Ramblings of an Indian Cricket Fan – By Amer Sultan

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indian-cricket

As Shakespeare famously said, “Oh Cricket! Thou art so beautiful! Thou maketh Mansoor Akhtar looketh like Viv Richards in Pakistan, and Stuart Broad looketh like RP Singh in India.”

As Pakistan cricket sinks itself into oblivion in preparation for yet another “where the hell did this come from” comeback, I have been closely following another team that I respect tremendously for the wonderful cricketers (let’s say batsmen) that it has produced over the years, and the true and painfully-tested passion of its huge number of die-hard fans. So let me take this opportunity to over-react a bit in response to the over-reaction of Indian cricket fans after their team’s recent loss to England …

Indians being proud of winning the cricket world cup is no different than some redneck from Hicksville being proud of his town being home to the largest pancakes in the world. In both cases, they are absolutely right; but in both cases, what they say doesn’t really mean anything to anyone except themselves. This may sound harsh, but such is the nature of reality. Let me elaborate … There is a difference between winning the world cup and being the world champs. Being the world champs equates to dominance. In its history, cricket has seen only two dominant teams — the West Indies in 70s to mid-80s, and Australia in mid-80s to late 2000s. What made these teams dominant was the fact that they entered every match as the favorites, and won consistently against every team around the world, regardless of the wicket. India should know that they do not need to win the world cup to become the world champs (although a trophy in the shelf doesn’t hurt). They will be world champs the day every Indian fan before any game against any team on any wicket says and truly believes, “we are the favorites to win.” We know that such a day is far, far away from the near future.

Even though India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka have won world cups, were they ever world champs? Did you know that immediately after winning the 83 world cup, India lost a home series to West Indies by 3-0? Almost three decades later, after winning the 2011 world cup, they got savagely mauled by England, this time with a 4-0 loss in away games. What this shows is a) India is not and never was a dominant team; and b) England, while now a strong and well-balanced side, is still not dominant the way West Indies and Australia were back in the days. And by dominance, I mean beating any team anywhere at any time. You know and I know that the same English team will not be able to repeat this feat against the same Indian team on Indian wickets, even if given a dozen chances. So while England deserves the praise for their brilliant performance in this series, they will need to win away series on a consistent basis in India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan (by which I mean Abu Dhabi/Sharjah) to live up to the delusional idea of being the “best test cricket team ever” as claimed on BBC by some drunken and delusional, mentally and dentally deficient English fans.

Coming back to Indian cricket, let me re-emphasize my point. I cannot discount the entertainment value of living in delusional euphoria, but even those who are high know that their hallucinations are drug induced, and that there is a real world out there ready to hit them in the face as soon as the buzz is gone — or in case of the Indian team, as soon as they are off a dead track. Throw in a few patches of grass and a little moisture, and Gambhir-the-destroyer quickly transforms into a shaky batsman playing a metallic ball with a magnetic helmet. The point is, what always gets buried in the beauty of stunning batting performances is the uniqueness of cricket as a sport that is highly dependent on the venue, by which I mean the wicket. The only other sport that comes close to it is golf. As Shakespeare famously said, “Oh Cricket! Thou art so beautiful! Thou maketh Mansoor Akhtar looketh like Viv Richards in Pakistan, and Stuart Broad looketh like RP Singh in India.”

While I am at it, I want to touch on a few other issues with some Indian fans that jumped at my face from comments on cricket websites. During the England-India series, I saw a sudden rise in god-making of Dravid and trashing of Tendulkar. Do you really think Dravid is a “need” and Tendulkar is a “want”? Seriously? The fact is, both Dravid and Tendulkar are great batsmen, and there is nothing more to it. I don’t see why you cannot praise a batsman without letting the other down. Dravid has his own strengths and deserves all the respect and recognition. Tendulkar, on the other hand, is a legend we have been fortunate enough to watch in our lifetimes. If cricket was tennis, I think of him as Borg, McEnroe, Becker, Agassi, Sampras, Federer, and Nadal packaged into one. So yes, there is no doubt that Dravid is an exceptional test player, arguably one of the best the world has seen. But let us not forget that the human “praise account” has infinite amount of funds. Let’s not spend on Dravid by withdrawing from Tendulkar.

Also, please don’t make the mistake of mixing the class of Dravid and Tendulkar with the occasionally-performing likes of Laxman, Yuvraj, and Gambhir. Yes, they fill the Indian team very well, but they are never going to be the center of discussion in opposing locker rooms. They are not getting invited to the cricketing hall of fame any time soon. My criterion for a “somebody” versus “nobody” in cricket is whether that player’s posters are seen on walls at college dorms around the cricket playing nations, not just his own country. The only player that India has produced whose posters are selling outside of India is Tendulkar. May be a few with a good eye for the game have Dravid’s. Back in the day, Gavaskar’s posters were seen outside of India. But that is it! There are many other players like Kapil who have contributed a great deal to Indian cricket, but have not made it to the walls around the cricketing world. You can argue that Kapil was once the highest wicket-taker in the world, but you cannot deny the fact that such an achievement had a lot to do with him being from an active cricket playing nation with an attack that comprised of “petal showerers” like Madan Lal, Roger Binney, Dilip Doshi, and of course, the ominous Mohinder Amarnath. Ever wondered why Marshall and Garner never made the list? As for style, that ship had sailed for Kapil the moment he picked up a cricket ball. Even the most die-hard fan of Kapil would cringe to hear his son say, “Dad, I want to bowl like Kapil.”

Lastly, please quit comparing the debacle in this England-India test series to West Indies’ rapid decline post Clive Lloyd. First of all, you guys were never even a smoke of what the West Indies was in its dominant years. It’s good to set a high bar and be positive, but let’s be careful about crossing the line from being plain old recreationally delusional to totally insane! Secondly, the sudden loss of supply of good cricketers that West Indies has been facing since mid-80s is not the kind of problem you will ever face. The entire pool of youngsters in West Indies is probably smaller than the pool of youngsters in a rush-hour train rumbling down the tracks of Mumbai. And last but not the least, India’s financial muscle in cricket can probably buy entire West Indian islands, build some dead batting tracks, and start a tacky and obnoxious money-making cricket-shaking T20 league that produces players who are lords at home but slaves at Lords.

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