By Zoravar Gill:
It’s hard to imagine that Team India lifted the World Cup just 9 months ago. Or maybe it isn’t. It was a minor achievement- after all we were playing at home, and when we play at home, victory comes automatically. So what if we beat Australia, Pakistan, chased down 270 against Sri Lanka in the final. The truth is, it’s the 6 and a half Test matches over the past 5 months that have shown India’s true colours. Team India comprises of a bunch of underworked, over paid, meek men who are worshipped for no reason. Not that I know the players personally (I wish I did), but that’s what the media says.
Lets face it- Indians have never been good tourists. As soon as Team India’s flight leaves Indian airspace, something changes. But the teams that toured England, Australia & South Africa over the past decade displayed never seen before grit that won them the heart of Indian fans even though it seldom won silver ware. And it is in this light that the tours of England & Australia have been unbelievably frustrating. We have not lost, we have been thrashed. Watching our batsman on the past 2 tours has made one cringe, and I have at times secretly wished that along with Facebook, Kapil Sibal also tried to get cricket shows banned. But the point I’m trying to make here is that while the disappointment is justified, the reaction is not. Because we’re not Boria Majumdar. Not yet.
So there certainly is a problem. For a team that was world no. 1 just a year back, 6 (soon to be 7) heavy defeats is not acceptable. But we don’t seem to be able to identify the problem. And in such a scenario, there’s no question of finding the solution. So what has made headlines in the mean time?
(A) Retirement: This is the only genuine issue that has been addressed. We Indians by nature don’t like addressing an issue until it actually becomes a problem. Its more fun that way. The fact that we have an ageing batting line up that needs to be eased out over a period of time is something we have known for the last one decade. Because guess what ! Sachin, Dravid, Laxman and Ganguly were always going to age at the same rate. Yet we kept delaying this process of drafting in youngsters, so that we now face a serious dilemma. Virat Kohli is inexperienced, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid are out of form, and the only replacement is young Rohit Sharma who is yet to make his debut. Sunil Gavaskar, the world’s greatest commentator, the man responsible for Indian cricket’s success, and the man who gets paid 3 crores annually to serve as the BCCI’s mouthpiece, is up in arms about how the selectors have done such a poor job by not blooding India’s young batsman earlier. But its funny how he, like the rest of India’s cricketing experts, never said a word when the team was doing well.
(B) Go karting: For those of you not familiar with the term, go- karting is an activity where you drive small F1 like cars on a track with tyres on both sides. Never has any connection between bad batting and go karting been established. Not yet atleast. So to say that we did badly at Perth because the players went go karting is to display insanity of the highest degree. Firstly, 2 hours of additional practice would not have made our playing XI better cricketers. Secondly, the players had eight days off before the Perth test. They couldn’t possibly spend all their time in the nets. Thirdly, even the net practices aren’t anything like the actual match. The wickets aren’t identical to the playing strip, and its not like Siddle & Pattinson turn up to bowl when Sachin feels the need for a hit.
(C) Kapil Dev & Sourav Ganguly: Dada, you were my God. I worshipped you. But now when I look at your face, all I think of is the fact that your hair transplant was too successful. You could lend some hair to Viru and still have enough. Infact, just yesterday, Dada said on Aaj Tak, that Indian cricket has gone back by 3 years. Looking at his hairline, one would think its gone back 15.
We often see cricketers raise the bar of the game so much higher as soon as they have retired & been safely para dropped into the inviting confines of air conditioned commentary boxes. But you would have expected more from Ganguly, given all that he went through during his career. Instead, he’s outshone even the others. He’s been ruthless in his criticism of Dhoni, and even Gautam Gambhir’s regular outside edges to the slip cordon haven’t been as irritating as Dada’s new punchline, “And that’s the end of the over. Indian getting thrashed..” True, we have been getting thrashed, but I seriously doubt Steve Waugh would ever speak in that manner about Australia.
Kapil Dev, on the other hand, has been the only former player who has spoken sense. Its not like he’s minced his words- he too has addressed the issue of retirement- but in a logical and rational manner. Kapil paaji, in his signature Pinglish (Punjabi- English) may come up with terms like, “Indians when on the field need to fire in the belly”Â but at least he’s spoken sensibly.
(D) IPL: I think the best thing the IPL has done for the Indian cricket fan is that its given us a ready excuse. Dravid in bad form? Blame the IPL. Dhoni tired? IPL. India lose the test match? IPL.
The stars of this Indian batting order attained their demi-god status long before even the thought of the IPL had been conceived. What’s more, if 14 T20 matches in a year have such a big effect on the 5 best batsman in a country that has a population of 1.2 billion, that’s just sad. So in terms of pure technicality, I don’t think the IPL is to blame. But more so, what we need to understand is that its we who make the IPL a success. We watch it on TV, go to the stadiums, buy the team jerseys. So obviously there’s something right about it. (The alternative is that we’re fools who like a tournament that has nothing going for it.) If a cricketer really feels that the tournament is going to affect his game, don’t play it! Ricky Ponting, Mitchell Johnson, Michael Clarke are all examples of players who chose not to play the tournament (interestingly all Australians) despite the fact that they all would have made a lot of money by devoting 6 weeks of their year to the tournament.
(E) Dhoni: In India, when you do well- they name a street after you. When you do badly, they chase you down that same street. The sort of criticism M.S. Dhoni has been subject to over the past month should teach us all a lesson- the only thing shorter than Parthiv Patel is public memory. For a man who has won us everything worth winning over the past 5 years to suddenly have his position in the team under question epitomizes the perception that the average Indian fan is fickle minded. Dhoni has never been a great test cricketer, and if he doesn’t deserve to be in the playing XI he should be dropped, but to go after him the way the Indian media and former cricketers who haven’t achieved anything close to what he has, is unfair and unacceptable.
(F) Boria Majumdar: This man, who probably hasn’t even picked up a bat in his life said the Indian batsman haven’t shown the technique or temperament for a fight. How dare he even be allowed to talk like that? I use Boria Majumdar as a way to refer to India’s irresponsible media. The media must serve as a medium for debate, instead it flares up issues to the point that insane hatred is built up towards some individual/party (or in this case team India).
People who come out into the streets when India wins the World Cup aren’t Team India fans. Don’t just cheer the team when we’re winning, a winning team needs nothing ! But support them when they’re going through a rough patch. Rahul Dravid’s car was vandalized, and black paint was thrown on Mohammed Kaif’s house when India lost to Australia in the round robin of the 2003 World Cup. 9 years later, you would expect things to have changed. Perhaps they have, for one hasn’t heard of any such incident. But that isn’t reason enough to feel comforted. The Indian fan has every right to be disappointed, frustrated, even angry with Team India’s performance, but we need to realize the players arent losing intentionally. Its high time we stop taking victories at home for granted and losses away as an opportunity to lambast the team. Winning consistently overseas is the next step, but not winning isn’t two steps back. And I don’t thinks its all that hard to understand that. Because the average Indian is not as stupid as the media. Not yet.
NOTE: The author is not preaching how others must lead their lives, just putting down his thoughts on ‘paper’.