Molehills of Mountains and Anthills to Alps
December 8, 2009 Leave a comment
For a change, a serious penning on Indian cricket.
The performance of Indian Cricket team has been to my mind enigmatic. We have almost pulled off things that we were never supposed to and at times when we were least expected to and sometimes by persons not expected to.
Our memory would go first to 25th June 1983 at Lords but before that I would want to go to Turnbridge Wells when Kapil Dev did the unthinkable. He rescued India from a precarious 17 for 5 to score 175 and fashioned the Indian win. This match was high on the list of obscurity as far as BBC was concerned that it did not even cover it live. And thus one of the greatest ODI knocks of all times cannot be relived on television.
India’s win in 1983 world cup followed by the world series win in 1985 was nothing short of miracle. India also belied all expectations to reach the world cup finals in 2003 and winning the first T20 world series. These are facts that every Indian cricket lover is proud of and would often quote while discussing the performance of Indian cricket over the last 5 decades.
I have a different thought though. I want to cast my thoughts on how India has almost regularly turned ‘Mountains’ into ‘molehills’. That is to say how India created the almost perfect anti-climax to many a great career.
And quite intriguingly how India “created” a career for those who but for India would have just been ‘nobodys’ on the cricketing circuit.
The more I thought about it, the more I was fascinated by this little discovery.
“Molehills of Mountains and Anthills to Alps”
Shane Warne, Ricky Ponting, Shoaib Akhtar, Muttiah Muralidharan, Saqlain Mushtaq, Devon Malcolm come in the first category while Graeme Fowler (heard of him ?), Mike Gatting, Dean Jones, Andy Flower, Shahid Afridi, Greg Mathews spring to my memory for the second.
Shane Warne made his debut against India in 1992. The blonde was believed to be the best tweaker down under making in debut at Sydney after India was thrashed in the earlier tests. India was supposed to be on a low ebb and Sydney unarguably is the best place for spinners in Australia. And how did India respond ?
Ravi Shastri scored a double hundred and Tendulkar a hundred and took Warne to the cleaners. Had it been for any other country apart from Australia (England for instance) Warne would have never again played for his country. But Australia backed Warne and he emerged as the best spinner the game has ever seen.
But against India, Warne has had very limited success. He was regularly thrashed so much so that he had nightmares about Tendulkar tearing into him. The scars that India gave him remained permanently.
Ricky Ponting was almost a bunny in India. Though he has subsequently crafted a hundred in India, his average in India remains modest compared to his overall average.
Shoaib Akhtar and Devon Malcolm, different generations they represent but both of the same pedigree, the pedigree of fast bowlers. They have had limited success against India. Devon Malcolm, I vividly remember being taken to the cleaners at Chennai by all and sundry including a promoted-up-the-order ‘Aigo’ Nayan Mongia.
Murali and Saqlain have been finished by Sehwag. Infact they have been brutalized that I would actually back them if they consider a legal suit against the man from Delhi. Saqlain probably turned pious after the roughing he received from Sehwag at Multan on his way to India’s first triple century.
These cricketers, save Devon Malcolm, are considered among the finest in their respective nations. Devon, I included because he was a fiery fast bowler.
As much as we can be proud about how India handled (should I say mishandled) these great cricketers, India, funnily has buckled to those who wouldn’t cause a head to turn in their own country.
Does anyone even remember Graeme Fowler for instance ?
This Englishman, a lefthander, scored a famous double hundred at Chennai (then Madras) paving the way for his team’s win in 1985. And before that it was a case of Graeme..who ?
Some of you may be aggrieved about me including Dean Jones. Dean Jones retired as one of the finest one day batsman, an aggressive runner and a good outfielder. But he was a virtual nobody till he vomited his way to a double hundred, again at Chennai. Infact the other protagonist I am about to talk about, Shahid Afridi, also scored a test century at Chennai. There must be something about Chennai and under-achievers.
Tongue firmly in my cheek, is this the famous ‘Vandarai Vazha vaikkum thamizhagam’ at work, I wonder. For the benefit of those who may not follow tamil, it translates as to ‘Tamilnadu being the land which provides livelihood to anyone who visits it’.
Greg Mathews was also a virtual nobody unless Allan Border turned him into something of a national hero by getting him to bowl the last over of the tied test at, where else, but Chennai again. He wrote his way into the record books ofcourse courtesy the Indian Umpire who was ‘blind enough’ to not notice the huge inside edge of Maninder Singh’s bat.
India’s enigmatic tale does not stop just with individuals. It is also with the teams. India stopped Australia twice in it’s tracks when it sought to achieve the record 18th Test win in a row, both in exceptional circumstances.
The first time, after a hiding at Mumbai, India was forced to follow on at Kolkatta. Enter Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman and Rahul Sharad Dravid. The epic partnership and batting through the 4th day without losing a wicket and then triggering the famous Aussie collapse on 5th day, the stuff of dreams one would say.
The second time India did it was at the backdrop of an acrimonious test at Sydney and India won at the arguably fastest, bounciest pitch in the world, WACA Perth.
And to prove that we are equally capable of doing favours to an entire team, we lost the 1987 semi-final against England which everyone expected India to win given the fact that it had the home advantage. Gooch famously swept us off our feet courtesy the net practice given by Bishen Singh Bedi. That was some hospitality, wasn’t it ?
India also proved that the help rendered in 1971 to liberate Bangladesh from Pakistan wasn’t just a flash in the pan. They willingly handed them a passport to next stage in World cup 2007 by somehow contriving to lose.
India has arguably produced the best opening batsman and an all time great batsman. It possessed the finest quartet of spinners and also produced a champion fast bowler. It has given the world some of the sublime batsmanship on the cricketing field and also a genial fast bowler who would apologise to a batsman.
And if these were not queer enough, India’s tryst with the great and the very ordinary is certainly something worth wondering about.