It was Pakistan vs India on the field, and Ramiz Raja vs the Rest off it

Ramiz Raja was in top form, peppering the audience with powerful one-liners and playing with words like a toddler with toys

The inception of one of the spiciest clashes known to the cricketing fan not only carried forward the usual surge of adrenaline and rising tempers but it also brought with it a juicy battle 50 feet above the cricket field – a battle of verbal prowess. T20 is incomplete without playing to the gallery. And it showed at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in more places than one. With a spring in their stride, the players acted younger by a dozen years, reliving their childhood days of backyard cricket where boundaries were greeted with high-fives, the odd mischievous grin that crept across the face and the countless inside jokes. But on Tuesday, a lot of other inside jokes were cracked, quite literally. Pakistan, playing international cricket after a couple of months, were expected to be rusty, but a certain Pakistani batsman was in top form, peppering the audience with powerful one-liners and playing with words like a toddler with toys.
It all started with the seven-footer Mohammed Irfan steaming in to shoot deliveries that clocked high on the speed gun. Ramiz Raja couldn’t help hiding his glee when the fiery Irfan set Ajinkya Rahane hopping at the crease. He went on the defensive after Rahane launched himself on the Pakistani pace attack, playing a gem under pressure. But as soon as Rahane was sent back, the former Pakistani opener was back in action. He played with words whilst Ajmal toyed with the Indian middle-order. A scorching yorker by Umar Gul warranted no less than a dramatic one-liner from a commentator – which Ramiz was quick to deliver.
It might have been going on for some time until our very own Shastriji decided to get into the action to try and tilt the scales in favour of the Men in Blue. He went through his routine of shooting out signature lines like a ‘tracer bullet’. But even Brand Shastri couldn’t do much as there was no stopping Ramiz. With Bhuvneshwar Kumar swinging the ball like a dream and Ramiz describing it as “trying the same thing over and over again”, one could not help but admire the irony of perspectives from the other side of the boundary line.
With Bhuvneshwar bidding farewell to the top order one by one, the next batsman was greeted by a crispy one-liner from Ramiz. Despite both teams having a debutant, the occasional “Look at that!”, “Sheer brilliance!” and “This is some serious talent here” almost always seemed to come during the latter half of the match, when the middle order was crafting a victory out of the ruins of the top order. But to be fair to the man, he was not wielding the mike when Yuvraj Singh stamped his arrival with a six first up, though it would have been interesting to hear his response to that humungous six that sent alarm bells ringing in the Pakistan camp.
It didn’t matter whether they were glorifying promising talent or had difference of opinions. The commentators left no stone unturned to make their point reign supreme, coating it with good humoured laughter all the while. With such a high-octane clash in the offing, it was only natural to get ahead of oneself, be it on the field or off it. However, Raja tackled the situation with the panache of an opener, handing out compliments whenever possible while taking the odd jolly dig at his partner. Not surprisingly, he timed his punch-lines to perfection, his unique choice of words still intact over the years.
If the spectators at the Chinnaswamy Stadium witnessed a war of words between Ishant Sharma and Kamran Akmal, they missed out on an entertaining match of verbal prowess between two teams. It was Pakistan vs India on the field and Ramiz vs the Rest, off it. With four matches remaining in the bilateral series, one can rest assured of entertainment from all parts of the cricket stadium.
(Rajaram Suresh is a student of Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering in IIT Madras. An avid cricket fan, he also explores his interest in journalism, music, books, and cinema, amongst other things)