Writing on The Wall

Rahul Dravid

On Friday, March 9th 2012, Rahul Dravid announced his retirement from Test cricket. I wouldn’t say, the announcement hit me like a bolt from the blue! I knew it would happen and I also knew it would happen before the end of this year. However, I was surprised by the suddenness of the decision. Why now? I asked myself. And then, it dawned upon me. The best players go when the world is asking ‘why now?’ and not ‘when?’.

But then, I thought, shouldn’t he have got a swan song series, a chance to say good-bye to his fans? He deserved it; moreover we fans deserved it. We could cheer for him in the stadium, chant his name, and shed tears as he raised his bat to us fans in the galleries for one last time, before walking into the sunset. While I was thinking about all this, I read his statement which said while he respects the fans’ desire to watch him play one last time, the fans should also respect his decision that this is how he wanted to go. No hullabaloo, no hype, no build up, only the poignancy of leaving and the pride of having served the game for so long! Typical of the man! No distractions, just getting on with his game.

For cricket lovers of our generation the following players will always be special – Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, and Rahul Dravid. We grew up watching these heroes, we grew up watching them fight hard and win matches for India, watching them take Indian cricket to great heights. Especially after the dark clouds of match fixing had threatened the very survival of the game in this country. Kumble and Ganguly have already moved on and now it is Rahul Dravid. I still remember his debut Test at Lord’s in the year 1996. While Sourav Ganguly got all the attention for his well compiled century, for me it was Dravid’s 95 that stood out for its technical brilliance. Lovely strokemaking, so pleasing to the eye. The cover drives, the flicks through mid-wicket, the straight drives, the leg glance, and the ferocious pulls, all grace and elegance. Continue reading

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Very Very Special Laxman

October 5, 2010

Test Match – India vs. Australia at Mohali

Day 5 Pitch

India 124/8 chasing 216 for victory.

With all hopes of a victory extinguished, its that man again who rises to the occasion. That same man who has bailed India out of sticky situations in the past. That same man who has dug his team out of a hole innumerable times. That same man who thrives under pressure. That same man who delivers when the chips are down. That same man who is Very Very Special. Continue reading

Reality Continues To Ruin My Life

Crash! Bang! Thud!

I’ve been brought down to the ground. Two days ago I had gloated over Australia’s exit from the World Twenty20 and their apparant inability to adjust to the shortest format of the game. Today, here I am, confronting the reality that the team that I support, the World Champions, haven’t been doing a great job in Twenty20 cricket either. To borrow a phrase from our dear friend Calvin, “Reality continues to ruin my life.”

pathanIndia were the pre-tournament favorites, with every opposition captain calling them the team to beat. However, two straight losses in the Super 8 stage have sent them packing. I’d be lying if I said the losses didn’t hurt. But, what hurt more is the kind of teams India lost to. Losing to Australia or South Africa would have been acceptable but what rankles more is that we lost to West Indies, a side that has been in terminal decline since the time Viv Richards retired and  the Poms, a celebrated bunch of whining underachievers.

On paper, India had a very strong batting line up, with some massive hitters of the cricket ball. On paper, the bowling was incisive too. More importantly, all these players were ‘Twenty20 hardened’, having gone through the grind of the IPL. So, what went wrong? Where did we lose? How? Continue reading

How the Mighty Fall

Monday, June 8, 2009. A seismic shift was taking place in the world of Cricket. The Australian cricket team, which had straddled International cricket like a Colossus for the past decade, crashed out in the first round of the ICC World Twenty20. The old order was crumbling. For the first time since 1992, an Austrlian team failed to progress beyond the first round of a World Cup. No one wept…outside the boundaries of the land down under that is. Fans around the cricketing world rejoiced and celebrated, the mighty Australians were brought to their knees.untitled

But was this Australian team really mighty? A large majority of the great players of the past decade, who had lent an aura of invincibility to the Australian team had retired; some did it on their own accord while others were forced to. Despite the the Australian selectors’ bellowing from the rooftops that they had already identified replacements for the great players, the fans, the media, and most importantly opposition players knew that the so called replacements were mere pretenders. Stuart Clark is McGrath’s replacement, they insisted. He bowls exactly like McGrath, comes close to the stumps, has a high arm action, and bowls wicket to wicket, they said in all seriousness. I’m sure they will win the World Poker Championship hands down, if only they cared to participate. Haddin was supposed to be Gilchrist’s replacement – he can hit the ball hard. Only if he can connect! Clarke was Mark Waugh’s replacement. I am dreading the day they call James Hopes, Steve Waugh’s replacement. He can bowl medium pacers and can bat lower down the order you see. Continue reading

The Gentleman and the Brute

IPL fever has gripped the nation again and I’m enjoying every second of the action that is unfolding in the 2nd edition. Yes, the move from India to SA was unfortunate (I was planning to go to a couple of matches here in Bangalore), however, the even contest between bat and ball that we are witnessing in SA has more than made up for the disappointment of not getting to watch the action from the stands.

Cricket, they say, is a gentleman’s game. Hard to believe when you see brats such as Harbhajan Singh, Andrew Symonds, Ricky Ponting, and Shahid Afridi playing the game at the highest level. Mercifully, we also have some international players who are on the other side of the spectrum. Sachin Tendulkar, Michael Hussey, VVS Laxman, and Daniel Vettori. Players who know how to compete and play hard without being overbearing, in-your-face and boorish. Players who know how to handle the fame and adulation, players who conduct themselves with dignity, both on and off the field. And the player who sits at the top of this pile is Rahul Dravid. If I were to edit the Oxford Dictionary, I would write Rahul Dravid against the word Gentleman. His demeanour, body language, choice of words, even the shots he plays exude class and sophistication. The silken drives through cover, the delicate glides through third man, the wristy flicks through midwicket are a treat to the eyes. It seems as though the ball is being persuaded to go to the boundary rather than being smashed; as though the ball decides to go on its own accord, paying respect to the quality of the strokes being played.  Continue reading