Sunday, January 22, 2012

Maybe there's one more left in the tank.....

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At the end of the day, I'm a fan. Perhaps a cynical, irreverent and bitter one, but I'm a fan. And the first characteristic of a fan is to believe. To believe in his team. To believe that the team will beat the odds. To believe that despite all the indicators pointing to a mauling, his team will emerge victorious. So I'm going to put my head aside and use only my heart today.

I'm a fan of the individuals in the team. I grew up around the lore of Sachin from my days on Shivaji Park. I was the insider in my college dorm, who knew Sachin and Kambli because I had seen them in the nets and seen them bat at close range. I knew from friends how the coach treated them differently than others and I used this insider information to gain credibility among my cricket-mad dorm mates.

We dreamed big for Sachin. In fact huge. We believed he would break all the records. He did, but he didn't. I wanted him to break Sobers' and then Lara's record. I wanted him to score more triple centuries than anyone else. I wanted him to bat like the cricketers I admired in those days - Alan Border and Steve Waugh - which is rearguards. Rallying the team in a crisis and inspiring the rest of the team to raise it's game. I wanted him to be the best, most ruthless captain that India ever had. In many ways, Sachin did more than just this, but I began to sulk. Because he didn't specifically do what I had dreamed for him.

When he failed in Barbados chasing 120, I felt terrible. When he fell just short of beating Pakistan at Chepauk, I felt let down. When Akhtar got him for a duck at Kolkatta, I was sure there was some mistake. When Sachin crawled to 194 with Sehwag at Multan and didn't up the pace to help with a declaration, I was mystified. When Sachin was not shepherding the tail at Sydney in 2008 and going after the Aussies, I was downright angry. I didn't realize that Sachin was always himself and that he had done nothing wrong. He simply didn't fit into what I had dreamed up for him.

But Sachin has done much more than be an individual great. He has inspired an entire generation of cricketers in India to bat big. Gambhir, Sehwag, Kohli, Raina, Pujara and to a certain extent - Dravid and Laxman are all products of the Sachin inspiration. Not just this team, but every Indian playing in the IPL is really batting like Sachin batted in his early days. With the freedom of a child. Sending the ball soaring like Sachin sent Qadir into orbit in that festival match in his debut series.

This team is a product of Sachin's inspiration. This team that has delivered the first World Cup victory in 28 years. This team that held the number one ranking for a year and has won more away tests without a genuine fast bowler than any other team. And yet, I am sulking because Sachin hasn't met my expectations.

What has happened recently to the Indian team is that normal service has resumed. Sachin and other seniors have done their job and it's getting close to the end of an era. Will there be another golden period like this? Most likely not in the next 10-15 years. We are likely to see a middling performance from India as it sorts out it's future. As players make it to the team, flatter to deceive and are then dumped. Because we will judge them with the Sachin test, the Dravid test and the Laxman test. And no one is likely to come close. I will be another 8-10 years before we get over that. We didn't look too long for the next Gavaskar, because Sachin came along almost immediately. But another Sachin is not likely to happen.

So what's wrong if we want to make it last a little longer. What's wrong if we delay the sunset? And what's wrong if we hope for one more encore at Adelaide?

The odds may not be in favor of India winning or even drawing. The odds may not favor Sachin, Dravid and VVS turning things around. The odds may favor the Australian speedsters. But I believe that Sachin will get his 100th century in a win or draw in Adelaide. That he will deliver a giant rearguard and an inspirational swansong in Australia....with Dravid and Laxman in a great support act.

Here's hoping that Sachin, Dravid and Laxman will leave Australia with their heads held high with an encore that will erase all the bitter memories of the recent past. The series is gone and I don't care anymore. I am hoping for one more great memory to treasure from the troika of India's greatest batsmen.


Vivek said...

That's more like it :)..A fan never gives up on his team, however shit they are playing!

Golandaaz said...

lovely piece..

but i have to say this was more like your head allowing your heart to speak. :-)