Lunae, Dhanus 16, 249
“A setback. A mere blip. You know the thing about setbacks? They are temporary. And blips are fleeting. I am not the trigger happy type. You folks are. So, before you jump the gun, remember that deliberation should be the hallmark of good journalism. I am not backing down from my assertion that my team is on a trajectory to top the league. But before you spin tales of impending doom after a single loss, remember that hindsight can hurt your behinds soon. You may need to stock up on eggs and keep them close to your faces if you overreact.”
The snarling smirk from last week was now replaced with a scowl. Vijya Pandey would have been better served by a pout. The result of the game had rained on his parade. A parade which the owner of the Immortals had bombastically led off, firing all his cannons just the previous week. And now he was pre-emptively accusing the media assembled at the post-game press conference of imaginary pulldowns of his team following the tense loss to the Titans on the night. We could only chuckle under our breaths.
Andam Mirza had stared expressionlessly off into space at the podium. The loss to the league topping Titans was surely hurting the Immortals’ manager. The statistics for the game reveal that his team had held the upper hand right through. Their aggression had given the Titans, a team which has made a habit of laying waste their opponents in intimidating style, a mighty scare. The plethora of scoring chances the Immortals squandered away all night was surely weighing heavy. The manager hadn’t spoken yet. How could he? All the oxygen in the room was being sucked up by his hyper-ventilating owner.
The feeling tonight was nothing like the week before. That night, Mirza had watched his squad ratchet up the feverish excitement in a packed Amrita Stadium with a spectacular highlight reel goal in the second half that sealed the game. More importantly, the win against Tiangong Wuji had extended their winning streak to three. His move to a 4-3-3 formation in Week 7 appeared to have aligned the planets for his team. Not only had it seemed like they had discovered their mojo, but the shackles seemed to come off and there was more fluidity in their play. More importantly, they had discovered a consistency which had been sorely lacking at the start of the season.
A keen student of the game, Mirza would surely have offered us his astute thoughts on his team’s progress in spite of the loss. But enter stage left, Vijya Pandey! Owners are oh so rarely represented at post-match press conferences. It is the manager’s prerogative. But one Mirza’s father-in-law and boss Pandey gives a rodent’s arse about. And of course, on this night, Pandey had to appear. He needed to explain away the loss. He had made it a fait accompli – after the no-holds-barred performance at Amrita Stadium after the win against Tiangong the week before.
“Mark my words. Write them down”, he had thundered. “The juggernaut is only getting started. This dragon is no longer asleep. This is not a warning shot to all other teams in the league but the opening salvo of the battle for supremacy. There is no going back now – just continued rampage. Writing my team off was foolhardy. And you know that. And I want to make sure you remember it hereafter. We are not here to make friends. It is an all-out lunge for the jugular now. I can’t wait for the next game. I always knew this was coming. You should have listened to me all along.”
Three weeks earlier, it appeared the wheels had come off the Immortal’s wagon as they careened and crashed at Marineris Stadium in Week 6. It was their third loss in a row. More than the losses, it had been the manner of them. For three games, following the jaw dropper of a four goal performance by their magnificent captain Uday Lanka against the Titans in Week 3, the team had hit the collective skids. Lanka had toiled like a champion, but neutrals had watched on perplexed by the play of his mates looking like they were swimming in molasses.
And Pandey lashed out. At everything in sight. His soap box had been sawed off in half and the spice magnate was livid. His deranged haranguing of his beleaguered manager Mirza had been uncomfortable to watch. And we had cringed imagining what Mirza was in for at the family dinner table now. And then Lanka. In what would go down as the most unhinged tirade of them all, he had trained his sights on Lanka. “Very disappointed with our captain. How can we win if he only scores in the penalty shootout? He needs to produce when it matters.”
Perhaps Pandey’s mind was still stewing and clouded by the events of the morning at the Colonial Securities Commission headquarters in Marineris. The long ongoing investigations by the CSC into the statutory import regulation violations of Pandey Inc. had culminated in the commencement of closed door hearings. Allegations of financial blowbacks and skulduggery in his cozy relationships with exporters back on Earth had been swirling around for a long time. Pandey had testified that morning in front of the CSC and had emerged pasty faced and grim – proffering not even his regulatory squawks to the media who had chased him as he left for the night’s game.
The loss in this night’s game is a bugaboo only in the convoluted mind of the owner. The stoic and focussed Mirza is not going to see red after a hard fought loss. And the classy and uber-talented Lanka is certainly not losing sleep over any deranged comments by his owner. Lanka has shone effervescently all season – in wins and losses. Seeing his name in the scoresheet has become de rigeur to all watchers of the game. The Immortals (5-5) certainly have turned a corner in the season. And we can only wait in anticipation to see how they move on from what really should be a blip. Pandey is right on that one. Now, if he would only leave us and his team alone to relish the journey.
We can always hope for the CSC to get their act together.