Earlier this week India were in a position that the ‘experts’ announced to be ‘back-to-the-wall’ with two must-win games in order to qualify for the finals of the DLF cup. Lot of hoopla about the tremendous pressure of the knock-out games. But doesnt it automatically follow from losing league games that you aren’t good enough to actually win the tournament?
I was blissfully unaware of all of this (shocks you to know i don’t follow every ball bowled, live and in repeat telecast?, i’m weird that way. will wake up at 4am to catch an ashes test match but can’t be bothered by the formulaic one-days we’re usually involved in) when a member of our office staff came to the client’s office i was at to drop off some documents and mentioned nonchalantly that we were sixty odd for five. Piqued my curiosity enough to have a look at the score-card. #10 was out there with one of the young turks. Treating it as a ‘set-piece’ as they call it in soccer, I just wondered how he’d deal with it. Said to myself that here was a challenge. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t thinking that his aura depended on his scoring a big hundred in this situation. I’ve spent too much time playing this game to know that there are too many factors not in your control that determine your performance. But I was certainly willing him on to take charge and to control the innings to get the most out of the lower order. Later saw that we’d ended at 160 odd and he’d scored 40% of the runs (he has on average scored that amount of the teams runs over the duration of his career) and been runout at the non-striker’s end in the most unfortunate circumstance (ball deflecting off the bowler’s hand after a straight-drive from the batsman)
The point? All runs aren’t created equal. Its all very well to go out there belt the bowling around when the track’s hard and flat and the outfield’s grease. Its when there’s something in it for the second-class citizens of the game; the bowlers, the men separate themselves from the boys. Statistically speaking, the 65 won’t have much of an impact on a record with more international centuries than that. He knows it. Just like the noughts won’t make a dent in the averages of the likes of Sehwag, Dhoni and Yuvraj in all fifty other games they’ll play this year on tracks like strips of concrete. Its that willingness to dig in and play what might not be your natural game just so the team score can advance to something resembling respectability. Compare that to a Dhoni who came, swatted three fours and left with a swish of his brylcreemed locks…no harm done to his ‘swashbuckling-attacking-batsman’ image but utility to the team…zero. Sachin would get many more rave reviews by playing with complete abandon, scoring crisp and aesthetic 30s and 40s and taking what the track gives him than taking upon himself the task of keeping India in the game.
Its probably why the likes of Ponting, Mcgrath and co still rate him far above the rest donning blue…probably because they realise more than most that while there are people on the India teamsheet who can hurt them on their day, aberrations much like the vagaries of the weather that you plan for by carrying an umbrella, there is only one true opponent that they need to fear, the guy who’s willing to look ungainly in defense on two-paced pitches (and therefore leave himself open to being ‘expertly’ dissected by the ‘experts’ on how age is having a say about his reflexes) only to make sure that his team bats that much longer to score those additional dozen runs that might make all the difference. They know they’re not up against a batsman, but a cricketer. They know India’s (only true) Batting Mainstay is a worthy opponent, whether in form or out of it.