The Kohli way and the competitive whitewash

This has been a very interesting overseas series for India. The results haven’t been very different from the ones that have come before it, yet the way they have got to them has been. For starters, the team hasn’t been shamefully outplayed – there is a possibility that this series may be the one the ‘most competitive whitewashes’ that India has been part of in recent times, if that makes sense. We haven’t been ineptly bounced out of the game. There have been a couple of long sessions where the batsmen have taken the fight to the Aussies. Even the bowlers have come up with the odd decent performances where they’ve been able to restrict and control the scoring with some incisive bowling before letting the session wander away. And most noticeably, our fielding has been consistently top notch, even among the members of that not-so-exclusive slip cordon club. In both the preceding test matches, India have found themselves at least once in a position where they could have gone on to a memorable overseas victory, before squandering it away in a way that the Indian fan is very familiar with.

The other standout aspect of the series has been the ‘banter’. Virat Kohli gave this very peculiar no-holds-barred press conference yesterday after playing yet another great knock in Australia.

People predicting that the game may become a bit gentler in the aftermath of the massive tragedy that preceded the series were proved very wrong, very quickly.

Now, Virat is a naturally aggressive individual who likes to take on his opponents. In fact, he actively seeks opportunities to do so. It’s a refreshing trait for Indian cricket fans to see in one of their star players. It makes for great television every time he stands his ground and gives it back to a bowler like Johnson, or when he blows kisses to the people inside as well as outside the playing field. That’s the Kohli way and he’s God’s gift to cricket broadcasters, commentators and writers everywhere. But , as with everything, it seems to come at a price.

In the press conference I’ve linked above, a visibly agitated Kohli says that the banter doesn’t affect his batting, but then goes on to contradict himself by saying that he made a conscious effort to ‘back up the talk’. Bowlers the world over have already figured out that it is very easy to break his concentration by getting under his skin, even if it may not always work out in their favour. But hey, they’ll say, it’s definitely worth a try when things aren’t going your way. As one of the best batting talents of his generation, Kohli needs to think about whether there will come a day ten years in the future, when he will look back and wonder if he could have scaled higher peaks, if he wouldn’t have let these things bother him. For the sake of Indian cricket and his numerous fans who have already been witness to some scintillating Kohli innings, let’s hope that question never needs to be brought up.

Dear Know it All – Being on the wrong side of offside

Welcome to yet another edition of ‘Dear Know it All'(or DKIA as my millions of readers like to call it). I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to my millions of readers(have I mentioned them before?) for the slight delay(six months) in getting this edition out. So hold on, sit tight, and say goodbye to those pseudo-know-it-all hacks that you may have turned to in the interim.

Our first question comes from a cricket fan who finds himself lost in the football fever that has gripped the nation. Very current-affairs and all:

Dear Know-it-all,

I am an honest, god-fearing, hard-working and simple cricket fan. My life was going absolutely brilliantly – I was the life of every party with my abundant knowledge of cricket trivia. People were always in awe when I rattled off scintillating facts like the number of times Sachin Tendulkar has been out on 17, while playing with his collar up, in the second innings of a match, which started on the third Monday of a month. But off-late, things have changed. People don’t seem to be interested in listening to my detailed analysis of Sachin and Dhoni’s favourite nursery rhymes, and how they’ve applied the learnings from them to improve their cover-drives. All they want to talk about is football and some guy with cleanliness issues(messy, I believe he’s called) and Ronaldo(who seems to have made a comeback after fixing his tooth and having grown some hair – people have conveniently forgotten that Sehwag and Bhogle were the pioneers in that field). I decided to watch a game or two but I was extremely disappointed by what I saw. How can I ever get behind a game where mastery over off-side play is considered to be a bad thing? I am losing friends at a faster speed than Ravi Shastri’s tracer bullet and I’m very unhappy. Please help.

– feels like the perpetual thirdman in this cricket match called life

Dear feels like the perpetual thirdman etc. etc.,

This is an extremely serious epidemic that has plagued the cricket-buffs in the country. The ICC has sponsored a lot of research programs to find a permanent cure, but they’re no closer to one yet. One home-grown solution that seems to have worked in alleviating the associated stress for some people is to lock oneself inside a room for a month and watch that channel which shows Sachin making his Sharjah century, all day long. Chanting ‘Whadddaaplaaayaa’ in Tony Greig’s voice seems to bring relief too.

If you absolutely must go out and mingle with the football fanatics in this period, it is advisable to take proper precautions which include memorizing a few phrases:

‘Cricket has been become so commercial! Everything’s fixed!. That’s why I switched to watching a proper sport like football when I was 4.”

“Baichung Bhutia is not the only good player that India has produced, okay? There’s also that guy. You know who I’m talking about!”

“Brazil are favourites. But I wouldn’t discount Argentina,  Germany, Italy, Uruguay, Cameroon, Ghana(just list the names of all the teams that are still in the running). This world cup has been so unpredictable!”.

If all else fails just scream the following every couple of minutes:

Is the referee blind??! That was clearly not off-side!”

And now for the most important tip of all – while bluffing your way through these conversations, it’s very important to remember that Manchester United is not playing in the World Cup. Many a reputation has been sunk that way.

You’re welcome.

 

Dear Know-it-all – The accent and changes to RTI

It’s time for another edition of your beloved column. Let’s face it, you can’t really do without me. I should probably check to see if I can claim this column as a tax deduction under 80C.

Our first question comes from a gullible reader who has fallen prey to yet another Internet hoax:

Dear Know-it-all,

I went to the movies with my friends today. We only had two options at our local theater – The Conjuring and Chennai Express. Since we were in the mood for some scares, we chose to see Chennai Express. I recently received a forwarded email which mentioned that anything Deepika says in her Tamil accent, when played backwards, reveals Satanic messages which affect the viewers subliminally. Is that true?

– living in fear

Dear living in fear,

Don’t be silly. It’s common knowledge that you don’t need to play her dialogues backwards to hear those messages.

It’s like no one has even heard of snopes. The next question comes from a self-proclaimed Indian patriot. Yeah, one of those guys:

Dear know-it-all,

Why is the government trying to push the changes to the RTI act? Does it think that all Indians are idiots and will let them do it?

– A true patriot.

Dear true patriot,

I don’t know about other Indians being idiots, but you certainly are one. Can’t you see that the call for amendments to the act has finally united all the political parties to fight for a common cause? Even the Independence Day speeches could not do that. I say it’s absolutely worth it even if takes a Right To Information Pact(see what I did there?) to get them to act together for once.

Dear Know-it-all,

I’ve heard rumours that the recent cricket series between India and Zimbabwe was fixed. Was it?

– A cricket fan

Dear cricket fan,

You’re right, that series was fixed. But now how you think – there were no towels or other signalling infrastructure involved. After making some detailed inquiries which included some frenzied Googling and asking Prabhakar to shoot some grainy videos, I’ve come to the inevitable conclusion – all the games were computer generated by the BCCI(I think Randy may be involved too). Now before you dismiss my claim citing the Law of Averages(even I have to be wrong one day), just answer the following question – have you ever met anyone who has claimed to have seen that particular series in person or on television? Exactly. Also, repeated attempts to get any information from Kohli who was the ‘captain’ for this ‘series’ were met with non-committal responses like ‘Who are you and what have you done to the real milkman?’ and ‘What are you doing inside my fridge?’ and ‘No, I will not give you my autograph on that!’ I rest my case.

That’s it for yet another edition. Just remember what a wise person once said before hitting that send button – ‘There’s no such thing as a stupid question, only stupid people who ask said questions.’

Twenty20 Wins!

There you have it, the perfect cricket final that anyone (spectators, sponsors, the BCCI, Lalit Modi et al) could have asked for. And what a deserving victory it was! The Royals, the team that was written off by everyone before the tounament even began, sneaked the cup on the final delivery.

How did a seemingly ordinary team (on paper) pull it off, and so comprehensively at that? Was it Warne’s inspirational captaincy that did it? Was it the superb allround performances by Watson, Pathan and Tanvir (to name a few) that tilted the scale in their favour? Was it the fact that the youngsters of the team lived up to the confidence that was shown in them? Was it because Rajasthan had stumbled upon the perfect Twenty20 team combination? Were their cheerleader just better at their job than the others? Maybe it was all that, and a bit of luck on the way, that was the secret of their success.

The tournament helped to unearth some great new talent for the Indians and surprisingly, for the Australians too (remember Shaun Marsh?). It also succeeded in doing something unheard of in Indian cricket – it made domestic cricket profitable. The transfers/purchase of players will add an interesting dimension to the game. Although they could have come up with better couloured caps for the best. I mean, purple and orange? Really?

Now for the obvious question, what does this mean for the 50 overs game? It’s going to be very difficult to sit through 50 ‘slow’ overs after that! Maybe it’s time for Twenty20 to take its place. The fifty over game was created in seventies to make the game more ‘fun’, and it was instantly successful. For more than 38 years, the fifty over format has enthralled the cricket fans. But then along came some wiseguy who noted that nothing interesting really happened between the 15th and 40th overs. Yeah, that’s right, I’m talking about you! So maybe its time we just did away with those overs and embraced Twenty20 cricket as its successor. I for one see no point in there being two different versions of the smaller format, specially when one of them is so overwhelmingly more exciting than the other. What do you think?

Cup Le India! India wins the Twenty20 World Cup

What a game! It was a fitting finale to a tournament that’s succeeded in totally rejuvenating the game of cricket. Half a billion fans from the sub-continent got to see what was arguably the most topsy-turvy India-Pakistan encounter ever.
There really were no losers today – both teams gave it their absolute best and anyone could have won the trophy. India eventually won it because they got their basics right – they held their catches, hit the stumps when it mattered and most of all bowled to a plan. RP Singh and Irfan Pathan’s disciplined bowling took the game away from Pakistan’s grasp. I don’t remember ever seeing the Indian bowlers rattle the stumps of so many batsmen in a single tournament. Gautam Gambhir probably played the most important innings of his career so far – a level headed 70 which helped India reach a respectable total. Pakistan bowled well and would have considered 155 a very gettable score. Imran Nazir’s blitz at the start almost took the game away from India and the direct hit from Uthappa that sent him to the pavilion changed the course of the match – and this match changed course as frequently as a drunken biker on glycerin! Every single player contributed to India’s victory – something that’s begun to happen very often in Indian cricket since the youngsters have arrived. The game was never short on drama. Just when India seemed to have got the match won, Misbah and Tanvir exploded into a flurry of sixes – four on the trot which got them within 12 runs of the Indian total with one over to go. A lot of people would consider Misbah’s shot inappropriate but no one can even come close to estimating the kind of pressure he was under. He played the shot he thought would clinch the game for Pakistan and unfortunately for him, it didn’t work out. Another day and it could have been Pakistan’s game. That’s the beauty of Twenty20 cricket – you just don’t know whose day it’s going to be.

No one thought the Indians had even a smattering of a chance to win when the tournament began. But they showed that a team could achieve when it plays together.
The Twenty20 World Cup was everything the 50 overs cup wasn’t. It didn’t go on for eternity, it was unpredictable, and most of all – it was lip-smacking, slog-sweeping, stump-smashing, nail-biting fun! New heroes were made, new strokes were invented, new field placements were discovered, but most importantly a new zing was injected into the game. The format is here to stay and so are the thousands of new spectators it has attracted to the sport.