Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Through the looking glass

"I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious."
     Initially he was appreciated for his golden mane, unorthodox batting and flamboyant nature. As time went by, his batting lost its bite and so did the length of his hair. After India's disastrous World cup exit in 2007, Dhoni was handed over the captaincy of the men in blue. It didn't take long for the selection to be justified. A few months later, India won the inaugural T-20 (Shaz referred to as T-T champions - ICC refused to accept Shaz as a part of them) and the rest as they say is history. 
     Dhoni's publicity mounted the charts while his batting average finally seemed human-like (it had started off Bradmanesque and dropped down to Hussyish before resting at Tendulkarness, maybe a tad higher). The subsequent years reflected the shift of power from the traditional mansions of Indian cricket. A Bengali, Marathi, Delhite and Bangalorean being captained by a modest man from Ranchi was unheard of in these parts of the World.  Especially when they were linked with the names Ganguly, Tendulkar, Sehwag and Dravid respectively.
     The IPL raked in the moolah. 6 crores for a wicket-keeping batsman who could lead from the front. Awestruck, the world awaited with bated breath as the King claimed his throne over the next 3 years. As India climbed higher in the longer versions of the game, (T-2o is considered as the only short version, barring Mr. Duckworth's and Mr.  Lewis' own form of the game) the critics sharpened their knives on Mahi's batting. The B-52 bombers were replaced by canoe rowers, and some of his selection decisions failed to apply to public logic (a.k.a Ravindra Jadeja). But Dhoni savoured his moments. The IPL, Champions league and of course the highly publicized wedding. For once, a captain shut his critics with his actions rather than his shirt.
     For the last 20 years, no Indian captain came this close to usurping Kapil Dev as India's best captain. On saturday night, he joined the ranks of Sachin and Kapil as legends of Indian cricket. Throughout the tournament his batting form was criticized and so too some of his baffling decisions. But in the end none of them seemed to matter. For we witnessed one of the finest batting displays in a final. And he hardly seemed to break a sweat. As the night trudged to a close, Dhoni towered over the world - all conquering. And relief spread over a billion faces.

"There is a place. Like no place on Earth. A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger! Some say to survive it: You need to be as mad as a hatter."

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Last Song

"I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail."

Dear God,
      I’m 27 years old. As if you wouldn’t know that. I have watched 4 world cup finals (1 of them had India in it) and waited 16 years for this moment, a moment of reckoning. Will the boys in blue (darn, both teams are in blue), the ones sponsored by Nike, and have their life like structures in every city in India (and every dream of Indians) mature to level-headed opportunists?
      Quite recently, I read an article about successful sportsmen. The Jordans, Nadals and Bolts of sport (sadly, the writer had to remove Kournikova’s name from the list because she isn’t a sportsperson any more). The reason why they shot into fame, and remained there. The reason why Beckham would never be the greatest ever footballer. Perhaps Rooney too. Because when the moment went by, it wasn’t acknowledged.
      Most fans agree on what is a big game and what is not. There comes a time during these big games when most fans smell the moment, the moment when the game is balanced on the finest of threads. I have seen Tendulkar occasionally sense the moment and pounce on it, imposing his greatness on the occasion. But I feel I’ve seen him not seize these moments more often. The dynamics of a 22-man cricket match may be entirely different from a 10-man basketball game, but watching Michael Jordan pull off ‘clutch’ moment after clutch moment – with championships at stake – with surreal consistency.
      This is a qualitative argument – it’s difficult to pull out numbers for ‘big moments’ and impossible to compare these metrics across sports – but I think it’s pretty much the core of the criticism against Tendulkar.
      While it’s impossible to question his gargantuan appetite for runs, the incredible longevity – has any sportsman spent more years of his life at the highest level in his sport (22) than he has not (16)?) – his phenomenal impact beyond the boundary, his equanimity in response to the stratospheric expectations and the ├╝berlegen dignity with which he’s carried himself, this clutch debate remains partially unresolved.
      God, my request to you is simple. Tendulkar has been part of Indian teams that have approached the threshold, slipped miserably on it before eventually shedding the monkey off their back. So unfortunately every India slip-up has been a Tendulkar-could-have-taken-us-home moment. So I’ve figured out a way around it. Let Tendulkar be his normal self, make a century and leave it to you. You can give the responsibility to Dhoni, (he might not be the destructive force with the bat as in the past, but he’s the best man to lead the side) and he’ll pull a bunny out of the hut (only the both of us know that you’ve put it in there – I’ve realized that no one reads this blog anyways). As the match trudges to a close at the Wankhede tomorrow night, let the man who deserves it (the only one who deserves it) kiss the turf.


P.S: Read my blog once in a while, you'll love it :).

P.P.S: Dhoni did pull out a bunny against Pakistan. Bunny = Nehra. Didn't get it?