27 July 2012

There’s a catch coming your way, are you ready baby?

Some would say that the second cricket test between Sri Lanka and India (2010) ranks among the most boring affairs in remembered history.  Weak attacks being biffed around the park by some top notch batsmen and even by some tailenders is not a good ad for test cricket.  People complained about the wicket.  Mahela Jayawardena, however, said it was not just ‘pitch’, but that bowling attacks that lacked sting, good batting and not holding on to the half-chances determined the result. 

‘What ifs’ make for interesting fantasies.  We can’t really tell what directions things could have gone if this and not that was done. Cricket is entertaining (or can be) but it is not theatre and the players, umpires, commentators, selectors, managers, reserves, spectators, scribes and others are not there to recite lines and move hither and thither according to some ‘by-hearted’ script. Yes, there’s match-fixing, but I like to think that not everything is ‘fixed’.  Things like the Dil-Scoop give me hope.

The pitch of course can account for much of the story, given the human resources on show.  On the other hand, crazy things can happen if one seizes the half-chances that come one’s way.  I was reading a short while ago, for example, how in 1983 Surrey was bundled out for 14 runs by Essex.  Neil Foster and Norbert Phillip had ripped through the batting and players had to be dragged out of their end-of-the-day showers to go bat. Sylvester Clarke, it is said, had gone out to the middle without any socks and with soap all over his head.   There was an element of luck of course, but confidence, fading light, a pitch that all of a sudden was swing and seam friendly and of course rank bad batting combined to give an unexpected twist to the day’s story.  

There was a what-if in the Second Test between Sri Lanka and India in 2010.  It happened in the 66th over of India’s first innings.  The second ball.  Dilhara Fernando bounced outside the off and Sachin Tendulkar tried to upper cut it and nicked it.  Prasanna Jayawardena, the best keeper in test cricket, couldn’t hold on to it.  By the time Prasanna held on to Tendulkar’s second nick (this time off Dilshan), the maestro had progressed to 203 and India had added 367 runs more. India was finally bowled out for 707, 65 ahead of what had at one point appeared to be a match-winning Sri Lankan total (642 for 4). 

Theoretically, India could have still reached 700 had Tendulkar been dismissed for 29.  Theoretically India might have collapsed for less than 300.  We can never tell.  This is why you are expected to hang on to the once-in-50-overs half-chance that might come your way, especially if it’s a batting track and if you don’t have someone like Muttiah Muralitharan (who could turn the ball even on a tarred road) on your side.

This is not a cricket story. It is the story of anyone and everyone against whom the odds are stacked, by dint of circumstance or resource endowment or anything else.  This side of breaking rules/laws (that’s possible too) and this side of not being guided by ethical concerns, what this means is vigilance, determination, stamina and a minimum degree of faith in the laws of nature or in the very least the opposition being prone to error on account of being humanly frail. 

Tendulkar is the world’s greatest batsman, but he does get out. He has played in 168 tests and come to the crease 274 times.  He’s been dismissed a total of 245 times.  Not infallible.  He averages over 50 runs per at-bat, true, but he’s been dismissed for small scores.  His record shows that he’s consistent and dangerous.  One cannot afford to give such a formidable opponent a second chance. 

So if you think the odds are against you, take heart.  Your chances are rarely at ‘zero’.  There’s always a slim chance.  That could make a difference.  It requires you to be alert though.  The game-changing moment may come in the next second or the next decade; what’s important to remember is that it could arrive the next moment.  Given odds, it is better not to take your eye away for what this might mean is a life time of meaningless fantasizing about the ‘what if’ moment that was not. 

All this subject of course to the caveat pregnant in the question, ‘is it worth it?’  There’s a Sachin Tendulkar out there who might nick it your way.  Are you ready? 



SANDIKA said...

there is all and different 'facets of life' in cricket.

little 'kalu' (Romesh kaluwitharana) is my favorite how about you Sir Tony Grieg :) the world knows who wanted to sit on the pavilion with out giving commentaries when the pair ( little Kalu and Master Blaster)was playing?

good to analyze life in cricket after a long time.