Saturday, March 24, 2007

Blue Billion Blues

It is finally over. We are neither buying a DTH system or a set top box at home. The dilemma was haunting dad and me for a while now. Both these systems had their own sets of pros and cons going for them however in the end the need for them has evaporated into thin air.

The day is 26th of March 2007 and all those who had woken upto the shocking for some, expected for many news that the “men in blue” have crashed out of the World Cup 2007 in the first round.

Carrying the hopes of a billion might be stretching it toooooooooooooooo far but it was inspired copyrighting of some bright spark handling the Pepsi ad account. But these men did have the hopes and aspirations of many at least a few millions.

Starved of quality sporting achievements except a few like Vishwanathan Anand the current Numero Uno of the chess world and the over hyped Sania Mirza we have very few to actually delight in. The new stars in the horizon from the golfing and other less glamorous sports are slowly making their presence felt but the “men in blue” outstrip them by many a mile in public admiration.With the decline of Indian hockey to such abysmal standards if there is a sport where Indians feel collective pride in the successes of their fellowmen it is cricket. Till the 83 world cup Indians did not believe that we were world beaters but having achieved the summit, we aspire to do it again and again and savour this rare euphoria one more time.

Perhaps people from other successful sporting nations may not understand this; for them victories in various sporting disciplines are many and so they may not be as frenzied as the cricket mad Indians but they are also deeply passionate about their sporting heroes.

Though the world cup in its form is silly because this cup is played only among the elite few having test status, so despite the entry of the minnows every year symbolizing the spread of the game cricket is still not a big deal in a great part of the world. At this moment the silliest sporting event is actually the collection of World series titles that the Americans play among themselves be it basketball, base ball or their stupid American football.

So finally let me just make a few comments on the Indian debacle of 2007 as I saw it (courtesy DD):

The Sehwag controversy – People have flogged this controversy and Sehwag himself helped their cause by playing some atrocious shots in many matches. Sehwag made his point in the last two games and redeemed himself but what about the others? 7 batsmen were played in the matched against Srilanka and the genuine batsmen reaching double figures were Uthappa, Sehwag and Dravid. The prodigal son had returned but what happened to the others? To be fair Sehwag knows only one way to pay and when it clicks we thump our chests otherwise we simply crucify. I think he is now on his way up again.

Robin Uthappa, yes he failed in the matches, but he brings a whiff of freshness to the top order with crisp batting. He got out to “airy” shots but he is so reminiscent of Sehwag himself of old and is a man for the future should any of the seniors hang up their boots.
Dada – what can be said of him? You felt a lump in your throat when dada dumped coke and took up the Pepsi ad. Dada explained how he was working hard after being dumped from the team and who know what the future holds, and he has now become the "mister consistent" of the Indian cricket team

Dravid – he has been batting way too low down the order. I simply do not understand what the brain trust of the team is doing with a man of such talent and temperament. Dravid is the glue who holds the Indian team together and if the sublime VVS is not there the number 3 spot belongs to Dravid and Dravid alone except for those moments of madness or inspiration when a pinch hitter is sent to pinch hit.

Tendulkar – he has already written his name in the history books and has enough records to show, but except for an innings of sublime skill and aggression seen in Tendulkar of old during the Bermuda match, the man in the pitch taking guard looks like some one else, an impostor to the role. Forget the big hits and the trademark straight drives that have gladden the hearts of many for 17 years, what we need today is a simple rotation of strike in the middle overs where India seem to loose their way every time. Too often Tendulkar gets out with an attempt to force the game when 3-4 singles an over with minimal risk would have sufficed. He redeemed himself in small parts with his bowling but Tendulya we need you to bat first and foremost. Your bowling is the bumper bonus.

Yuvaraj Singh - he ran himself out of the Srilanka match and the world cup, but he sizzled in the Bermuda match. He is a match winner and coming off an injury he is entitled to a bit of leeway but till he decides to stop sweeping everything spinners throw at him he will be best served at the top or at No 6 when he will face the quickies or the slog. He redeems himself at point and none in the Indian team can match his exploits on the field there or anywhere else. He is captaincy material but he needs a good head on and off the field.

Dhoni – he is the poster boy and some where down the line he has become a poster on the pitch too. Of late a new trait of grafting had crept into his game. The team management explained this as a sign of a maturing cricketer. Thank you very much but we have enough wise guys in the team and Dhoni need not add to the dead weight. Dhoni was and should always be a free spirited batsman with the key task of tearing the opposition bowling apart. Heaping responsibilities on Uthappa, Sehwag or Dhoni is equal to committing suicide. At no 6 there is no time to graft.

Zaheer and Munaf – I have clubbed them together as the come back kids. They have both improved their accuracy to new levels but tend to stray but they carry the bowling hopes on their shoulders and have done reasonably well. The only concern with either of them is the leaking of runs in their second or third spells after immaculate first spells.

Ajit Agarkar – he is an enigma, bowling 140 + with one of the most wiry frames around, the fastest to reach 50 wickets in ODI’s and can be devastating with the new and old balls on his day. He has the annoying tendency to leak a four ball after 4 immaculate delivery negating all the good work done. He has done a fair job too.

Anil Kumble – the most striking thing about Kumble at the world cup is his professional SLR camera with a huge zoom lens shooting images from the sidelines. I believe he has a great alternative career in photography after retirement his own company not withstanding. A great innings ending on a dismal note. With very little exposure in the world cup and one good performance against the minnows the question that begs to be asked on every one’s mind is “What if Kumble had played in both the defeats?” Yes, what if……

Harbajan Singh – if there is a word that describes his performance it must be “SUCKS”. Bajji is living in a time warp in the glory days of the past. I cannot remember a good bowling performance from him for a while now. He did not deserve to board the flight to the Windies as a specialist bowler. He cannot take wickets and he cannot bowl tight so why bowl him? The “doosra” has lost its novelty and seems to be the stock ball. Bajji cannot bowl around the wicket to left handers and one big hit from the batsman. To be fair to Bajji he is a changed player after he takes a wicket but somebody needs to tell him that he has to take his first wicket himself. I do not know why India played Bajji, if Dada can be sent to the wilderness to discover his form dump Bajji from the plane on the return flight. Bajji you were not fair you denied Powar his rightful place and you did little to redeem yourself.

Greg Chappell – I do not know what the Chappel way aspires to do or what is the objective of the Chappel process. Atleast in the Wright - Ganguly era there was spirit and determination. However mad their method may seem to the process oriented there emerged a method in the madness and India had many notable sporting triumphs. Hey we actually went to the finals in 2003.

The Indian team under Chappel looks confused and here are some of the confusions as I see them:

· Harbajan Singh – Is he a strike bowler or a stock bowler? Time somebody spoke to Bajji on this, wonder what Chappel was doing all along
· The batting order – This looks so unsettled that none of the batsmen know their roles. A total absence of role clarity is making pinch hitters graft and batsmen bowl and bowlers bat. Multi-tasking may be a good management mantra but core competence is the foundation of all success stories. Is not one Irfan Pathan enough testimony to the failure of the Chappel sytem at least with India? It seems obituaries will follow of Sehwag and Dhoni if corrective measures are not taken.
· Pre-match team selection – Dravid has a role in this but still uncertainties dog the team before every match. Do we bat or do we chase pitch conditions not with standing? I remember that it was this team that set the record for the most number of consecutive successful run chases before that big dip in form. We batted against Bangladesh when the idea would be to chase down any score and given a chance again against Srilanka we chase after setting the world record score in the earlier match. But that is suppose was because we were inserted. I shudder to think what would have happened otherwise. Clarity is not a parameter in the Chappel way.
· Why take so many players to warm the benches if they will not be played?
. Why does Rahul seem to soft with his team, Dada never minced his words and built a loyal team around him, Dravid seems a lttle soft but whatis the coach doing about this? Why single out Ganguly early on and leave all others on a bed of roses?

I suppose I can go on and on but it will do little to revive my spirits after all I am one of the millions if not a billion whose hopes have been shattered. Amid all the frustration and gloom I just happened to see that India is drawn with Pakistan and Scotland for the 1st Twenty 20 world cup in South Africa. Last time we made it to the finals, so hope springs again……..

Dad lets call the cable TV guy, September will be here soon.


trinity said...

hey da i dont know what to comment... coz i dont much abt cric stuff... so you can count me out of the millions.

but i sure do empathise your feelings coz they are real.

ViKi said...

nothing is gonna change clement, junta will be backing indian team come may for the bangladesh tour.

luckily, i am not passionate about this sport, i follow football much closely (european football).

Oxymoron said...

I used to be passionate about cricket. But when the team was accused of match fixing and azharuddin and jadeja were dropped from the team, I was disappointed and stopped following the game. Not that I liked Azhar or Jadeja, jus the fact that the those games when India lost and I had genuinely felt bad were all fixed, it kind of killed the spirit of the game.
After so many years, this year, I decided to follow the game. When India lost to Bangladesh, I was like, nah, this has got to be starters jitters, but during the SriLanka match, the loosely played game, the utter lack of drive and responsibility and more importantly, absolute lack of strategy made me regret my decision of coming back to the game.

Inconsistency is the name of our team's game.

harlequin said...

hahahaha!! good i don't watch cricket too closely, or i would be in the same state as u r in..
personally, i think its too overrated a sport..