Shyam Vijay is a professional golfer with a terminal case of cricket-envy. In school he made a mark as the statistician and reserve deep midwicket fielder in his house team. He studied economics at Harvard, and City University – London. He tried his hand at investment banking before getting fed up with the corporate world altogether. His views may be taken with a pinch of salt; and some lemon and tequila as well.
The Emperor Has No Clothes
The serial clobbering of the Indian cricket team, first at the hands of the English and now (shame!) the Aussies, has provided much fodder for columnists and mediawallas. Heads have been called for, from Dhoni’s and Fletcher’s downwards. Even the fab four, India’s vaunted batting order, our ‘creaking Terminators’ to use Rahul Dravid’s lovely phrase, haven’t been spared. Blame the IPL, blame the players, the pitches, the kookaburra ball, the BCCI, the weather, blame anything, because India mustn’t lose at cricket.
What strikes me as rather odd is the unstated premise, nay, conviction that we are so bloody good at cricket that we ought to win. Are we really? Granted, we won the one day World Cup, or as we like to say, we are World Champions. But that’s limited overs, pajama cricket in our own backyard. True, we do have one or two decent players in the team, but the rest are a collection of marketable mediocrities thrown up by the T20 circus and the ad men, rather than coming through the hard grind of domestic cricket. The ‘boys in blue’ are just that I’m afraid. Boys. Not Men. And real cricketers wear white in my scheme of things, and when our boys tour abroad, they get found out. Ravichandran Ashwin, a Test class spinner? Vinay Kumar, the IPLs 2 million dollar man, a fast bowler? Dhoni, a Test captain?? You’ve got to be kidding. Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Ishant Sharma, the list goes on and on.
None of these guys have what it takes to compete at Test level. At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy-duddy, this is probably the weakest Indian team I have seen take the cricket field in the last 20 years. 16 consecutive overseas failures in the past year, yet we keep expecting to win. Before the England series some brilliant commercial guy came up with a promo featuring ‘Andrew Peter’ a Bollywood caricature angrez that would have done Tom Alter proud, and a couple of young desi thugs claiming that ‘Sachin aur Sehwag tumhe sikha denge’. Er.. I think Andrew Peter had the last laugh that time, and all Sehwag got in England was a pair of golden ducks. And we’re still waiting for that 100th hundred which was supposed to have been handed over at Lords. And the ballyhoo before the India-Australia series was all about ‘Agneepath’ apparently. Clips of Sachins cover drives interspersed with a topless Hrithik Roshan showing his thumping skills. Too bad Oz ended up doing to us what Hrithik was doing to the baddies.
Hubris is what needs to go. From the media, from the fans, from the players, from everyone. Get some realism into the critique of the team for once. The fact is that Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, England and recently Pakistan, are on the up and are probably better than we are. The two World Cup finalists India and Sri Lanka are perhaps the weakest of the lot. And when we do beat someone at cricket we should be grateful for the victory. Humility is a virtue that that has vanished somewhere down the line in the making of the new India.
Indian cricket, I humbly submit is a chimaera, a mythical beast created by the media. It exists solely as an agent for supplying our glazed eyeballs to the big corporations. It’s the perfect conduit for Pepsi to pass through our grateful gullets, with as much substance as the burp that follows afterwards. ‘Cricket is India’s Religion’, the TV screams at us, but who really prays at the temple? Cricket requires too many players, too much time and too much space. Where is that to be found in our choked cities. Every Tier II city boy can be a Dhoni they say, or Sunil Gavaskar exhorting, ‘youngsters at home watching this must get the front foot to the pitch of the ball’. There are no youngsters at home, Sunny bhai, you know it as well as I do. Domestic cricket stands are empty, the last few Test Matches have gone without viewers, and even for the India-West Indies one dayers there is nobody who will pay money to watch India play. The penny has dropped.
Time was when India losing caught just as many eyeballs as India winning. And Sachin not scoring his hundredth was good enough for a few column inches in the dailies. After all both these happen a lot more frequently than the opposites. But the Indian TV Viewer, much like the Indian Voter has caught on, albeit slowly. And I think that’s an eminently good thing. Let the channels make money through some other sport I say…gulli danda, kabaddi, whatever. Something that we are actually good at.