Monday, March 12, 2012

The Great Indian Soap Opera Episode Umpteen

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The last two weeks of Indian cricket soap opera has been like watching a lame Hindi film in which some "majboori" prevents the hero or heroine from simply telling the truth and getting it over with. Usually, these "majbooris" are based on pop morality rather than actual grounding in any substantial ethics or morals.

Sehwag has clearly been dropped, but Srikanth and others simply will not acknowledge it. In reality, acknowledging it would enhance Srikanth's stature, but I'm sure a mix of "majboori" and cowardice prevents the chief selector from owning up to the true nature of Sehwag's axing. The Chennai gang of Srinivaasan, Srikanth and Dhoni got even with Sehwag and Gambhir. It's unfortunate, it had to be that way because the facts and circumstances are on their side.

Gambhir is likely in focus because his response to the mini-demotion that was not really a demotion would now be in the spotlight. Should Kohli make Asia Cup hay, and Gambhir fail to reel off a couple of high scores, his commitment will come into renewed question.

In yet another mindgame, the selectors have brought back Yusuf Pathan. I can't for the life of me fathom how both Jadeja and Pathan can fit into the mix at the same time. Jadeja is the $2m man and there is little likelihood that Dhoni would drop him. Why then did the selectors waste a slot by bringing Yusuf into the team? Is he going to play? I doubt it. If he does, Yusuf will likely play at his brother's expense. Another travesty is in the making. Irfan Pathan's handling during the CB series was pitiful. The guy had the swing and the pace, but his lines were all too dumb.

So the team embarks on a meaningless Asia Cup, winning or losing which will make no difference to anyone. Rohit Sharma et al will be on trial again as soon as the new season begins post-IPL. Tendulkar getting his 100th ton in the Asia Cup against Bangladesh would further demean his achievement, much like Gavaskar's 10,000th run against Ijaz Fakih (who?) is fondly remembered today. Gavaskar was smart enough to call it quits at the end of that series. Will Tendulkar do the same at the end of the Asia Cup?

Rahul Dravid, a true servant of Indian cricket retired and the celebrations and commemorations have been appropriately stately. Dravid deserved a fond, classy farewell and he is getting one. In my book, Dravid was number two after Dilip Vengsarkar when it came to making the most difference in match-winning causes abroad. The comparision doesn't really end there. The Colonel was elevated to Captain and failed to energize the team. Likewise, Dravid who was a good number 2 to Ganguly shuddered when elevated to the captaincy. Dravid underestimated the effort it takes to run Indian teams and he preferred to remain spotless rather than dirty his linens. Nothing wrong with that.

Just like Vengsarkar eclipsed Gavaskar in the eighties, Dravid eclipsed Tendulkar briefly in the those golden years of Australia and Pakistan away wins. Dravid remained a purist till the end and continued perfecting his art, until his eyes did him in against Australia this summer. He remains one of the few cricketers who will leave the Indian scene with his head held high. Kumble set the highest standard for a retiring cricketer and Dravid isn't too far behind. Laxman, Tendulkar et al have a hard act to follow.

Unfortunately, like Gol has said, Dravid will remain a somewhat unsung hero because he scored all the runs in Adelaide and Rawalpindi that we wanted Tendulkar to score. He didn't make batting look sexy the way Lara or Tendulkar make it look. He didn't make it look ridiculously easy like Sehwag does or Ponting in his pomp carting the world's fastest bowlers to all corners. So he won us matches that we wanted Tendulkar to win for us. We thank him for that, but sorry we can't feel as good about it.

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