism, about their superb if late resurgence after an indifferent start in the championship. I wanted to hear Gambhir congratulating Bisla and Kallis on the way they batted together. I was thirsting for expressions of the sporting spirit from the rival captains, perhaps even what Simon Taufel and Billy Bowden had to say about the final and the matches that went before it.

I was foolish, and my expectations were so pedestrian. The commentary team had other ideas. The post-final focus was on Shah Rukh Khan, the owner (ugh!) of Kolkata Knight Riders. Sherry Paaji, God’s gift to Indian cricket commentary, called him a true champion, even recited a sher he composed on the spot in his praise. Shah Rukh Khan was modest. Rather than take any credit for the title triumph, he applauded the children, including his own, of the cheerleading squad, even Gauri Khan, the latest addition to the troupe. He thanked the Chennai crowd, apologized for his “misbehaviour,” whatever that was, and then promised to visit several parts of the world including Kolkata, and yes, the United States of America.

All this was quite possibly a veiled reference to recent happenings including the fracas at Wankhede Stadium, but you needed to be sharply clued in to follow the subtext. He made generous references to the patience and perseverance of unnamed parties that resulted in the victory, but if he dedicated the triumph to the team’s consistency, the inspiration the captain provided and the expert guidance by the coaches, I certainly did not hear any such words of acknowledgement of the deeds of the real heroes of KKR.

The crowning glory of the evening was of course the cartwheels SRK cheerfully turned. His outbursts against the Wankhede establishment after KKR upstaged the Mumbai Indians had seemed to me a genuine case of righteous indignation.

On Sunday night, his theatrics were an embarrassment.

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