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February 2, 2000


India Down Under

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Problems and solutions

The Spare Crib/Abhilasha Khaitan

Sack Sachin."

Caught this headline on the cover of a popular-ish weekly, and stopped short. And then I read the fine print.

"Save Sachin: Preserve the world's best batsman"

Ah! That was an attention grabber if there ever was one, what? However, this isn't about catchy headlines on popular weeklies. No siree. Those are so passe, they don't merit discussion. (Think I'm rubbing some folks up the wrong way here?)

Let's get real. Not too much scope for original topics of discussion, eh, with the way things have gone? I mean, had India won a few, now, that would make for great copy. Such a refreshing change, for you and me both. But no, no one's doing no one any favours here, are they? So, what we have is as close to a wash out of a series as it can get, and fodder for those who feed on debacles.

Because, if there were no problems, what would the 'solution' providers do, pray tell? And then you'll ask, who be these 'solution' providers? Hey, simple enough eh? You, me, my uncle, your niece, the rest of the world and it's second cousin. Of course, at this juncture, one must demarcate between the official 'solution' providers and those who do it for a lark, and for want of anything better to do. Most of us fall in the latter category. Those in the former oftentimes also provide 'solutions' for lack of other avenues, but then we shan't get into that, shall we?

Any case, the article I was mentioning? That, is one of the 'solutions' recommended for resurrecting the team. Which is a great 'solution', albeit a not so original one. Been doing that for donkey's years haven't we, sacking 'em, re-instating 'em, and thus another cycle emerges.

And that is just the beginning. As many as there are mouths, those many there are suggestions, ideas and criticisms. Why not? Watch the damn game, almost 7 hours in a day, and find it more tiring than actually playing it. And, like all things, a happy result or at least an energetic effort can make the time spent worthwhile.

On the other hand, day in and day out, playing truant from work, school and what have you, facing the ire of family members not being allowed to watch their favourite soap on television and generally ensuring that the world beyond cricket doesn't know you culminate in the not-so-happily-ever-after endings. Well, that makes for a rather bitter to swallow, what?

That's just us, the fans, the die-hard cricket enthusiasts. We're all 'armchair experts' aren't we? Fair enough, not much room for resentment there.

How about them official guys? The selfsame ones who predicted, happily enough quite correctly, the result, even before we could count to a 100, which is more than the scorers had to when India was batting. (I can feel a dip in my sense of humour, but blame me not. The weather in Mumbai wears even the mightiest down, and I am but a rookie.) They plan "big changes" and "heads will roll". Sounds a mite like the guillotine, eh? Down with the 'bad' guys, let it be an equal world and what have you.

The excitement generated by these no-shows is always so palpable, you can see them rubbing their palms, glee writ on their faces. I still have a job to do. Let's play checkers, last two names left on the board, drop them.

Sorry if I sound a mite cynical, but blame me not. Like the rest of India, I too have been waiting for the resurrection of Indian cricket. And like the rest of us, it's frustrating for me to see that those that can, don't make a difference. Short cuts to success are mostly just that. A short cut, without any far reaching impact. May have a transient influence, which would fade because the problem hasn't really been understood.

Pointing fingers isn't bad. Knowing who to point them at would add a heck of a lot of value to the whole exercise, though.

Pictures at the Chennai airport. The men in blue return. Interviews. Talk of reports, learning from the experience, grooming the boys. All sound like sensible things to do.

Juxtapose that with interviews with deposed captains, team members. I'll be back. I have no problems playing with anybody, under anybody. It can't end like this.

Wonder if this is about taking a few steps forward, or just stepping back into square one. Dropping a member or picking one up, does not and should not signify change of any magnitude. How can it when it is purportedly a team sport, tell? Playing Russian roulette with a team can only be harmful, in the long run, if the long run matters to those that play. And dwelling on the past, recriminations and accusations doesn't exactly make for the best of beginnings, if a revival is what we be wanting.

Don't quite want to dwell on the role of the media in this entire exercise, saving that for later. However, that's where I catch up on all the strategies and tactics being planned to make things better. And, from what I gather, apart from the people that formulate them, and the words used, the idea remains the same. Word of advice for those in the post-mortem team in an official capacity. Listen to those that don't have to, but do, think about the future of the game. The viewers. And, they may find something new to mull over.

One smart move though, and may I congratulate them on that, is the way it's been planned. One home series, one overseas, and back on home soil. So before the heat scorches their backs, some respite is offered. They have to, even they can't mess this up, win a few here. And, we're buying some time in the process.

You wonder what the future holds for this team, this cricketing nation, but worry not. For the faint at heart, you have no cause for concern. Expect the expected, and you're safe. Dip your hand into the cookie jar, and if you're expecting a chocolate chip? Hey, you're going to get one. But, if you think it's going to throw up a marshmallow-pecan-raisin whatever? Ahem. Think you've got the wrong store.

The Spare Crib/Abhilasha Khaitan

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