|HOME | WORLD CUP 99 | INDIA | OPINION | SANJAY MANJREKAR|
|April 22, 1999||
Wanted: street fighters!Sanjay Manjrekar
"What happens to India when they play against Pakistan?", a very anguished lift-man of my office building asked me.
India had started doing pretty well after Azhar took over as captain. Although still not winning much abroad, they had done themselves proud by winning tournaments in the sub-continent. The wins against the Australians, the Singer Cups, the Coca Cola Cups, all seemed to be going quite nicely for Indian cricket until Pakistan came to India in February and spoilt the party.
Now, there are not too many backers for our National cricket team. And that very frequently asked question of the past has popped up yet again, the question that is on every Indian fan's lips: What happens to India when they play Pakistan?
My very first thought when the anguish of the lift-man was thrown at me was, well, we just do not have enough street fighters in our team. If Pakistan has ten, we have four and that is the difference between India and Pakistan -- enough of a difference to make them the better side, enough for them to come out of an Indo-Pak encounter celebrating more often than we do.
Whenever Pakistan plays India, I am remained of a tennis ball match which used to be played near my house. I was very young then and could only be a bystander. It was a match between my colony, a team comprising of well brought up children, well aware of the do's and don'ts of society, generally very good academically, what you would call a nice clean bunch of boys; and a team from the nearby gully, comprising players who didn't know the do's from the don'ts. School education was not their top priority but they were street smart, savvy enough when it came to finding ways to come through tough situations.
The two teams spent long hours playing the game. Both teams were, more or less, equal on talent. But the gully team won each and every encounter. The India-Pakistan encounter is similar in many ways, albeit at a higher level. India is my colony team and Pakistan is the gully team. I just can't help but be reminded of that tennis ball contest of my childhood, every time I see an Indo-Pak match.
I will tell you some of the reasons why I felt the gully team somehow managed to come on top every time. Lacking communication skills, they would be shy and ill at ease before the game, but they were a totally transformed outfit once they stepped onto the field. The fact that they were -- or thought they were -- socially inadequate, lacking in the social graces, was a matter of shame for them. They had to fight back, find their way through another challenge -- which was something they were more used to doing than their opponents were.
Maybe, too, they had in them the burning desire to beat the 'more privileged'. They also knew exactly how to find the most effective route, the route that would give them results. The rules of the game mattered more to them than the ethics of the game -- I am not so sure whether they even knew the meaning of ethics. What they knew though was how to win matches. And so it was not surprising that their team looked taller and taller to me with each game, with every fresh time they took the field against my colony team.
Having been a part of Indo-Pak encounters in my time, and now watching the same contest from the sidelines, I am convinced that if we need to wipe the anguish from that lift-man's face, the very first thing that India should try and do is increase the number of street fighters in their side, or get more and more members of the team to think like 'gully cricketers' -- the type of cricketers I admire and respect the most.
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