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“Imperfect”, a book review

 

Books related to cricket, and the people involved in it, are unfortunately usually boring. I have read autobiographies of many famous cricket stars, but haven’t really found them engaging. You tend to start the book with much enthusiasm and then feel like it is letting you down by the time you get to the middle, and then you labor through to get to the end of it, if at all.

Those are a few reasons why I found, Sanjay Manjrekar’s autobiography, Imperfect, different. Sanjay Manjrekar, once a cricket star who was destined to make a mark in the world of cricket, now an accomplished commentator and analyst, has been a bit of an enigma for me. Sanjay came into the cricket scene before we knew that the greatness in Sachin Tendulkar will eclipse all other cricket topics in India. The era after Sachin’s appearance is all about Sachin, but Sanjay was someone who had the mantle before him. As far as I can remember, he was the one who was supposed to be the next “star” of Indian cricket. Everyone wanted him to succeed, he supposedly had one of the best batting techniques of his time, and he came into the team just at the right time, a time when India needed stars.

His autobiography is almost like an explanation of why all of this did not happen. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand why he did not achieve the success, everyone else thought he should have. I had so much fun reading the book, that I ended up finishing it in 2 days. That’d be the fastest I have read average length books, but it goes to show that the I related to it more than I do with some other books of the same genre. Anyone who grew up in the nineties, and watched India get battered all around the world, with inconsistent performances, illogical plays, and just the lack of intent overall, would enjoy the book because it gives you a sneak peek into why some of that may have happened.

The book can be divided into 3 distinct parts, each of them telling a different story about Sanjay’s relationship with the game.

The preparation years: They say that some people are born great, some have greatness thrust upon them, and some cannot manage greatness because they do not understand the real motivation behind it. Sanjay explains why he got involved in cricket, his real motivations behind playing the sport, his strange and strained relationship with his father and everything else that was part of making him a great ‘average’ batsman. His honest take on why he never felt passionate about scoring runs like Sachin did, but always looked for greatness in technique is a lovely yet uncomfortable glimpse into the mind of a troubled cricketer, whose motivation to play was never the love of the sport itself. I enjoyed the fact that he is blatantly open about the demons in his mind, that led to the way he played the game.
The cricketing years: Some of the most interesting incidents of Indian cricket have been highlighted in his narrative of his own cricketing years representing Mumbai, and India. The “Mumbai” school of cricket, which is not that dominant in Indian cricket now, has been passionately spoken of, and reading it you realize why Mumbai kept on producing brilliant cricketers for India for so many years. It was not only the quality of the individual but also of the system in place coupled with seniors and coaches who wanted success for those involved. It was an absolute revelation to read about all this. Sanjay’s description of why playing for Mumbai was tangentially different from playing for India, the cultural differences of players from different zones, and the senior-junior differentiation in the dressing rooms, is a perfect explanation for why the team played poorly in that era, and only sometimes showed the glimpse of brilliance, that too because of individuals. Reading his narrative made me feel that it was not really a team rooting for each other, but a bunch of talented cricketers who wanted to perform well individually. In a team sport it never works out that way, and the results India had in that era proves this.
The broadcasting years: Perhaps the most interesting and insightful part of the book is Sanjay’s transition from a novice commentator to a well-respected cricket analyst and lead broadcaster. It is not only Sanjay’s individual journey that makes for an interesting read but also his in-depth explanation of the nuances of television broadcasting, the anecdotal stories of his engagement with fellow commentators like Tony Greig, Imran Khan, Ian Chappel and of course Navjot Singh Sidhu, that makes the reader feel immersed. As someone who had no clue on how the cricket broadcasting works, how the pre and post-match shows are so perfectly executed, and how does everyone sitting in those rooms sound so intelligent, the book is a sort of guide into that world. It is fascinating to read about just this part, and I would think it can be made into a book by itself.
Like I said, as someone who grew up in years where explaining why India is such a poor, disintegrated team was difficult, this book offers some of those answers. Also, for someone who wants to understand why Sanjay Manjrekar never achieved greatness, I believe the author has opened up their soul and provided the answers. Anyone with similar interests will definitely enjoy reading this book.

 

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I am Anna today, what about tomorrow?

Its been an incredible few days for India in the past couple of weeks. Mr. Anna Hazare, his team, and their brand of expressing dissatisfaction has created a huge uproar amongst the entire nation. Thousands have supported him and his methods and then there have been others who have criticized the entire episode, but eventually the spirit of a man, ready to undertake physical agony for his principles is commendable and deserves much appreciation. At the end of it, honestly, I was more keen on Mr. Hazare breaking his fast than any bill getting passed, and thats the kind of connection true leaders make with people.

I could spend hours and hours writing about how unsurprisingly incompetent our government has been in handling the entire situation, and how a few of those I considered future leaders of India have come out as nothing but absolute hypocrites, but then it would just be reiterating the obvious. I must though point out that that the Congress government needs to have a very close look at their PR folks; the current lot is downright terrible, has no clue of public sentiment, sounds arrogant, egotistic, and even idiotic most of the time. Its as if they sit on a self destruct button each time they open their mouths, and destruction is all they do. The government really does not need opposition parties or political enemies having been blessed by spokesmen of the quality of Mr. Manish Tewari and Mr. Kapil Sibal.

Now to come back to my thoughts on the entire campaign. It was undoubtedly heartening to see “young india” come out in thousands to support the cause of Mr. Hazare. For the past 30 years that i have existed, i haven’t seen such support at a national level for anything other than cricket, and cricket kind of became an aversion with the abysmal performance of our team in England. The campaign would not have been what it turned out to be and would not have made the impact that it has been able to, had it not received the massive public support that it totally deserved. Hunger strikes have happened in india in the past, civil activists have tried to fight for causes, but i have rarely seen anything garner as much support as this one did.

All this while, i had consciously tried to not be judgmental about the situation, one way or the other. There were a lot of things that i agreed with and a lot that i totally disagreed with, but then i guess thats what ‘free will’ in a democratic country is all about. (i would like to write some day on how much for granted we take our power of expressing free will) Now that everything seems to have taken a positive note, there are a few things to reflect upon:

1. The only way to make people support a cause or an individual is to be honest with them, both in actions and intentions. Anna Hazare stood ground no matter what the government tried to do, he took responsibility for what he believed in and saw it through. His actions and methods may have sounded like blackmail to a few (including me, at times), but his intentions were always there for everyone to see.

2. They say that “customer service” of a product is as important, if not more, than selling the product. You may think you have a great product, you may even be able to sell it using fancy marketing tricks, but  sustained business will only be achieved by providing continued customer service for the product. If you customer service sucks, or if you stop responding to customer complaints, your company and your product is likely to fade out of favor sooner than later. The same applies to elected government bodies of the country. Absolute majority in the parliament does not justify making decisions that are absurd. Also having absolute retards in important PR positions, is like making a nursery student answer customer care questions for Airtel(on another note, the nursery student may do a better job). Bottom line, if you don’t know your shit, you should either be quiet or be honest with people. Making up stupid excuses makes the people feel cheated and that is one emotion not easily reparable.

3. If we, the people are to bring any revolution in the country, we’ve got to start with ourselves. I know it sounds preachy, but there is no doubt to the fact that unless we undergo our own revolution, any bill, however good or bad it is, will be just another piece of paper that we never intend to read or follow. Corruption is something that cannot be discriminated against. If the commonwealth games scam is an example of corruption, then so is us bribing traffic cops to get away with small fines. If the 2G scam is corruption, then so is our crossing red lights, throwing waste on streets, caring a damn about road safety rules or using black money for purchasing properties. We cannot call some forms of corruption acceptable, just because it saves us time or money, and call other forms of corruption evil. Corruption is evil, in all its forms; period. Just as we ask the government to take a step forward and pass a historical bill, we, as responsible citizens of India, should also take a step forward and get rid of the corruption that exists in our lives. There is no excuse for us not to do this.

4. Finally, the lesson to learn from this entire episode is that one person can actually make a difference. If I really am Anna, then the most important thing for me is to not only talk about what is right for the country, but also enact upon the principles i preach. More often than not we complain of what we alone can achieve. That myth has been busted by the recent events, and we have a live example of how one man can change the thought process of an entire nation. Lets just not give into the frenzy of achieving a short term victory but use this as an opportunity to improve ourselves and subsequently our country for good.

The Lords of the Kings…

The champions of the world

There are times when a few of my ‘not so cricket crazy’ friends ask – “How can a sport be so important to a country that it stops people from going to work and almost brings the entire nation to a halt”. I usually respond with a smile, frankly because i have no clue to the answer myself. Since i was a young boy, probably 6 years old, i have had this crazy obsession with the game, which has not faltered a bit, in spite of the trials and tribulations that Indian cricket has been through.

When i was young, my father used to tell me stories about the 1983 world cup – how the team qualified for the finals against all odds, and then how he turned off his radio set after India’s innings and then could not help himself and switched it on again and found India on the brink of a famous famous victory. The glint in his eyes and the expression on his face while narrating the story – priceless!!

Here is the thing with stories though, especially the unbelievable ones. If you have been a part of that story, and have witnessed it, you feel like telling it over and over again, and the spark in your voice never dies down. You want everyone to realize the importance of the moment when you witnessed a great thing happen, and you never get tired of it. On the contrary, if you were only 2 years old when the phenomenon happened, and have no memory of it, you would grow up looking for such a story around you and try to be a part of something that can be shared for generations to come.

My such moment has come…On April 2nd’2011, at around 11:00 pm in the evening, I was sitting with my hands folded and a prayer in my mind, in front of the television set, when the captain of the Indian Cricket team, Mahendra Singh Dhoni the magnificent, used the pretty version of the much hyped “helicopter” shot to dispatch Nuwan Kulasekara over the long on boundary for a six. A special six that was too, for it won India the Cricket World cup, a moment that entire country had been waiting for. I shouted, hugged my wife, danced, and almost cried with excitement. The story I was looking for was here, and no one could have taken that moment from me for I was there, I witnessed it, I saw my team win the cricket world cup. Unbelievable feeling.

The wait was well worth it. The scenes of jubilation, the tears of joy in the eyes of the players, the hugs, the shouts, the fist pumping, the cheers from the Mumbai crowd, the victory lap, the lifting of the trophy, the flowing champagne…aaah…indeed the wait was well worth it…

I’ll keep it short and not write about the various moments of the game, the ups and the downs and so forth, because they are already permanently etched in our minds for the rest of our lives, but there were a couple of moments from the after match celebrations that just blew me away:

1. When Sachin Tendulkar was asked about his 22 year long wait before he could actually lay his hands on the ultimate prize, he said “22 years haan…I dint give up, did I??” Awesome awesome…everyone can take a cue from the great book that Sachin Tendulkar is.

2. When Virat Kohli was asked about the gesture of carrying Sachin Tendulkar on his shoulder around the stadium he replied “He has carried the burden of Indian cricket on his shoulders for 21 years, the least we can do is carry him on our shoulders”. Take a bow Virat Kohli…you are awesome.

There are lords of the game and then there kings of the game…but I can proudly say that the Indian cricket team has proven themselves to be the “Lord of the Kings”. The ultimate prize is ours, the ultimate feeling is ours…thanks Team India…we are immensely proud of you.

And now as i go back to basking in the glory of the victory, something that i have not been able to get over yet, probably wont get over it anytime soon, i have only one thing to say  to the folks not yet around- “Be ready kids – daddy has a story to tell!!”

(Photo courtesy Cricinfo.com)

Its fingerlickin good!!

It sure is…30 days into the cricket world cup, we will now witness the real deal. The quarter finals are decided and India will be playing the not so mighty Aussies on the 24th Of March…National holiday anyone? Be there, glued to your TV screens wherever in the world you are; as they say “more power” to the men in blue, and you will all be needed to channel your energies for the game.

All in all, the eight teams expected to be in the quarters are eventually there. Some like England, have peaked with the better teams and proven their worth, while others like WI have gone in with no so many credentials having only beaten teams ranked below them. The fact is that each game in the quarters, given that its a knock out, will be a very different ball game. The pressure will be different because the stakes are the highest now.

Ah…i still cant believe that India is playing Australia in the quarters. In the game against the WI, when the opposition was almost running away with the games, eyebrows were raised on whether India did not want to face Australia in the quarters and hence are not performing to their fullest. Painful, as it was to watch WI dominate the game for the first half of their innings, frankly speaking Indian bowling has been pretty much the same all throughout this world cup. The problem I guess is with the mindset that a team ranked below us will not be able to beat us under any circumstance, a fact that was proven wrong by Bangladesh in the last world cup. So instead of doubting our team and our players, we should enjoy the game as it stands.

Coming back to the game against WI, i was quite keen on seeing India match up with the Australians. Come on now…An opportunity to knock the Aussies out of the world cup at an early stage has not come that often, and that too under home conditions. Of course, whats added fuel to the fire has been the Australia vs Pakistan game. The Ricky Ponting caught behind must be the most embarrassing moment of his career. It would be almost foolish to assume that Mr. Ponting had the fancy thought that the Pakistan team wont go to the third umpire for the dismissal, and that probably speaks much of his current condition. In that one instant though, UDRS convinced me of its usefulness. It will probably still be debated much, and will still produce occasional controversies, but there is no doubt that it will discourage folks like Ponting from trying to improve their batting form at any cost.

If any of you folks watched the Aus-Pak game, you would have also have heard the Ian Chappell rant against Shahid Afridi’s celebratory posture and almost everything about the Pakistan team in general. Its not unusual to see Australians start to point fingers on totally non relevant things, when losing, but Chappell’s commentary was almost close to total nonsense. As far as i can remember the Australians have tried every trick in the “How to play dirty cricket” book to win games, and although several Pakistan players have contributed to maligning the reputation of their team, it seems funny to hear an Australian complain about postures on the field. Its called gamesmanship when an Aussie does it, “friendly banter” in the expert’s language, but when someone else does it to them, definitions change. Funny, but not surprising, coming from the Aussies.

The other great debate that has sprung up in the last couple of games has been ‘to walk or not’ if the umpire does not give you out, but you know you are. Sachin Tendulkar walked, when the umpire did not give him out, and numerous TV replays could not confirm if he had nicked the ball. On the contrary, Ricky Ponting did not, argued with the fielders, the opposition captain, and then had to leave the field because the TV replays clearly showed that he had nicked the ball. A lot of my friends and people i know have made this instance into a glorification parameter for Sachin. I disagree on this subject a bit. For starters, Sachin Tendulkar now needs no comparisons with any Ricky Ponting or anyone else to prove his credentials and greatness in the game. Lets leave it to the people who still dont agree with his greatness do the stupid talk and then just laugh at them. I guess that’ll be sufficient. Secondly, i believe what Sachin did, goes on to prove that you need to keep improving as a cricketer. He may have walked or not when there was no UDRS, but with the system in place all you are counting on is a blind person in the third umpires seat to not give you out. I guess thats what Ricky Ponting hoped for; unfortunately for him though, it was he who was made to look like a joker at the end of it.

The Australia-India game will be one hell of a cricket match, given the history of these teams, and the sweet relations they share with each other. I can only hope that India brings their A game on the game day. It will be sufficient; anything less than that wont do…Fingers crossed!!

My world cup assessment

Cricket - India

25 days into the world cup seems like a good time to compose my opinion and assessment on this mega event. The “not so interesting” matches are now almost over, and as far as the world cup is concerned, things should only look up from now on. Of course the way India has performed, i am having some serious apprehensions; in other words, some of my serious apprehensions have been confirmed.

I am sure almost all of you have some suggestions for our team, and i have been a personal witness to quite a few of those suggestions ranging from – “Dhoni should be chucked out of the team” to “Sachin should never score a century because India always loses when he does” (Gladly proven false here http://www.cricbuzz.com/cricket-news/38170/the-myth-about-sachin-ton-and-india-losing) . It always pleases the hell of me to see the passion that continues to flow through our heads and hearts when our team is down and doing ridiculously bad(ridiculous because i haven’t been able to explain it myself), and although the passion almost certainly comes out the wrong way, we would be the first ones to sit tight in front of the television, ready to waste another 10 hours, whenever the next game is.

Anyway, i’ll probably talk about the amazing Indian cricket fans some other time. I will use this space to express my thoughts on this world cup as it has happened, and a few predictions as well.

One thing i can say for certain is that after these 25 days no one team looks good enough to win the world cup, and i am not saying this just because India is not doing well. In the last 3 world cups, Australia were the firm favorites, right from the start. It used to be a question of who can perform better than Australia on a given day, and it had to be your day to beat Australia in a world cup game. Their unbeaten streak of 34 world cup games is a great testament to a super awesome team. And even though they may be able to achieve the same feat this time around as well, they are neither the favorites, nor do they look like the great team they once were. The hard part to digest has been how poor some of the other good teams have performed. And you only need the best out of bad teams to win the world cup.

1. England – ‘Strange’ is the only word i have for England. Their performance has been very unpredictable, which has partly made the matters for Group B extremely complicated. I dont believe i have seen a team do so well against the Number 1 and number 2 ranked teams and do so below par against the associate teams. Some people have attributed their loss to Ireland and Bangladesh to fatigue from the tough Ashes tour just prior to the world cup, but then their performance against South Africa and India was exceptional, so i refuse to accept that fatigue is the only cause for this erratic performance. It wont surprise me if they get their act together in the later stages of the tournament, provided they reach it first. Their last game against the West Indies will be interesting.

2. Pakistan – They have been good to say the least. Pakistan is not a side whom you will bet your money on, and their inconsistent style of play is almost a norm now. They are the ones who will surprise you any day with a fantastic performance and will similarly surprise you on another day with an equally bogus performance. My sympathies are with the team purely because every time they perform poorly, fingers are raised on their integrity and its not the easiest to continue playing well when half the world is blaming you.This inconsistency though makes them ever so dangerous and hot contenders for the world cup.

3. West Indies – A few good performances here and there, but definitely not the team that can lift the world cup. Their true test will be against the English and the Indians, and both the games should be very competitive given that India and England have put themselves in such terrible situations.

4. South Africa – I have personally never been a fan of the South Africans. The bias has nothing to do with the players themselves, but their commentators. I have written earlier about how bad these guys actually are; all they want is to keep proving how good South African team is, even before a ball is bowled, and their stupid analogies just makes TV viewing a painful experience. As far as the team is concerned, they are not the best in the world. Excuses about flat pitches and unfavorable environment (which practically all away teams are using), just prove that the team is good in only some circumstances and a fail in the others. If it were not for the almost maniacal performance from India last Saturday, it would have been easier to say that South Africans are not as threatening as they used to be earlier, but then that was not to be. Lucky days like that wont come that often, and i do believe that their performance against England was a better sign of their quality.

5. Sri Lanka – They have been good in the games against the associate teams, but their performance against Pakistan was not much to talk about. Their only real test was against the Pakistani team, and they failed miserably in it. Their last game against New Zealand may or may not be much to look forward to, but then the entire group A has been quite predictable, and so there is not much to talk about there.

6. New Zealand – Their performance against Australia was sad, and they almost always look like a one man team. Daniel Vettori unfortunately does everything for the team, and no one man can make you win the world cup. Not much expectations.

7. Australia – Aha, the favorite topic of so many Indians. Australia and India have such a great cricketing relation that many of the so called Australian experts seem to earn half their money by writing good or bad about the Indian cricket team, instead of acknowledging the decline in their own team. Fair enough though, the heart is where the money is. Coming back to cricket, as mentioned by me earlier, Australia are not ‘the’ team anymore, they are definitely a very good team, but not the best. The mere fact that they could not dismiss Kenya in a run chase of 324 says a lot of their bowling attack, and their batting though strong, is nothing to write volumes about. One thing is for sure though, whatever happens to them, they will find an excuse to blame it on something else. Clearly, resting too much has already started creating problems for them, something that the other captains would love to have. Their performances have not been great; they will be tested against Pakistan, if its not one of Kamran Akmal’s bad days, but the way all the other teams have been playing, Australia still looks a good contender.

8. India – Keeping the best [or worst 😦 ] for the last. India has been, if i have to summarize in one word “disappointing”. Their performances against the associate nations were not outright dominant, and against England and South Africa it was mindless batting that cost them both the games. I love the cool attitude of our captain, but there are times when it gets to me. I am sure they are planning for every game, but the execution, at least till now has been very bad. The game against South Africa was a sad sad display of how to lose a game after dominating it for 40 overs. Even for the most optimistic of guys like me, it was frustrating. I can deal with loses, no issues there,  i have a hard time dealing with self inflicted idiocies, and thats exactly what the team went through last Saturday. Only if Sachin Tendulkar could bowl, he would have almost single handedly done everything in that game, given that he batted out of his skin and fielded superbly. 20 long years of watching cricket, and there are times when the team takes you back to the era when only one man performed and the rest prayed they dont get to bat. I know its not true, but thats how one would feel given the way everyone batted in the game against South Africa. Now that they have put themselves in the precarious position of getting eliminated before the quarters, i hope India will get their act together, give a solid performance against the West Indies, and look like a team that can win the cup. They dont as yet, not at all. And please, someone has to tell Munaf and Nehra that getting hit for fours and sixes is no laughing matter, please introspect.

A word about the associate teams. They have been a revelation, an absolute pleasure to see Ireland compete so fiercely. Their game against England was one of the best i have ever seen. Goes onto prove that nothing is over until the last over. There is a strong case for minimizing the number of games in the world cup by not playing the associate nations, but some of them deserve due respect, and this world cup will be remembered for some of these instances.

Your take on the situation??

My weekly rant – The shoe that never hit its target…

Shoe thrower

A few days ago, i was sitting at the departure terminal of the Hong Kong airport, trying to fly back to India on one of the most ridiculous itineraries ever. Apparently i never realized that my travel guy is another of those folks who needs to be pampered regularly, else he’ll make you suffer with bizarre travel itineraries.

Anyhoo, free internet on the airport is quite a perk, and as i was surfing away, killing time, i came across this news about  some random person who tried to hit General Pervez Musharaff with a shoe, and bloody missed it. As i read through the report, a few thoughts ran through my mind. When was the last time someone decided to hit a politician with a shoe and had success in this endeavor? At least i don’t remember hearing any such news, and believe me, i do watch a healthy dose of India TV, so would probably have not missed it.

Clearly the success rate here is so low that this issue needs some attention. And while the smarter minds of the world work on finding a cure for AIDS, i will contribute my two cents here and do a root cause analysis for the problem.

Here are the things that the prospective shoe throwers should look at before attempting to madly flung their footwear at the most esteemed, but much deserving VVIP politicians:

1. Selecting your shoe – Most important…Your weapon of choice is no doubt excellent, but the mere fact that it’s a shoe probably wont guarantee that it hits the intended target. Spend time in researching a variety which is shaped nicely and is just the right weight. Both these things will not only ensure precise execution of your task but also a smoother travel towards your target. Avoid using the heavy variants; they may not travel the distance. The goal should be to land the shoe somewhere on your target before people around grab hold and beat the crap out of you. On a commercial front, you may try to secure an endorsement from a shoe company. The flight time towards the target will give them enough air time for an advertisement, and will earn you some bucks as well.

2.Get the physics right – Newtonian research on motion physics and mechanics cannot be ignored. Brush up on your physics before you make your move. Get your concepts of momentum, velocity, acceleration and projectile motion right. You will need all these in order to make the perfect hit. It may also be useful to have an idea of the surroundings where you will be attempting this stunt. Things vary depending on the wind factor, the place where you will be seated and other distractions. If possible, replicate the exact circumstances and try the entire act with some of your supportive friends. Friends who are used to getting hit by shoes because of their inherent inquisitive nature should be preferred for such experiments.

3. Chose your target carefully – This brings me to another important factor. Choosing your target. It’s okay to loathe politicians. Most of us have not been able to help it, however hard we try. That obviously does not mean everyone can be made the target of the shoe hitting phenomenon. You need to target folks who are not too fast, else they will easily evade your projectile, and keep smiling. Of course all of them are fast when it comes to tricking the people who voted them to power, but not all will be fast enough to trick a precisely thrown shoe. If however, you do have to choose a fast one, place yourself somewhere they can’t see you. That way they wont have the time to move when you take the shot.

4. Ask for a tip or two from a girlfriend – Ah, possibly the most useful tip. Please do consult your female friends. They are well equipped in the art of getting their footwear out and hitting it precisely where they want to, in almost a flash. They have all the knowledge and a few secret tips from them might just be the ones that eventually get you the hit.

That is all i have for now. I will be looking through the news channels for some good news…Happy throwing!!

My weekly rant – Where did you learn your skills, Mr. Commentator?

I am writing this in the backdrop of the on going cricket series between India and SA. Things have gone beautifully for India, and although it could have been so much better, i still feel very pleased that our team has not succumbed to the pressure of their horrendous past performances in South Africa.

Notice how i did not use any other factor when mentioning the ghosts of what India has underachieved in South Africa in all of their previous tours. We were so used to hearing “They are a bunch of very talented players, but …..”, and the ‘but’ inadvertently was about embarrassing losses on the foreign soil. In the past few years, specifically in the Ganguly and the post Ganguly period, Indian cricket has evolved big time. One of the factors why things have worked out well for the Indian cricket team has been an excellent mix of experienced and good young players, but more than that its been the victories on the foreign soils that have made the team confident, resilient and very competitive. Sure there have been incidents where the team has gone down like a house on fire, but they have been way less in numbers than what it used to be.

That is precisely the reason why i find it surprising when the rest of the cricketing world, especially the part which considers its teams to be the best, has a hard time coming out of the past. A certain Mr. Shaun Pollock , now a part of a very biased South African commentary team absolutely gave no chance to the Indian team post their massive loss in the first test in Durban. It looked like the South Africans had already assumed that they will win the series hands down. Throughout the first game i was hearing the splendid team of Protean commentators harp about the excellent bowling attack they have, and the so called “bounce” factor which the Indian batsmen wont be able to handle. I used to think that it was the Aussies who were the most touchy feely about losing in their own backyard, but to my surprise the South Africans are probably a notch higher. Without exception, a stroke from the SA batsmen was the classiest shot, and the best shot from an Indian was a loose ball from the SA bowler. A huge nick from the SA batsman was “maybe out”, but an LBW shout from the SA bowler “had to be out”.  It looked like the commentators wanted the SA team to win more than the 11 players on the field did.

More than enough reason why i got a bit of “wicked” satisfaction, when India absolutely plastered SA in the second test match. The infamous “bounce” and the solid “batting line up”, just did not work for the Proteas, and neither did the blatantly biased commentary from the Jackmans and Pollocks on air. The third game, was farcical. The South Africans, with the help of some pretty inept bowling from India, kept batting on and on until the game almost lost all its meaning. I would have expected a team which was so sure of “sweeping” the series to be a bit more confident in their own bowling, but that was not to be. SA gave India less than a day to chase more than 300 runs, and absolutely killed the spirit of such a wonderful series. So much for having the best bowler in the world in your team.

After all this i would have assumed that the commentators must have learnt that playing against the number 1 test team and the number 2 One day team in the world is no joke and cant be taken for granted, but to my surprise even the One-Day International series is following a pretty similar pattern. India lost the first game, and it made the SA commentators think that their team (number 4 in ODI rankings) is suddenly the best one day team. What they forgot was how cool a game cricket is and how quickly does it leave you flabbergasted on your knees. Game 2 and 3 of the ODI series were a clear indication, that accompanied with a bit of luck, and lots of resilience you can win from almost any situation. India proved that they are worthy of all the rankings they hold currently. A team of very good players will not alone win games for you, its how long you can hang in there, and keep fighting even when the circumstances are against you, that will do the job. I am not saying that India does it all the time, but i am sure that South Africa practically never does it in pressure situations, which has earned them the infamous “Chokers” tag.

An incident in the 3rd One Day game absolutely proved how biased these SA commentators are. At one point in time, when India were pretty much in an advantageous position, they flashed a statistic about the ODI rankings of all the countries. Here is how the dude explained it “If South Africa win the series 4-1 they will replace India and become the number 2 ranked team, but if they win 3-2 or if the series is drawn, no change of positions will happen”.  I mean what the heck. They did not even bother to consider a scenario where South Africa could lose this series, by any margin whatsoever. Dumb confidence or just plain idiocy.

The One Day series is still wide open. India do have an advantage, but its still ‘game on’. As much as i like to see a great game of cricket (which India wins 🙂 ), i would also like to have an unbiased team of commentators providing their thoughts on the television. That has been the only sour grape for me in this otherwise wonderful contest between 2 very good teams.