Thursday, December 29, 2011

A case in point for team culture and respect that breeds success

Let us go back in time. I will take you to the spring of 1996. I was a school kid then who had sometime back fallen completely in love to cricket viewing. I always loved the game as the closest thing to my heart and played since as long as I can remember (albeit with the soft ball but I reckon I transformed from a ungainly softball batsman to one who could put bat to ball in the year 1995). Thanks for bearing with my personal info. But I simply loved cricket on television after watching almost every ball of the West Indies tour of India in the year 1995. But then the zenith was reached in 1996 in the World Cup(dont mention the official title sponsor, its a tobacco tabboo). I dint quite understand what Dominic Cork or Dikie Bird meant when they said that there was nothing official about Pepsi. Yes, I was naive to the alluring worlds of advertisements and sponsorship but I definitely understood what it meant when BRIAN LARA demolished South Africa in the quarter finals or the concept of pinch-hitting which was used to overhaul New Zealand's total by sending Warnie up the order in another match. So I was heartbroken when on a otherwise pleasant evening I returned from a short stint of play and found Siddhu caught by Jayasuriya in the semis at the Eden Gardens. Little did I know there was worse to come. We know what happened and it got me in pains. But we endure. Fast forward to the Gaddafi (anyone for a name change?) stadium in Lahore and those scenes of a helicopter (whats the difference between it and a chopper btw?) trying to dry the outfield. Surprising as it may sound, I was rooting for Sri Lanka. That they threw us out of the championship (oh, its the World Cup) did not matter, I simply did not support Australia. I do not understand why but I did not. So I was happy when Ranatunga sliced one through the thirdman boundary and accepted the trophy from Late Benazir Bhutto (I realized this only now, how far back in time it was and how the backdrop of my neighbouring land has changed). So much for nostalgia, but the real point is, I did not like Australia winning then against anybody. Fast forward to the 1999 WC and I was rooting for the OZ against the Saffers and cheered when Allan Donald was actually runout in that gut churner of a tie. I had started to choose Oz against any other nation but my homeland. So, I cheered every wicket as it fell in South Africa, from Sreesanth getting Haydos to Bhajji cleaning up Clarkie in the inaugral T20 WC. Same story in the CB cup finals down under and the Perth Test win at the start of 2008. I admired their brand of cricket alright and the firce but light hearted spirit they played in (I see in my mind's eye many eyebrows raising, but seriously keeping aside a couple of really arrogant pricks, they were always being aggressive on the field of play). I may be wrong but it felt like they always played the nice way. They were always smiling and chit-chatting in a pally manner among each other which did not at all look like street-side banter. The point I think is they played very well as a team and respected each other as the guys playing together and that I sensed. A fringe player in the playing 11 never looked like not having a good laugh. I dont know, I quite liked what I saw. But still I was a team-india fan. And I was pround of it. It is my national team. I had few of the world's best batsmen, good spinners, a keeper-captain with a nice hairdo who made bold suggestions and statements and they were winning (albeit just the limited overs rubbers). But today I envy an Aussie fan. And not just because they won the MCG test.
This is because I see them playing a team game like one. That reflects the culture that is prevalent in their first class cricket or thus it looks. I do not think India fared too badly in the match through the first 10 sessions in terms of putting bat to the ball and releasing the ball from hands or even grabbing the ball. Anybody would think that way. Still they managed to be outdone handsomely by a talented but fledgling Aussie side. Because they did so in a very disconcerted manner. This is what is so detrimental to a team game. Team India do not look a committed bunch of people playing with and FOR each other. They do not seemt to have enough respect for their peer in the team and that hurts subconsciously and eventually in my humle opinion.
When an opener plays in a manner because that he thinks is the way he batted, it is after much consideration a fair call. But it is a different thing when he boasts about that in very naked terms. It is a statement of an individuality which does not purport to be forming a part of the whole. This in my view is blasphemy in team sport. It would be much a better thing if Sehwag keeps on playing the way he does, improves upon that but not take it as a personal agenda or an avenging mission to demonstrate one thing or the other to the world. This adds fuel to the opposition firepower and they are running in with their tails up all the time. Sehwag has much more to prove in foreign conditions and he seems to give Sir Viv blushes in plain arrogance. He may be well meaning but someone needs to tell him that in order to leave a legacy and be consistently of benefit to the team in a structured manner, he needs to fit into a role and that role is definitely not blabbering among the media about his cricketing mannerisms. Who knows if the foreign media just intentionally puts him into a delusional state by pumping his ego. Because I honestly do not see any reason for them to go head over heels on Sehwag when he has still left so much to prove in foreign conditions. He might win the odd test but that is far outweighed by the negligent manner he plays his cricket in increasingly. A bloke who hit his first test ton in Johannesburg ought to have learnt better. Actually, he has been a little bit of a victim of his fanfare and hype. He has certainly not improved an iota. So much for speaking antagonistically for a batsman who I am a big fan of. I like his free spirited natre and the good laugh he seems to share always on the field. This is why I am increasingly frustrated and impatient with him. Being a good bloke who could do so much more, he must now curb his ego and look for some advice and help. If he looks around, he may have it at an arm's length. I would not venture to analyse the faults of a couple of other players as I do not think there is any merit in discussing Test cricket credentials or improvements of players who are not even the most capable to be playing the version of the game in the country. The humble message to the majestic Tendulkar however is that he being the biggest cricketer we have ever produced (Kapil maybe, thats another day's talk however), I would always feel a part of the responsibility of whatever kind of work ethic related issues happen in the team rest on him. This is because all the players listen to what he has to say with open ears. He ought to instill that discipline and team culture among the group. And here is wishing him best for his 100th ton. I am sure he is least bothered with it and would like to win the next test before anything else.

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