Thursday, December 25, 2008

Folklore - Dravid and KP

Cricket is strange indeed - one just doesn't seem to come to grips as to which myriad ways it can fascinate the fan in. Just when the pure and unadulterated expression of Sehwag in Chennai boasted to remain the single most inspiring feat and memory of a series which is played on the backdrop of the disappointment and horrors of Mumbai 26/11, Mohali has set its claim to atleast two such acts in just the first 3 days of the match. Even the most staunch supporters of Dravid had abandoned reason and thought pertaining to his form and were just starting to be non-commital on his future for none of them knew any answers. Only one man anyway could know what it was all about and perhaps still did not know the amends he needed to make. I can resonably claim that a century was not in the mind of Dravid himself when he walked after Sehwag was caught in the first day at Mohali. The demons that he would have had to fight everytime he dons the pads on while waiting for the first wicket to fall would have spared him early on Friday when he was able to get into the thick of the action as the first wicket fell early. But the ordeal had just begun and the reminiscences of previous such fights however hard he tried not to, would have been playing on his mind. A rather serious supporter like me could not watch it due to transmission problems, but honestly, I doubt if I would have been able to summon the emotional reserves it had of late started to call for to watch one inning of his. Such negativity, desperation and doubt had crept into the mind of an almost devoted fan. So what would have been going through his own mind is a matter of applying common sense. A glimpse of the above could be found in the unlikely heave which luckily landed safe in the midwicket region initially. Or was it “the omen” of all what was needed for the final reassurance of his finding his touch for no one had doubted his instinct even when the poor run continued. Well, it turned out so. And the final outcome was one which everyone embraced whole heartedly. There could be a difference only in the degree of aspiration and desperation with which people would be wanting this hundred to come true - even his worst critics - for as I understand everyone knew deep within that the charm in his game had still not vanished. And that belief was actually superimposed for his inning had the elements which we attribute to a Dravid masterpiece unlike the exhibitions in Perth and Chennai earlier this year. Its still some distance to go before we could safely rest the case of his bad form I agree, as it has all been only one inning - although a few fighting 50s recently and 800 runs in a calender year suddenly start to indicate towards just a case of an aberration rather than a career defining inflexion point. Such indeed is the fickleness of the observer of cricket. But the prospect of a New Zealand tour with the juiciest of wickets and stern conditions would just be the ideal stage for a full scale revival - remember the winters of 1999 when he came out of another rut to shun his detractors - the romantics would be quick to sniff a repeat of history. After all, one thing is for certain - Dravid starts to fill the mammoth frame devoted to him in the fan's/not-so-fan's mind only when the conditions start to make batsmanship more than just driving on the up. So we hope here that his career continues to flourish as long as his instinct is sharp as it has been in the past and not be mired by any noise between the ears - which is so much more difficult to handle for a immaculate and sensitive cricketer like him. Good luck Jammy.
             The other master feat of the match belongs to the flamboyance and panache of KP. There is an undercurrent of self assurance, originality and maverick which pervades his entire batsmanship - be it the stance, the initial movement or to find an example the incredible "swicth-hit" - I could finally find a case to apply the word incredible, now applied to rather credible feats. The inning today served well to highlight the indiscretion of the average Indian critic or the doubting mind after the string of recent failures he had had to sustain. Did we not hear MSD muttering ill constantly from behind the stumps of his predisposition to leg side play. It may appear as sleazy and average predetermination. But it has got to have something unfathomable to others for the sheer effectiveness of such play - and 4000 runs in 44 tests do indicate greatness - demand more respect.  He actully starts to look rather gauche if his methods suddenly stop to serve him in terms of numbers and the average mind exposed to the heavy dosage of orthodox batsmanship starts to make audatious claims and doubts regarding his much professed talent. But then the master of the art only can fathom the tricks he applies. And he must know/experience a few such inspirations for him to execute a stroke as extravagant and novel as what he made Harbhajan and company to suffer from. There is a degree to which Sachin gives in to experiment. All the improvisations starting from the reverse sweep, the paddle sweep, inside out hitting, upper cut et-al appear as the cases of application of authentic technical modifications coupled with confidence and mastery over one's game. But KP's manouever comes purely as his other propositions - a statement of authority and command. Such has been the entire story of the man - right from his "crossing the boundary" to his disregard for the match situation in an affirmative way today when he spirited to the crease. And this is what ressures and belittles the average doubter of his uncategorisable genius. Whether it is more of the batting genius or the approach which make him such a force to reckon with is a question only he may have the priviledge to answer to for others can only wonder in amazement, delight or scorn when he decides to hop on the crease when the spinner has still rotated only half his arm preparing for the switch hit. He comes apart indeed as a fresh zephyr from the west. But also an instrument of inspiration with which the folklore of cricket is so much possessed.

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