Monday, February 11, 2013

Saluting the spirits of mediocrity!!!

UntitledWasim Jaffer was slowly moving towards one more first class hundred. Somewhere around the noon time, Indian team for Australian series was announced. Even after a prolific domestic season, Jaffer’s name was missing in the list. Maybe he should have got a chance – his performance in domestic cricket is on everyone’s finger tips. Maybe he shouldn’t have got a chance – age of 35 plus average of 34 in 31 tests does put a question on ability to play international cricket.

He wasn’t picked yet, maybe he did get the news while he was batting, kept on batting like nothing had happened. And I wondered, what made him tick?

Jaffer is still a very big name; at least he was in the reckoning. What makes Ankeet Cahvan go on? Or Dheeraj Jadhav? Or Jalaj Saxena?

These players are not even domestic stalwarts and will never get a chance to play for India. They will only be playing domestic cricket for the rest of their lives. What makes them go on – session after session, match after match, and season after season? It isn’t an easy job – need to manage finances, life, family, fitness, motivation, politics and God knows what else.

If you tell me that they are paid handsomely, I will ask back – is that good enough reason? Kids pick up cricket in India because it is monetarily rewarding? We all pick it up because we love to play, don’t we?

Okay, money is good. What made Ashish Winston Zaidi or Amarjeet Singh Kaypee to keep playing? Money wasn’t there in those days. There must have been something – strong passion and zeal to keep that passion alive. 

What? Not everyone should be thinking about playing for India? Is that what you have got to say?

Why not – let me ask. Everyone has a right to think the way he/she wants, everyone has right to dream.  And that’s where it all starts. Playing a cover drive, holding the pose and thinking you are next Tendulkar, getting a batsman out bowled and celebrating like Dale Steyn or making a diving save and rubbing your cloths like Jonty used to do. That’s where the passion marries the soul. That’s where a dream becomes a driving force in life.

But soon comes a point in life when reality starts hitting us. Sometimes it is lack of support from the family; sometimes it is need to support the family. Very often it is safety of tried and tested route to career taking precedence over risky route of walking on a path taking which doesn’t lead you to the corporate world. We start giving up but not everyone. Some carry on.

But even those who carry on cannot avoid the cruel dose of reality. People tell them that they are not good enough to qualify as the best but that is okay – ego counters this by saying “I will prove you wrong”. But it hurts.

Soon comes a point of self-realization of not being good enough or having missed the point of possibility in life. It kills. The pain of the fact that a dream will never come true yet continuing in the same field is not easy to handle. Trust me, it hurts.

You have to run the race with the knowledge that no matter what you do, you will always be counted as “also ran”. You will never win. It bloody hurts.

Yet people carry on.

And we need them to carry on. Yes we do. We cannot do without the class called “also ran”, we just cannot.

Our domestic cricket is a punching bag – full of those “who also participated”. All those batsmen scoring tons of runs in domestic cricket aren’t considered meaningful because those runs come on placid tracks against useless bowling. All those bowlers taking wickets are considered to be possible failures at international cricket because those wickets come against batsmen who are way below international level. In short, our domestic cricket is way below international level, it is useless and it must be discarded ASAP – that’s what we may say sometimes.

But this very domestic cricket has given us the Dravids, the Kumbles and the rest. They proved their worth by outperforming a group of cricketers who were considered mediocre. What if those mediocre cricketers had given up? How would we have found our greats? Does the argument sound idiotic to you?

But isn’t it what happened to West Indies? Kids who were mediocre cricketers started shifting to other games. Slowly the kids who were good cricketers started disappearing. With time, a team which was way above greatness found itself in the bottom of mediocrity.

We all want to see excellent cricketers representing the nation. We all want them to be top-of-a-gigantic-pyramid kind of cricketers. But for a pyramid to be gigantic, the base has to be big. In case of West Indies, the base started disappearing. Soon, the top fell down to the bottom. West Indies needed the blocks below the top of the pyramid to stay on but they shifted to other avenues.

They needed the mediocrity to stay on.

We need the mediocrity to stay on.

If nothing just to make the numbers at least. Even if it cannot provide life threatening challenges to a champion cricketer, it can at least make him believe that things aren’t easy at this level – international cricket will be lot more difficult.

We need a dogged Hrishikesh Kanitkar to go on so that he can offer small taste of resistance what a Bhuvneshwar Kumar may face at international level. Even though Kanitkar knows that his chances of representing India were buried more than a decade back.

We need a Wasim Jaffer to let Pragyan Ojhan know what a Hashim Amla or Michael Clarke may do to him if he doesn’t start imparting more spin on the ball. We need a Jalaj Saxena to keep piling on runs; we need a Robin Bisht to give him tough fight – if nothing, at least this will ensure some competition for supposedly more talented ones.  We need a Parvez Rasool to keep going on so that kids in J&K get someone to idolize – what an Ashish Winston Zaidi or Rahul Sapru did for UP.

These are a few names which will hardly be ever recognized on the roads, quite often be ridiculed at their limited talent and will soon be forgotten. But they matter, they do matter.

These are the names termed as not-good-enough-for-international-class but they form a base which matters. It does matter.

These are the names that have; I am guessing that, stopped worrying about the occasion or rather should I say the occasion of getting selected for India. They have started living in the moment – those joyous moments of tasting the success on the ground, those sad moments of tasting the failure on the ground. It is the moment of enjoying the game.

They must have stopped worrying about the occasion. And that isn’t a bad way to go. If you enjoy the moment, occasion may just come. Reverse need not be true.

Indian domestic cricket is full of supposedly mediocre cricketers. But they are essential part of the bigger picture. And I salute their spirit.

They keep fighting – their motivation must be respected as should be their passion for the game. Keep going on in spite of the knowledge that playing at the highest level is not possible for them, they must be respected. Without them we shall turn into rubble.

All of us want to reach the pinnacle in our respective lives. But brutal reality is – not all of us will end up as a CEO, a COO, a CRO, a CIO or a CXO. In fact most of us will not. But whatever we end up becoming, corporate world will not be able to stand without us, if not individually but definitely as a group. Whatever we end up becoming, we will and must give our best shot. It is not about just reaching the pinnacle that matters, it is also about the people fighting the storms at multiple base camps to the top also matter. There is no climbing possible without them.

Mediocrity isn’t a desirable quality but it must be respected because this is what makes excellence look stand out. We need to and must respect out domestic cricketers.

As Irani trophy final ended yesterday, Jaffer shook hands with everyone. As the next season begins, I am sure he will be aiming to have a good one, once again.