Monday, June 2, 2008

Poetic justice

I’ve been accused of writing way too much about cricket over the past couple of months. It’s become fashionable to denounce cricket as a game that hogs the limelight, not to mention the big bucs, from all other types of sports in India.

I say we’re Indians & we’ve grown up watching the game, playing it & being a part of it in some way or the other. So it’s natural we would love it. With the T20 format revolutionizing the game forever, and the IPL heralding a new era in global (not only Indian) cricket, why should we not enjoy every part of it?

Isn’t the situation the similar in Europe & South America, with respect to soccer?

Sunday night witnessed a fitting finale to the past one-and-a-half months of madness & excitement. It was a match to the last ball. In fact those of us watching the game had half prepared ourselves for the possibility of a bowl-out, which would’ve been the only thing to beat the nail-biting finish the match had. And I am so glad the Rajasthan Royals won. They were literally the team that came from nowhere, and yanked the rug from under everyone’s feet!

The team had no credentials to begin with - little known players such as Swapnil Asnodkar, Ravindra Jadeja & Neeraj Patel, a captain who doubled up as coach, also a captain who has been mired in quite a few controversies of his own, no celebrity owners to turn up the glamour quotient during the matches, thus ensuring more eyeballs, no publicity, no hype, no encouragement in the form of hugs & kisses. They had zilch going for them, except the experience of players like Warne & Graeme Smith – that other teams also had in copious amounts.

I think what worked for the Rajasthan Royals was having a captain & coach rolled into one.

The flip side of this could be that there’s only one point of view in the team, and no one to challenge it or debate its efficacy. But I feel having a single point of view going around in the team helped the Royals’ case, especially since most of their players were young & inexperienced. People who are inexperienced are in a highly malleable state & need a single guiding light in terms of whose advice they should follow.

Shane Warne’s philosophy was so simple, yet so effective. When asked what the secret to his team’s success was during one of the post-match conferences, he replied "One of our slogans is 'find a way and play your role'. Be the man, be the hero and express yourself. I think at the end of the day it all comes down to belief."

We would all agree this is a sound philosophy to have in every competition. A player (in any kind of competition) must find a way to accomplish his goals. After all, that is what he is playing for! And for the success of the team as a whole, each player must play his role, whatever be it, to the fullest.

It is also imperative to come out good when your team needs you to, and perform when you’re really required to perform (if only Sourav Ganguly had taken this big little advice from Warne instead of taking pot-shots at him after getting embroiled in an on-field controversy, the fate of the Knight Riders might have been a little bit different!).

Simply put, you can’t play a heroic knock when you’re “playing for pride” (usually, by then you have no pride left); you’ve got to do it when you’re playing a game that decides your future in the competition.

I hadn’t spent much time forming an opinion about Shane Warne over the years that he’s been playing for Australia, but he’s made me wonder (as I’m sure he’s made a lot of other people do) what an effective captain he could’ve been for Australia. I wouldn’t call him astute or shrewd (those words describe Mahendra Singh Dhoni better). For me, Shane Warne is an intelligent captain (or he wouldn’t have been able to lead such a young, inexperienced & under-rated side to victory) but the anti-thesis of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He’s proved himself to be a man of class, a player who might have made the ACB (Australian Cricket Board) look at him differently in retrospect.

I did not see a single frown or a tense muscle on the faces of Neeraj Patel & Ravindra Jadeja (during the semi-finals against the Mumbai Indians) or Warne & Sohail Tanveer (during last night’s finals) even though both were very close matches. As they say, in cricket half the battle is won or lost in the mind. You need nerves of steel to handle such pressure cooker situations, and if you crack under the pressure, as Dilhara Fernando did during his last over in the semi-finals, you WILL get taken for a nice long ride.

Irrespective of the fortunes that franchise owners, sponsors & players have made from the tournament, it’s been cricket - and Indian cricket in particular - that has come out a winner!

We’ve unearthed mind-blowing talent such as Swapnil Asnodkar, Manpreet Gony, Abhishek Nayar, Ashok Dinda, Wridhiman Saha, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, Yo Mahesh (I just love his name, it’s more like Yo! Mahesh :) etc, who had it not been for the IPL, might never have come to the notice of the national selectors.

Yusuf Pathan, a vastly talented (clean, BIG hitter) but overshadowed (by his brother’s popularity) player got a call to the national one-day side thanks to his performance at the IPL.

The other victory for Indian cricket is that we had hugely successful & reputed players across various cricketing nations playing for our domestic teams. I mean, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai mean nothing to these players other than names of cities in a developing country, yet these cities got them to become part of a mammoth exercise to bring cricketing glory to them! It was the money talking, alright, but what’s amazing is that India was able to churn out that kind of money.

The IPL frenzy has left millions of people gasping for more. People are expected to suffer from serious withdrawal syndromes but I hope the hysteria generated by the IPL will compel the ICC to allot the tournament an official time in it’s annual calendar, so that players such as Ricky Ponting, Brendan McCullum, Stephen Fleming, Andrew Symonds etc. don’t have to abandon the tournament midway to attend to their national duties, thereby breaking millions of cricket-loving hearts in the process, and shattering a billion dreams.


Ashwin said...

Actually, I've disliked cricket right from the begining. My begining. I dislike watching sports in general. I prefer playing them instead

The knife said...

Hey you write very well on cricket...of course you write very well in general too so its a pleasure to read your posts. But why don't you take up your cricket writing a bit more seriously. Even i was supporting the Royals. There was a certain character and charm to them. The true test of the Warnes, Gillys and Buchanans as leaders came when they got a chance to lead the underdogs and not a super power. Its obvious who won

Scarlett said...

@ashwin: u're not the only one of ur kind :)

@the knife: thanks for the compliment! i look forward to ur posts too. i dont take cricket writing seriously coz i dont know the technicalities of the game & i dont have a mind for cricket stats. i can only write as an average spectator, about the feeling i get while watching the game.

The knife said...

You might not like the comparison but look at where looking at the game as an ordinary spectator has taken mandira b!

Scarlett said...

Haha! We all know that Mandira B is more famous for her noodle straps & eye popping blouses than her knowledge or ability to talk sensibly about cricket. Might have done wonders for her but I dont want to be balked at...I'd rather do something when I have good knowledge about it.

The knife said...

u mean gawked? give me harsha bhogle anyday

Scarlett said...