Saturday, May 18, 2013

The fixing fiasco!!!

Okay. I am a typical cricket fan – played with dreams in the eyes as a kid and now follow it even in my dreams. Cricket to me has been more than a hobby; it is more like a habit. It has been a stress-buster, a something which I eagerly look forward to in an otherwise mundane life. It has occupied more than 90% of my mind over the years irrespective of the situations, most of the times.
When India was playing Sri Lanka in 1996 world cup semi final, I was more worried about the score than my board exams. I could sail through empty mindedness in the college during the last semester just because of the historic series in 2001. Couple of years back when my career was in total doldrums, not that it is any better now, I found solace in India’s victorious campaign in 2011 world cup.
Such has become the habit that quite often I have followed cricket not because I have really liked doing it, it is because I have not had anything better to do. In fact, I have not known anything better to do.
Hence, no matter how much I ridiculed IPL, I still followed it – with almost equal vigor of following the international cricket. If I say I didn’t like it, I would be lying.
But now I have been told that some of the matches I followed with keen interest were fixed. Okay spot fixing it was but that doesn’t matter. Three of the players have been alleged of being involved, one of them has reportedly accepted it. That’s utter dishonesty – with their profession, their team, their bosses and most importantly the fans. That’s what everyone pretends to be saying about them. Right now, entire world is a statue of honesty and those three are the dishonest lot, the only dishonest lot.
The thing with honesty is – the entire world is illuminated with the masquerade of honesty as soon as it finds a dishonest corner.
A news channel reported it as cheating with billions. Someone tweeted – “Yes definitely. Tribal in Kalahandi can no longer trust their favorite IPL team”. Touche is the word that came to my mind.
Another news channel told that these players are so characterless that they had prostitutes visiting them in their rooms. The same channel reported about Sanjay Dutt’s possible breakfast in Jail, Poha and Upma, for next two days. So much for the character of journalism, is what I thought.
A politician demanded strict punishment for those found guilty – life ban, at least ten years of imprisonment and seizure of wealth accrued by playing cricket. The same politician was a front runner in “pardon Sanjay Dutt” brigade. Need I say more?
Morality is nothing but just a word. I don’t possess a character strong enough to claim otherwise. I am imbibed with two of the human traits – greed and fear, as much as anyone. I don’t have a right to say what these players should or should not have done. Even if I have, I am too small to use my rights to make a difference. Remember, I am just an average cricket fan?
Such event has not happened for the first time. I clearly remember 2000. This will not be the last time also. I will clearly remember 2013.
What such events do is that they create an element of mistrust in your mind. Mistrust is like a mustache sported by a gorgeous girl – no matter how beautiful she is, the mustache will be the first thing you are going to notice. It may well be the only thing.
With such revelations, how do I trust if other matches were clean? How do I trust if any of the matches were clean?
Today Rahane didn’t appeal for a run out? White strangely failed to throw the ball. Sammy terribly misfield-ed at the boundary. Did it all just happen or it was made to happen?
I have serious doubts about RP Singh’s no ball. I will never understand why Kedar Jadhav didn’t break the stumps? How could Pollard drop three catches in a row and how could Hussey offer three catches in a row to the same fielder? I may never get the answers. But that’s okay. Few years from now, remembering these names will be difficult. I don’t really care about these names.
Mistrust grows. Unless treated properly, it just does. More you focus on the mustache of that pretty lady which makes her look not so beautiful, more ugliness you will find in her. After all, there is nothing called perfect beauty.
What if my mistrust grows to other names, bigger names? What if it reaches the names which matter?
Dravid didn’t really cry after losing the match tonight. Was he really disturbed after losing? By the way, he is leading the team which had those three players in the wings. Can he be? Losing trust can be disastrous. Or faith is the word. Being semantically challenged, I will stick to trust.
Dhoni’s dropping Morkel in the last season’s play off or sending Ashwin up the order this season is anyhow seen as a doubtful act by some news papers.
Last season, Ganguly could neither get out nor hit out while playing for PW. PW lost almost everything. Was it age getting better of Ganguly the batsman or something else? A batsman can always get out whenever he wants to, isn’t it? If I am losing the trust in entire system, how can I trust anyone?
Time for a bit of blasphemy – Sachin retired hurt citing cramp in hands in the match against SRH. Eleven years back, when Gibbs retired hurt citing similar injury and his team lost the match after that from a winning position; a friend of mine raised the fixing angle. I didn’t agree one single bit. We agreed to term it as choking.
Oh, maybe I am getting a bit too finicky. Sachin cannot be corrupt, after all he is Sachin. But is it not the same way people would have thought about Hansie Cronje – he couldn’t have been corrupt, after all he was Hansie Cronje. Since it has come down to Sachin, I will use the word faith. Losing faith makes you blind. Once you are blind, you cannot differentiate. In fact, you don’t.
What if even holier than thou are proved, or even alleged, to be corrupt. How am I going to feel? It will feel as if you have been giving it all to save the life of a terminally ill loved one but the doctor tells you – “Sorry, no chance. Actually, he never had any.” You would feel betrayed by no one else but your own hope. There is no bigger betrayal than someones own hope betraying him. Saying “it will hurt” will not even be a gross understatement.
What should I do? Maybe this is a wrong question. Life is not really about what you should or should not do. It is more about what you can or cannot do. It is about the options you have and how, if at all, you can exercise them. There are always at least two options – either you can fight to live another day or give up an embrace the ease provided by death, death of fight.
I have three options too.
I can believe in the theory that everything, from top to bottom, from start to end, each and every match I followed with keen enthusiasm was fixed. I can believe that it was nothing but a well rigged reality show. Thus, I can give up on my habbit, my hobby. But that won’t be me. I won’t be me after that.
I can still follow the game but with suspicion. But that will not let me enjoy the game. Every dropped catch will be seen with the eyes of doubt, every bad over will sound fishy, and every poor dismissal will look fixed. It will be even worse than giving up on the game. It will be like quitting smoking but deciding to smoke only when you drink tea and drink a dozen cups of tea everyday.
There is another option. Believe in the belief with which I have followed till now – it is all clean until proven otherwise. Believe in the belief that holier than thou are actually holier than everyone. Believe in the belief that every batsman bats to hear the sweet sound when he times it perfectly, every bowler bowls to hear the sound of timbre, every fielder takes immense joy in making an impossible stop. The option is to keep believing that cricket is a game where people possessing different arts try to outsmart each other and that’s their only objective when on the ground. I took this option in 2000 and it paid rich dividends. I know people who took the first option after 2000 and I know they’ve missed a lot. I got to enjoy a golden period, got to enjoy the showmanship of some real heroes and got to hold on to a hobby, the only one. I will take the third option this time also. And maybe next time also.
Challenge of life is not looking at what’s bad and giving up. Challenge lies in searching for what’s good and looking at it. Challenge is in making yourself see beyond the mustache and enjoying the beauty. Challenge is in keeping your faith in tact. Challenge is in keeping the trust in tact. Challenge is in not letting a few tornado rattle that.
One may call me a foolhardy but if fooling me keeps hopeful of getting to see one more golden period, I would say there is a challenge in fooling yourself too and I accept it.
Don’t forget, Indian cricket’s last golden period came after a fixing fiasco. Who knows, next one may follow this one.
And this time, I am sure that SIR will bring it.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Razzmatazz Routed XI!!!

End is nigh - if not for this universe, at least for equally unending Razzmatazz. Within a few weeks from now Amit ka Amit will achieve monopoly. Doraemon will not have to be afraid of anyone other than Zian. The Indian Premiere League will finally come to an end. Like every other season, this season has also given us many memorable performances which will be forgotten maximum by the month of June. Only few, like Munaf Patel’s historical shrug, will last any longer. In fact for me, it will last the longest. While there have been many a memorable performances which will be forgotten soon, there have been an equal number of forgettable performances which will be remembered for ever. Here is my attempt to pick up a team made by those who have given us such performances – the Razzmatazz Routed XI.
1.     Sehwag- When “see the ball, hit the ball” didn’t work, they brought in specs for him to help seeing the ball better. When seeing it better didn’t help, they brought in Viv Richards to make him hit the ball better. Sehwag told us that Richards taught him a thing or two about bluffing. Sehwag’s next innings of 95 bluffed us all – we though he was back to being old Sehwag but soon we were duly informed that Sehwag was back to being old. Barring that innings, Sehwag has averaged 18 in 8 innings this season. Having lost his position in the national side and players becoming a commodity in open market after this season, it will be interesting to see who goes to pay what for him.
2.     Gilchrist – He has put stop watches to a stringent test. It has been a challenge measuring which of the three has been smaller – time taken by him to reach the pitch, time taken by him to walk out of the ground and the time spent by him at the crease. I think the last one would have won hands down. His biggest contribution has been in teaching Chandilla about how not to get a batsman out. This may well be Gilly’s last appearance in IPL. We will miss those towering sixes over mid-wicket; we will miss those walks back to the pavilion even when umpires failed to see the faint nicks and we will miss those convincing appeals for caught behind even when the ball missed the bat by kilometers.
3.     Ponting – Ponting’s biggest contribution has been letting the baggage go and hugging Harbhajan Singh. Second biggest contribution was in dropping himself. Third was in not committing suicide after Munaf gave him that famous shrug. Frankly speaking, Ponting was never a good buy. Even in his hay days when he was lightning fast on his feet, Ponting wasn’t fast enough against slow bowlers. To assume that he would do well on slow tracks in India at this age was an assumption just short of daydreaming. But then, corporate house owning Mumbai Indians is known for spending millions on a dream house just to leave it unoccupied. This says a lot.
4.     Maxwell – Well, he had to be picked up in some team. It had to be this team. I had never heard about Maxwell till he played against India in last test series. In that series I was told about his price tag in IPL. It left me as agape as I would be if I see a silent NS Sidhu. I hope cunning wealth managers in Mumbai didn’t convince Maxwell to put his money in the stocks of the corporate house which owns Mumbai Indians. If he has done that, he would get to learn the most basic rule of any casino – it is the house which always wins.
5.     Manoj Tiwary – India’s most successful drinks man seems to be batting under the effects of drinks this season. Some say he has not been fully fit and that’s why, not for the first time, lost his place in the national side. Some say there is, not for the first time, a conspiracy behind it. Having missed five of KKR’s 14 matches, Tiwary may soon be back to his favorite job in IPL too – serving drinks. The way things have gone, it doesn’t look like Tiwary is likely to have any future in the national side. The way this season has gone, it doesn’t augur well for him in IPL too. Problem is that when future generations will talk about talents India wasted in 2000s-2010s, Tiwary’s name will not even feature in top ten. Top ten will be occupied by Mr. Talented.

6.     Taylor – If Ganguly was believed to be the god on off side, Taylor would qualify as a perfect atheist. Last time he was seen to be playing on off side, all those fancy financial instruments which sunk the world were still seen as moneymaking machines. His over obsession of leg side strokes anyhow makes him 50% of the batsman he can be. Having added additional burden of captaincy, PW had a recipe for disaster. 63 runs in 5 matches, strike rate of 83, 2 fours and a six - even Morne Morkel sounds to be a better contributor with bat than Taylor.
7.     Yusuf Pathan – There was a time when Yusuf Pathan had openly stated that he wanted to play test cricket for India. During those days, I was looking to buy a piece of land on Mars and build a multiplex on it. IPL 1 was all about Yusuf Pathan, almost. IPL 6 has been all without Yusuf Pathan, almost. Forget batting, such has been his brilliance in the field that even Ashish Nehra may start giving him fielding lessons. If runs were awarded for giving serious and determined looks, Yusuf Pathan may well have been giving sleepless nights to Bradman in his grave. Alas, runs need to be scored.
8.     Yuvraj Singh – Problem with Yuvraj is that he still thinks an Indian diving to field the ball is as rare sight as spotting a silent Sidhu. Every time he dives, it is followed by an expression which makes one feel as if Yuvraj has just come out of a session where he was trying to teach something about being sensible to Sreesanth. That’s the hallmark of a man still living in early 2000s. Like his fans, his batting gives a feel that Yuvraj is still living in February-March period of 2011. Every time he has hit a boundary, it has followed a body language which suggests he owns the world. What has followed next is the long walk to pavilion. A fit Yuvraj would have solved one problem for PW – problem of leadership. A not so fit and woefully out of form Yuvraj has given PW the problems aplenty. Oh by the way, PW is a team participating in IPL6.
9.     Dinda – Dinda had to be the first bowler to be picked in this side. You guessed it right; it is for his jump which takes him out of earth’s atmosphere. I stay just a few kilometers away from PW’s home ground and every time PW plays there, I can go to the rooftop and see Dinda in his jump. He seems to be the only hope for Laika’s descendants to get Laika’s body back to the earth from moon. Twice Dinda has bowled to the Gayle juggernaut in this tournament. Both the times, Gayle has bowled the last ball of the match to Dinda. Both the times, it has ended with Gayle hugging Dinda. Talk about being big hearted and hugging the man who tortured you just an hour or so ago. One can argue that if Gayle decides to hug Dinda, he will not have a choice anyhow but still. There have been theories floating around Dinda being unlucky for the team – how KKR never won anything when he was part of their side or how PW doesn’t win anything now, but I see a different angle to it. Concept of cheerleaders was introduced so that their dance could add some glamor to the game. Dinda’s bowling ensures that cheerleaders get numerous opportunities to dance.
10.  Shaun Tait – Whenever someone boasts about Australians being mentally strong, I can’t help but think about Tait. Whenever Tait was talked about as a big factor for Australians, he faltered. Whenever he faltered, he announced his retirement from that particular format in question. Perth 2008 was one example. Motera 2011 was another. Someone told me that he read in Nadal’s autobiography – his dad asked him to serve as fast as he could without worrying about where it landed. Tait must have heard that conversation between Nadal and his dad – Tait bowls as fast he can without worrying about where to land it. One wicket in 3 matches and economy rate of 9.8 signifying gravitational force, his inclusion is surety to bring down team’s performance at a rate faster than gravitational acceleration.

11.  Ajit Agarkar – No such team can be completed without at least one of the two knights India has produced. It feels good to see that Senior Sir, as I fondly call him, hasn’t lost his touch. He started this season’s bowling with his trademark - wide. He bowled not so badly in the first match – going at 7.25 runs per over. His best economy in a match has been 4 runs per over but then, he bowled just one over in that match. He showed his expertise in his last match – going for 22 in 2 overs. That may well be his last match for the season. Though he dropped a catch this time, I had never seen him dropping a catch before that, he showed that he still possesses the art so undervalued these days – to make most difficult of catches look simple. Even the catch he dropped was of MS Dhoni and if there were reasons behind dropping that catch, not many can blame him. We all strive towards keeping our bosses happy. Anyways, this season may well be the last of Senior Sir too. Respect is all I have for him.

That brings us to the end of this team which is technically in correct – has 5 foreign players. But in a team of imperfections, this much of imperfection should be allowed. If not, get lost. 

Picture curtsey: