A Cryptic Cocktail: Mixing Cricket Commentary with Stock Markets and Investing

The wealthy man living in the sprawling bungalow near my house with his BMW and Mercedes speaks very sparingly. And whenever he speaks, it is quite cryptic. So one has to really concentrate when he is speaking, and think hard after he is done. So the other day when my South Indian friend Swami and I were just walking across from my house to get a coffee, we saw the wealthy man taking a walk with his dog. He knows Swami, who by now has had a number of ‘question-mark’ conversations with him in the past. So he wished me good evening, and this time before Swami could ask him anything, he just told him with a wry smile, “The situation is tense but under control.”

I first heard this term being used by the Mumbai police during the Mumbai riots in the early 1990’s. It was so conveniently cryptic and became so popular that the Home Ministry started using it. Now I think it has become the de-facto phrase used by government officials, specially Home Ministry ones, to describe, in an imprecise way, what is happening whenever there are riots, earthquakes, floods, strikes, accidents or anything remotely like those.

So I was a bit surprised when the wealthy man used it, not quite clear what he was referring to. So I took the liberty of asking him if he had some time for a quick coffee. The wealthy man does not easily say yes, but this time, he surprisingly did – so in a few minutes, we found ourselves chatting with him over a coffee.

After an awkward silence for a few minutes, my South Indian friend Swami had to ask something. He tends to lose his patience with Jigneshbhai, but with the wealthy man living in the sprawling bungalow, you cannot do that. So in polite language, he asked him for advice on the current state of the markets.

The wealthy man replied, “This match is very much in the balance now”. And added in his baritone voice, “It is not going to be easy for the batsman to get bat on to ball on this pitch.” Further, neglecting our confused looks, he continued, “It will provide assistance to the bowlers, but if the batsmen apply themselves, one can play a long innings.” I knew he spoke sparingly, and was cryptic most of the time, but this seemed out of context. So we thought he probably misunderstood the question – perhaps he heard matches instead of markets.

So Swami tried to explain – “Yes sir, but I was referring to the markets, not to the Champions league matches. I have already lost so much, would be great if you could throw some light on what to do next.”

This time, we thought we will hear some gems of wisdom. But the wealthy man continued. “Well, given the conditions, it should be good toss to lose”. This was getting a bit out of hand. Even I was starting to wonder what was happening here. But Swami was now getting a bit aggressive. He clarified, “Sir, I am losing money everyday in these volatile markets. You have been playing the markets for so many years. Should I sell and get out now?” Again with eager eyes, we were looking for some pearls of wisdom this time. And the wealthy man said, “We had a cracker of a game today, but at the end of it all, one will have to say that the team that kept its nerve better prevailed”.

This was getting too much to handle now, even for me. We were starting to fear if the wealthy man had lost it – maybe growing age and the stress of his wealth getting eroded at this stage in life was getting to him. Or perhaps he was watching too much of TV, and business and sports channels were getting mixed up in his head. Swami gave me a strong stare, almost warning me that he is going to stop having coffee with me. As if handling my broker friend Jigneshbhai was not enough, now he had this wealthy man from the sprawling bungalow to make sense out of.

So we started wrapping up with our coffee, and hoped that this was it. It did not seem to make sense to press the point now. Not wanting to take the discussion further, I asked for the bill, and while waiting for it, asked the wealthy man which team he was supporting in the Champions League. I casually added, “The Royal Challengers seem to be up to it this time, but you never know with them. The Mumbai Indians could spring up a surprise.”

I thought this conversation was now making sense. We were both talking about the same topic. At least we will leave on a sober note. No more mixing cryptic cocktails of cricket and markets, I thought. So as we left, we were stumped when the wealthy man threw another cryptic one. “Indeed, in these conditions, I am in support of investing in wonderful companies with good long term potential. For the true fan, this pitch is just what the doctor ordered.”

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