Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Eden 2001 revisited!!!

Oh dear Eden 2001. I hate you. Yes I do.
Because you have spoiled me. You have spoiled me for life. Every time I find myself in a hopeless situation or putting it in Ravi Shastri’s words – “In a tunnel with no end at the end of it”, I just think of you and tell myself quietly “It has been done before”.
That’s true for cricket and for life.

Dear Eden 2001, I must thank you for revisiting us in year 2017. Interestingly in the same month, month of March, you were born.

Although there is a huge difference between 2017 and 2001. In 2001, Australians came as world champions looking to roll over their juggernaut which had 15 straight test victories in pocket. In 2017, India is number 1 side which had been unbeaten at home for 19 tests in a row.

But as the events have turned out, 2017 looks so similar to 2001..

We were crushed in Pune. CRUSHED. Number one test team in the world which, given the schedule, had no chance of losing its position to number two side.
Yet, it happened. On a turning track.
An unknown left arm spinner had taken 12 wickets against us. We lost by 333 runs.
I repeat. 12 wickets. 333 runs.
Who is Steve O’Keefe anyways? When I heard him being in the side, I wondered “O’Keefe who? Triple centurions aren’t finding a place in our batting and Australians are sending some random Big Basher to bowl? It is 4-0”
A left arm spinner crushing us. Imagine the plight of Dada. Spinners crushing us at home. Imagine the plight of Sehwag & VVS. Imagine the joy of Warne.
Such was the un-believability of the event.
“After 2001, have we ever come back from behind to win the series against a strong team?” asked a friend.
“2015, Sri Lanka” I replied.
“I said strong team” he shot back.
“Sri Lanka had Herath. Australians lost badly to Sri Lanka” when it comes to cricket, I don’t take a step back in arguments.
“Its Australia. Not Sri Lanka”
“Things always look easier after we have won”
“No. Sri Lanka is a weak side”
“F off” my patience had run out. See, such was the magnitude of loss that fan in me had turn into a fanatic. Cricket fans can be as ferocious as fanatics.  

It was as bad as 2011. Or 2012. Or 2014. The horrors of England & Australia had come back. What hurt more was that more than annihilation, it looked like abject surrender.

“To hell with it. I am retiring from following cricket” I told a friend.
“The usual” he said.
“Yes, the tutka”” I winked.

Cricket fans can also be as naive as children.

Day 1
Come the morning of 4th March. Thank god I am not going to follow this match. Who wants to get up at 5 every morning anyways? I thought. Damn the time zone differences? Why isn’t our planet flat. We wouldn't have had any time zone differences then.  
I woke up at 4. India had won the toss. I went back to sleep. Or pretence of it.
72/2 at lunch. Thank God. We shall surely cross 100. At least I hope I thought.
Next I checked, Nair and Rahul were batting well. Local boys. 5th wicket partnership. And I am not following. So many things in our favour. We shall crush them I thought.
“189” someone messaged me. What? How the hell? How exactly? I thought.
To hell with it. I shall not follow this match now. At no cost.

Day 2
5th March 2017 must have been the only day in my life when India was playing and I didn't even check the score. Not even once. See the discipline? Only if I had same discipline in other aspects of life.

Day 3
I am not going to follow. I kept telling myself. I opened someone’s twitter feed to check news about UP elections. Someone had tweeted “Hope we cross 200 this time?”
What? Australia is all out. What’s going on.
It was 94/2. Next I checked, it was 120 for 4. Damn. Damn. Damn. Why did I check the score? Superstition in me was taking over the sanity.
“250? Pitch has eased out” someone messaged.
“I have retired” I replied.
“Ok Afridi” he replied back.
213/4. I finally checked. 126 ahead. Maybe, maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel. Our number 3 was leading the way. Our number 6, woefully out of form with place under threat, was giving him company. Does it ring a bell? Has it happened before?
Hash tag “”You Remember”

Day 4
Slept at 1. Woke up at 5. Started streaming. We should declare half an hour after tea. Started thinking too.
Thinking is such a waste of time. Number 6 got out.
I started for office. Checked the score on my way. Nine down. Nine? How? How the hell?
Came to office. Self-restraint took over. For an hour or so. Then it took the backseat.
Checked the score. Australians were 8 down. Eight? Yes, 2 more. Hope they don’t return the favour of Mohali 2010.
They didn’t.
112 it read.

From a position of complete annihilation in first test and losing huge ground in the initial part of second test, we had turned it around. Totally. Wholly. Completely.
We had paid back the favour. As Ravi Shastri would say in his booming voice, “India has the momentum now”
Juggernaut has started rolling back again. Or I hope so. That's what I learnt from Eden 2001.
To hope. Always.       

Dear Ranchi, we are coming. We, the fan and the fanatic in me. With tonnes of hope.

 (Image courtesy: Indian Express)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Not the Australia I've known!!!

Ever since Shane Warne found his way to stardom between Mike Gatting’s legs, he never looked back. By the time he arrived in India for his first test series, he was bigger than his own Himalayan ego. Or so I thought. What else I could think of someone who brought his own food with him because India was not hygienic enough for him. Maybe he was right. Maybe not. But for me, this was an insult to the host country.
I hated him.
I know hate is a strong word but my vocabulary is too limited to find a more suited word.
I did not hate just Warne. I hated Glenn McGrath too for his “forget an inch, I won’t even give you a millimetre” attitude. I hated Steve Waugh. I hated Ian Healey.
Hatred was not restricted to just that tour. It was through the time.
I absolutely hated Michael Slater for his tantrums in Mumbai. “Showing finger to umpire and Dravid? I just hate slater”. Every time Matthew Hayden walked in to bat as if he was going to kick box everyone on the cricket ground, I secretly wished if we could hire a sniper to shoot him dead. Sniper had to be at good distance because anywhere close to him might result in sniper getting kick boxed. I hated his bully like attitude which just oozed out of his persona.
I hated Ponting for pushing Harbhajan in Sharjah. Ironically, Harbhajan got fined for using foul language whereas Ponting got scot free. How did he manage that? I hated him for getting away with that?
How do Australians do that? Always? I hated them for that.
I hated their batting which was always superior. I hated their bowling which was better than their batting. I hated their fielding which was surely better than their batting and bowling put together. I hated their attitude which, even if you ever won against them, made sure you bleed even your last drop of blood to win. More than that, I hated their complete contempt towards the word modesty. They were the best side and were not ashamed of it - something which did not come to easy. My generation was taught to be humble, always. Even if being humbled bordered on self-depreciation.
I hated the fact that my team could not play like them. Or somewhere could get even close to their level. I hated the fact that we could not be like them.
In my mind, our politeness was always crushed by their hostility. Our gentlemen like behaviour was always sledged out of the door by them. They showed contempt - before, during and after every series.
I hated it. There was no option because they backed all their villainy with results.
4-0 in 1992. They lost in 1996 but blamed the pitches. 1-2 in 1998 but then, they beat us in Bangalore and claimed - as soon as we played on a fair pitch, we won. Fair pitch my foot.
3-0 in 1999. 1-2 in 2001 but each of the last two matches, as Ravi Shastri would say, went down to the wire which was closing its grasps on Indian necks to suffocate them.
2-1 in 2004. They tried, tried, tried and beat us at home.
They, even if they lost, were always in it.
Barring the 4-0 loss in 2013, they were always in it. Even when they arrived in India in 2013, they were like the Australia we have known - big mouthed, bigger ego and aura even though it was residual.
They’ve come again.
2017 it is. But this time, it is different.
This is not the Australia I have known.
When Harbhajan predicted 4-0 win for India, Nathan Lyon said they do not worry about what others say and worry about their own process.
Yes, process. The same word championed by Indian IT giants. The same words MS Dhoni used - in victory, in defeat, in draws, in rain affected washouts. Process.
In olden days, a Matthew Hayden would’ve asked Harbhajan Singh to meet in boxing ring. Ricky Ponting would’ve predicted 4-0 win for Australia. Australian media would’ve started presenting even Indian highways as turning tracks.
But no. None of it this time.
What we have is very un-Australian Australia. No big words. No statements. No nothing.
Steve Smith acts nice. Nathan Lyon talks nicer. They say they’ve respect for opposition. Even David Warner, known for his punches on the ground or pubs in London, hasn’t fired a single salvo.
Not the Australia I know.
And this will hurt them. They have always been better when acted as unfriendly, hostile and hate worthy opponents. One of the reasons for their loss in Perth was given as - “Sidney forced them to be soft and not sledge. They were asked to act soft in Perth. BCCI twisted arms. Indians cannot take tough cricket”
See, even in defeat they could try making you feel guilty of winning.
I see none of it now. This will hurt them. Oh yes, I may be wrong. Horribly wrong. Maybe. Hopefully not.
So my dear Australians, be the Australia I’ve known. If you are worried about IPL, do not be. A hated Australians is more likely to draw crowds than a not so hated one.
Say something. Say something like how Virat is a flat deck bully or Ashwin is a chucker or Indians hide behind the supernatural powers like Sir Jadeja. Say something nasty about the tracks, the weather, the roads, the hotels, the food or even bloody demonetization.
But be the Australia I’ve known. Otherwise, it is boring.