Sunday, 27 May 2007

Sub-continent owes you a bow Mr Sonn

Whenever I think of ICC, I think of pin-stripe suits, dark ties, glossy shoes, claustrophobe faces and well-rehearsed tautology. But for once, it was not sophistry, rather lack of it, that had me stumped during an ICC Press Conference and for all his entertainment values, I thought ‘thank god, it’s Percy Sonn’.

The only time I met him was in Colombo last year and it was the rain-ruined Unitech Cup, which was supposed to be a tri-series involving India, South Africa and the hosts.

The day I landed in the Lankan capital, Colombo welcomed me with not with a traditional gun salute but a full-fledged blast. Though my official compulsion meant I could not even think of returning home, Graeme Smith & Co were shuddering behind their incredibly misleading exterior.

Finally, their media officer Templeton Gordon Templeton, a harried soul, confirmed that the Proteas were packing their bags.

On his arrival in Colombo, Sonn squeezed his bulky frame in the choc-a-bloc tiny room of Cinnamon Grand and adjusted his tie before greeting all with an infectious smile. To be honest, he did not impress me much and to my eyes, he seemed more of an unscrupulous foodie than a hard-core cricket administrator.

South African team management had been playing a cat-and-mouse game with the media, which was clueless about whether they would play or not. Sick of the daily will-they-won’t-they drama, the hostile press let loose its pent-up frustration on Sonn and the first salvo was “How come that the city is safe enough for the ICC President’s visit and stay but not for the South African cricketers?”

Sonn’s ready wit, however, doused the fire. ''I'm from Cape Town, we are different people altogether,'' he quipped.

Deep inside, Sonn was miffed with the chicken-hearted Proteas, especially because he believed that the sub-continent was a special place for the game and the show must go an, irrespective of such distractions.

''I was deeply disappointed to hear the news (of South Africa’s withdrawal) because this is a region where people play cricket under the worst situation.

The world we are living in is an imperfect world. In fact nothing is perfect in this world. ICC wants cricket to be played in the spirit of the game and even at the cost of your personal interest, you should play,” Sonn said.

I still remember as he spoke from the heart, his eyes glowing behind his glass. For me, that remains Sonn’s lasting image. So what if he “literally fell out of his pants" during the 2003 World Cup and supported the racial quota system as the President of the Protea cricket board?

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