Saturday, January 7, 2012

Change the rules, silly!

Indian Cricket Team Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was a Socrates like philosopher yesterday.  The same media which hailed him as an ice-cool leader till recently has now started finding an extreme "Inertia" in his leadership.  His strategy or lack of it in the present series between India and Australia has been attacked left, right and center.  And yet the unperturbed Dhoni gave a wonderful solution to arrest the free fall of the Indian team. "Getting a parachute will help (laughs). By parachute, I mean good performance in all the three departments - batting, bowling and fielding. It's something we need to address as quickly as possible. In recent times while playing abroad, we have found it a bit difficult to bowl the opposition out and also failed to consistently put runs on the board", he said.  I remember my mother's proverb; a housewife once said: "If only I had Til I would have made chigali, but I do not have Gud".  Chigali is a sweet made using only two ingredients, Til and Gud.  She did not have either, just like runs on the board and opposition's wickets, the only two things required to win a cricket match, which Dhoni does not have too.

Dhoni cannot be criticised for not giving answer to the point.  In fact, he should be credited for being very practical.  He has suggested a Parachute, not a light air (Hydrogen or Helium) balloon which can lift the team.  He is himself probably convinced that such a balloon may not be useful in the present circumstances!  Fall cannot be averted; what best can be done is to make the fall slow and secure.  As the famous advertisement said:  "Zor ka dhakka, Dheere se lage!", he believes fall may not be averted.  He has said something about batting, bowling and fielding only; he has not said anything about the fourth dimension - on field behavior.  What about Kohli and company?  It is well known that Australian players, fans there and their media believe in getting under their opponents skin.  They prick you and instigate you; their players themselves stay just within the limits of penal action.  For Australians it is a fourth generation perfected art, after all.   Remember Douglas Jardine, former England capain and himself the inventor of "Bodyline" bowling attack to control Don Bradman, once played and missed a ball.  An Australian fielder in the slips sledged him by saying "Oh, you lucky bastard!".  At the end of the day Jardine went to the Australian dressing room to complain about the sledging.  Vic Richardson, vice-captain then, heard him and went inside the dressing room with him and asked his team members nonchalantly, "Which one of you bastards called this bastard a bastard?".  Vic Richardson was the grandfather (mother's father) of the Chappell brothers and that art has been perfected over the generations now.  Also remember that Greg Chappell, the captain asked his younger brother and player Trevor Chappell to bowl underarm delivery to deny runs to a batsman and win a match.  Greg was a coach and got away but Kohli, the player,  crudely imitated Greg Chappell and got fined.   Should not our boys and veterans be taught the same art and if necessary by hiring past masters of the same Australian sledging team by paying some million dollars?   Or by making the Australian IPL players give compulsory lessons to Indian players in controlled sledging as part of their contract to play in IPL?

This is the same media which was baying for the heads of Ponting and Hussy ten days ago.  They failed for long and would have faded into history but for our injured bowling attack.  No, no, I am not referring to injured bowlers, but the injured attack itself.  Ravichandran Ashwin with single digit test matches behind him became the spokesman of the team on strategies and strengths even before his first lesson, that the best of the bowlers have to sometimes concede over hundred runs without a single wicket in a long test matches, was learnt.  Media had lessons for Ponting to learn from Dravid and Tendulkar and Hussey to draw inspiration from them ten days ago.  Two defeats and now Tendulkar and Dravid have to learn from the same Ponting and Hussey?

These are the perils of taking a game too far.  And of converting a game to a trade and business.  Four or five decades ago we watched the cat and mouse game called test cricket and 200 runs a day was never complained of.  Today ten dot balls cannot be tolerated.  We traveled  300 miles by overnight train in an unreserved compartment just to see how G R Viswanath moved into the line of the ball and let it go past him to the wicketkeeper in the last fraction of the second, let alone see his square drive hitting the boundary ropes even before the bowler and fielders realised what was happening.  He had no helmet or arm guard and yet was never hit by Lillee, Thomson, Roberts or Holder.   I mean Vanburn Holder, who was one of the finest old ball fast bowlers and not Michael Holding who came a year or two later. An attacking stroke was as much appreciated as a defensive stroke when Bill Lawry squeezed the ball to submission and jammed it between the ground and the bat, never letting it travel for more than a yard or two.  Or Ian Chappel and Doug Walters dancing on the pitch to Prasanna and Bedi's flighted deliveries.  It was a game played by  amateur gentlemen (barring some who were not gentle) and watched by amateur spectators and reported by amateur media, and of course, no television.

Two decades ago all members of our family were meeting in a common place to celebrate festivals and functions.  Lunch had to be served in at least two batches.  Many members of the family would say they would like to sit in the second batch.   Many spots in the first batch would lie vacant and filling them was a real task and members had to be coaxed to complete the line.  I would jocularly suggest starting service with the second batch straightaway.  Someone recently wrote that Indians should start overseas series with the second test match to avoid losing the first test match, reminding me of starting serving food with second batch.  All of us can come forward with some suggestions to improve the performance of our team in Australia, before it goes further down under.  Here are some of them.
  • Opposition team batting should be restricted to 50 overs whereas our team bats just like in a test match.
  • As we have "Creaking terminators", as Rahul Dravid said in his famous Bradman Oration, in our ranks and running between the wickets is not as free as in the case of youngsters, they should be credited with one run if the ball passes close in fielder and two runs if it goes beyond 30 yard circle.  For the opposition there should be no change in the rules.
  • For all Indian players above thirty five years old (hereinafter called senior most players), fifty runs should be considered as a century, twenty five as fifty and scores below twenty five should be doubled.
  • If the senior most players get their fingers or palm to the ball while fielding, it should be treated as a clean catch even if they drop the ball.
  • Seniormost players will be declared out only when they are out third time in an innings.
  • DRS will be accepted only when the decision is in favour of Indian team.  
This is only the beginning.  I know many more suggestions, some even better than these, will come up shortly.  Let the BCCI use all its powers, money and muscle, to implement them. Because it does not believe in the laws of nature that old will make way for new and that it is better to lose with younger players than continue with players whose reflexes have long back deserted them.

Even with these words, it is still a game and I would not be surprised if the veterans click together for one last time and win one or two matches.  But the danger is that the selection committee will continue to hope for the same miracle, forever thereafter.

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