It happens only in India!


You can’t win ‘em like India, but you can’t lose ‘em like her either! We can win impossibly, but we can lose preposterously too. We can saunter to victory when the odds are stacked against us and yet sometimes, we will grab the easiest opponent’s gloves and knock ourselves out even before the match starts.


Our loss to England on Wednesday was so unbelievable that it borders on the farcical. We did that in the third test with Pakistan too, just folded up and quit. And when Pakistan put up a huge total in the final one day, we just romped home as if we were playing against a club side. We’ve done this before too. I remember when we couldn’t score 120 to win against the West Indies in the second innings of a test match a few years ago. And a few years before that, we mode more than 400 to win the series against them. I wonder if there is a graph of India’s performances somewhere. That graph will have more hills and valleys than a guy having a permanent heart attack. Really, what are we made of? Mercury?


If Dravid hadn’t been at the helm of affairs, one might have been tempted to think that the betting days are here again. I am convinced that that man can do no wrong, at least by way of commitment and honesty of effort. Some people’s moral fiber shows on their faces. I don’t know about the rights and wrongs on the cricket field though. In India, there are 1.2 billion opinions on every field placement, every bowling change, and indeed every ball of every match. People would offer their expert opinion on the color of the grass on the field if they can, and debate God’s taste in color. My opinion is probably among the least knowledgeable and really doesn’t count. But Dravid and Chappell seem to be searching for something, some elusive combination of eleven people that will get us the World Cup. There’s a lot of switching and changing going on, batsmen coming in at unfamiliar positions, close-in fielders manning the ropes and sweepers crouching at the slips. Not all the switching has succeeded but it’s good that somebody’s doing some thinking. It all seems mad now, especially in the dubious light of defeat, but hopefully, there is a long-range method in the short-term madness.


Incidentally, Mr. Chappell seems to hove suddenly disappeared from the scene. He times his appearances according to Ganguly’s surfacing schedule. It really is amazing. In a cricket crazy country like ours, we are able to produce brilliant players every so often, and yet we can’t seem to find a coach from within our own countrymen. Neither does Pakistan and Sri Lanka. I wonder if there is not some other reason for this. Indians are difficult to control, more so if we have some fame attached to us. Our demigods probably won’t listen to our own folks. They need a white man telling them what to do. And of course, we will not let them live in peace either. And sometimes, like Chappell, they won’t like to live in peace.


There’s also too much expectation from the team. Every time we win one match, we go berserk. The media is especially adept at this. All we have to do is defeat Zimbabwe and the media promotes us to world championship contenders. This time we defeated a totally off-color, below par Sri Lanka and the media was gushing over our lone ability to conquer the world. And when we lose a single match, we are all over the team, with every ‘gulli-danda’ expert from Kashmir to Kanyakumari waxing eloquent about what is wrong and who should be sacked. Personally, I would take off in the direction of the pavilion even if I saw a club cricketer’s shadow running at me, so I am not sure how that qualifies me to comment on somebody’s skill. We elevated our world cup winners to Gods and the West Indians came back and drubbed the same champions 5-0 a month or two later. Until and unless we consistently win the majority of the matches we play against all corners and for a reasonable period of time, we really need to temper our victory celebrations with a large dose of realism. Champagne is to be drunk neat, but whiskey needs to be mixed with water or soda.


As far as I am concerned, there is really one champion in current day cricket and that is Australia. Most of the rest of us are fighting for a second place that is way below the first.