Those Men. This Man. Their Management.
The next few paragraphs don’t just reflect agony or pain but refine my expression; my opinion about some Gods and their subjects.
When I tuned into the match between India and South Africa in the recently concluded — a conclusion for India — ICC World T20, I had my eyes on the Indian batting lineup and, in particular, Virat Kohli. I must say I didn't have my hopes high on the sluggers or the sluggish in the team. Minutes before the game, I spent a quiet moment with myself trying to raise the heat in my debate with my alter-ego. I strongly believe that the players who make the composition — for the paper and for the competitors — mighty and ruthless are, in clouded reality, deep inside a cocoon fighting their beleaguered and distraught spirit. My alter-ego, on the other hand, ridiculed my belief and expressed confidence like never before that the team is just like a fast ageing mouse. It crawls fast on young legs, but, all along its life, is surrounded by the fear of getting caught. I let the sound of the debate fade into questioning silence and waited with bated breath to get a glimpse of the young emerging Virat Kohli.
Virat walked in, like he always does, with unparalleled charisma. His determination and commitment was evident in the way he played his first shot through the covers. It didn’t have to result in a boundary but it had the mark of genius and characteristic brilliance that is often associated with his much older teammate. Weird, we wait for runs to be scored but we underestimate what stroke-play or defensive steadiness can present us! And I quote his commitment only because it carried the weight of truth and patriotism when he spoke to Rameez at the India-Pakistan post-match presentation.
I often have this discussion with my brother and my friends about how India is meeting its past — although it is making frequent visits to the unsatisfying times. My teenage days in the 90s remind me of how heavily dependent the country was on the legend and how we, despite occasional brilliances from the team, end up looking at the scoreboard to see x-runs-to-qualify-for-the-final. Latest praise and accolades poured over Virat’s improving brilliance suggest that we have a young legend who has the blood of a warrior and does not mind using his wrists and fingers — sometimes just one of them — to make a statement. And, most will agree, how he is today’s equivalent of those old days!
I vividly recall Sourav Ganguly’s opinion that this-pressure-is-bringing-the-best-in-him. True, if that means he has the stamina to carry a billion hopes along with his own. (Yes, even Nike’s #BleedBlue ad begins with Virat waking up to attend to the country’s hopes.) And he does possess the ability and magic that nobody else in the team has yet unleashed. He did talk about “carrying the burden” referring to Sachin whom he carried on his shoulders after last year’s World Cup victory against the lankans. The teary-eyed legend(s)’ comments stood out then and are slowly turning out to be true. His pain and disappointment after India’s loss to SA, like Harsha Bhogle said, is not something you can do for the camera.
While I write this in sincere admiration and subdued haste — for the fear of losing a budding genius — I constantly think about the group and the system the man is a part of.
With every passing day, my respect for MSD, the Indian captain, has only been growing. He, like nobody else, possesses the power of spitting truth in the face of cameras and counterparts and making bold moves that are sometimes termed “tricks” or “blind strokes” by people who have little knowledge of facing the heat of the post/sport. I will, however, admit that the captain panics and tries to play defensive or unconventional but he is a man aware of his responsibilities. I am sure he knows he is accountable for India’s poor form to the Indian people first and then to the management that manages him. The management, now, is a legend in itself!
I was reading a few articles and websites online that have called India’s failure to make it to the semis of World T20 a direct consequence of the cash-rich IPL and that that the team hasn't qualified even once since its inception. I am a huge fan of the tournament, of the format, of the players, and of the sport. But the bug is breeding in the system where the lords have their eyes set on future seasons of the premier league with miniscule attention given to the formats that breed players and grounds that build skill. Grounds aren’t just a platform to perform but a platform that also provides feedback for the players. If Ishant Sharma isn’t hitting the deck hard, the problem is not just in his ankle or his weak arm throwing the ball at a mere 130 kmph. Our pitches just aren’t good enough to make friends with live grass or the curator who complains of half-cut paychecks. Improvement begins with addressing the first mistake rather than taking a leap to show the world that boys in the country can travel the world and fight budding cricketers from New Zealand or Australia or USA. There is money that can be spent on giving the talent the atmosphere to perform. Most of the A-league players have seen enough of the world to travel places!
At the end of it all, I just wish to come to terms with all debates around the M’s. Or just shake hands with my alter-ego with whom I have had quite a tough time.