Monday, October 11


The adjective long associated with Indian cricket has been fickle. The batsmen are fickle with their form, the bowlers with their skill/ fitness as the case may be, the selectors with their picks, the Board with its commitment, the fans with their support...the list has always been endless.

With substantial respect all around (and none whatsoever for my own non-journalistic roots) I would suggest that often, Indian journalists too are fickle. The media in general here is victim to what ails many aspects of the game in India- the need for everything to be frontpage-worthy or sensational or controversial, or a bit of all. Hindsight is a gift to be used but sparingly- and while that seems to be often ignored, often so is foresight, it would seem.

And while I am going to focus in particular on a couple of things I read as India was on the brink of a massive defeat, it is the overall treatment of our batting failure, and the team in general, that prompts this piece. At the best of times, the Indian team has been a slow starter. We are not known for hitting the ground running. Mumbai 2001, SA 2003, Brisbane, it is more often the norm than the exception. I do believe that the media plays, in its many roles, one of keeping up team morale. Maybe not a role it takes on gladly or consciously, but it affects this area nevertheless. Skewed pessimism, as far as I can tell, hardly serves any purpose.

There are a hundred theories that can be put forth for India's dismal batting (and loss) in Bangalore, a performace well below expectations....-that the expectations were founded on what was almost a fluke, is hardly the most credible.
This is what seems to be the line of thought in this article in the TOI on Sunday:
"It is almost impossible for all of them to regain that sublime touch and bat like kings; maybe it's time to stop living in that dream and come back to reality".
BVK is referring here to the successes in Australia and Pakistan recently.

He goes on to make some valid points about how Indian cricketers (must) learn to live on the edge, for they are loved one day and despised the next. How that is probably a reflection of the way we are as a people. But then he continues, much less charitably,
"The cricketers, however, play a significant role in this paradox. They look at the adulation and feel that they have conquered the world; they look at their own advertisements on television and think that they are infallible. Instead of trying to get better, they start believing that they are Gods; instead of getting closer and nicer to the fans, they treat them like dirt and unavoidable evils.
It’s just a matter of time after that to fall. "

Where does all this come from? The cricketers who, he claims, now believe they are infallible after watching TV testimonials of their fame, are the same ones who performed all the feats in the last 12-18 months. They are also the same (Ganguly, Sehwag, Dravid, Sachin, Laxman) who were superstars well before their glorious run in the recent past. By Australia, and subsequently Pakistan, these cricketers had been superstars for more than a little while. They had seen themselves plastered across billboards and TV screens for months already- even years. The only one who has rocketed to superstardom in the past few months is Irfan Pathan, and he, probably, accounted for himself more than any other in this first test.

It is the same line of thinking that drove protesters to Dravid and Kaif's houses earlier in 2003. The World Cup had begun to look like a debacle just as it had started, and the slew of TV ads featuring cricketers p***sed people off no end. The ads were soon forgotten when we began a famous run that was to take us to the Finals.

Then there was this from Ayaz Memon whose was more a call for passion than a condemnation of talent:
"Obviously the players have not lost their skills overnight. That defies the logic of sports. But it does appear that after the successful tours of Australia and Pakistan last season, they believed that everything that had to be achieved, has been, which has led to complacency and a devil-may-care disregard for national pride and public opinion.

In other disciplines, players have been sacked for less. In cricket, which offers vast financial rewards and great glory, there will always be the demand for more. That comes with the turf, and those who are unfit to meet those demands will have to willy-nilly vacate the coveted space they occupy in Indian society. "

It is easy for us to attribute lack of performance to "a devil-may-care disregard for national pride", but it is also presumptous. If national pride and desire were enough, cricket successes would be a different story altogether. To me, lack of batting form suggest many things, but it does not indicate lack of pride- from the very same people who created history for their country recently.

I am not for picking a bone with either of these two gentlemen, both of whose writings I have often hearitly agreed with, and also liked. In fact, that is what surprises me when explanations are sought in the most non cricketing of reasons, steeped in what almost seems like unmitigated pessismism.

This is the beginning of the series. I would much rather we took our time to pronounce such harsh judgement on commitment, talent and the making of glorious dreams that were, not so long ago, reality.

Happy Days are over again-Bobbili Kumar // Commitment, passion,accountability-Memon

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