Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Indian cricket and its tale of sheer disgrace

Indian cricket and its tale of sheer disgrace

First Ganguly and now it is the turn of Sachin to take the hoglight, as Indian cricket
and its fans shows to prove to what depths it can stoop down to bring the game into
its maximum disgrace.

The disgraceful exit , as commented by famous people round the globe,
Sourav Ganguly was shown the door by the Indian Board of Selectors.
A remarkable batsmen of very high calibre, Ganguly was dropped out of the Indian
squad , just because he had a string of failures in a few test matches..

And then now Sachin is being criticised for his recent poor form..
Trashing Tendulkar for an uncharacteristic failure is much like attempting to dismantle the Taj because one of its walls has developed a minor crack over time. It is simply not done. And the shocking incident in Mumbai says more about where we — as a nation of cricket-obsessed people — are headed than about Tendulkar's own travails in the twilight of an unmatched career.

In the fullness of time, we will know whether the great man's nightmare-run with the bat is a temporary slump in form or, perhaps, the beginning of a much more serious career crisis. But, right now, this issue is less relevant than the fact that people who may have never had the good fortune to let their spirits soar to exalted levels with each Tendulkar symphony chose to greet his first innings departure with catcalls and booes to leave a scar on the not-so-pretty face of the game in India.

For, if the ones that booed the little maestro had had the good sense to look beyond the man's momentary struggles at the crease to the grand monument he has left behind, his dismissal might have brought a sort of heaviness to their hearts and tied up their tongues in sheer disbelief

Then again, for many sportslovers, that is precisely the problem today — they have lost the capacity to appreciate history, to look at the larger picture, to go beyond the most recent stimuli and understand events in a historical perspective.

Worshippers of instant celebrity

Many of us, thanks to the influences of the age in which we live, have become worshippers of instant celebrity. The non-stop dross coming at us from all directions has forced us to wilfully conclude that today's success is the greatest success ever achieved, that today's seat-edge thriller is the greatest game ever played, that today's superstar is the greatest megastar of all times.

When our sporting culture has suffered this sort of corruption, when its essential core has been eroded by these giant new waves, it is hardly surprising that a great icon such as Tendulkar should himself become a victim in his own backyard.

The point is, Tendulkar never promised any of us a masterly century in every innings that he might get to play. We were the ones who set that impossible goal for the little man. That he has failed to meet that unrealistic goal is no sheen off his greatness; it merely throws light on our own foolishness.

At no point in his remarkable career did Tendulkar tell us that he was immortal; we turned him into a sort of superhuman phenomenon — where none exists in the known world — because we were perhaps ashamed of our own all too human limitations and wanted someone not-quite-like-us to look up to.

Never in the last 16 years that he has been dominating our sporting consciousness has Tendulkar ever hinted that he was invincible; we turned him into an invincible champion because we felt the need to bolster our own sense of everyday reality with something supernatural.

The harsh reality of the capricious business of sport is this: every champion that has ever drawn breath, every champion as yet unborn, can be sure of one thing — some day, he will fail. The world of sport is yet to toast a truly invincible athlete.

But, then, in dealing with Tendulkar's failure — or any issue of this sort — it is very easy to find the answer we want; much, much more difficult to find the answer that matches the truth.
But what is not fair — and will never be — is to stoop down to the sort of mindless pettiness that triggered the Mumbai booing on Sunday.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The greatest the world has seen

The greatest the world has seen

NEVER before, never again. After the most astounding, most exhilarating - OK,

the greatest - one-day match, there were no other conclusions to be drawn.

How else do you describe a game that featured Australia's world-record score

of 4-434, then a successful South African run chase? And how can you put into perspective a performance that has redefined the boundaries of possibility in
the limited-overs game?

The final match aggregate of 13-872 looked more like a pinball scoreline as it eclipsed the previous highest scoring game by 179 runs. Using the short
Wanderers boundaries, the thin high veldt air, a pancake-flat pitch and some poor tactical bowling to their fullest advantage, Ricky Ponting (164 off 105
balls) and Michael Hussey (81 from 51) steered Australia to 4-434 - the first
time a team had passed 400 runs in a limited-overs innings.
Having been shown the path to batting's new frontier, the South Africans walked it.
No, they sprinted it. With Graeme Smith (90 from 55) already batting as if he had a cab waiting outside the ground with the meter running, the loss of the slow-scoring Boeta Dippenaar in the second over proved a blessing as it brought Herschelle Gibbs to the crease.

Gibbs is an extraordinary athlete. The son of a world-class sprinter who, because of his colour, was denied the opportunity to compete at the highest level under apartheid, Gibbs had been offered a tryout with Tottenham Hotspur and played rugby for South Africa's combined
schoolboys side. But he chose cricket.
And it hasn't been the smoothest of rides.

Banned for six months for taking money to throw his wicket in a one-dayer in
India in 2000, and generally regarded as a batsman of sublime ability but questionable temperament, Gibbs has angered and frustrated South African cricket fans for a decade. Perhaps now he has made his peace with them. His 175 from 111 deliveries might not have been the highest one-day score but it was almost certainly the best.

The record books now show that Gibbs set a new world record for boundaries (21 fours and seven sixes), posted the fastest century by a South African (79 balls) and the highest total by a South African against Australia in one-day competition. What the record books don't show, however, is the sheer violence with which the ball thundered from his bat and into the grandstands. Or the look of exasperation on Australian faces.
Or the adrenaline coursing through the veins of the Wanderers' crowd.
Those factors made this an innings thatmay never be rivalled in the limited-overs game.

Gibbs received a life when dropped by Nathan Bracken, but was eventually dismissed by Andrew Symonds. By that point, though, the Proteas were well and truly in the contest. Entering the final over, South Africa required seven runs for victory. Mark Boucher slammed the first ball into Brett Lee's shin and scampered through for a single. Andrew Hall blasted Lee's next offering over a short-ish mid-on. He wasn't so fortunate the next time. Attempting the
same stroke from Lee's third ball, Hall instead spooned a catch straight to Michael Clarke.
Three balls remaining. Two runs for victory. One wicket in hand.

Makhaya Ntini steered the next ball to third man for a single. And then , in a shot that will doubtlessly be replayed millions of times, Boucher drove Lee to the mid-on boundary.
As the ball sped away so, too, did he ghosts of the 1999 World Cup.

Graeme Smith didn't have much to say after the match. The smile, the glint
said more than any words could. The choker tag was gone. The team that failed
to qualify for the one-day finals in Australia last summer had achieved the
impossible. Even Ponting, the vanquished captain who graciously handed over
his man-of-the-match award to Gibbs, described the game as the greatest ever

And so it was.