Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why we Indians love Cricket?

As middle-class Indians, we’re always spoilt for choice. Even before we’re born, we’re made to understand that we live in a free world, and we have no choice but enjoy our free will in taking up either Mathematics or Biology for our Class XI examinations. And then having chosen Mathematics, we have the option of preparing to answer any 4 of the 7 questions on Algebra, Trigonometry, Coordinate Geometry, Differential Calculus, Integral Calculus, Probability and 3D Geometry. And we are also pampered with the knowledge that studying Probability should help us not only to choose our subjects and subsequent careers wisely, but also help us in clearing engineering entrance exams that require us to answer multiple-choice questions(When in doubt, always answer c, or all of the above, or both). Cricket, like the life of a middle-class Indian, is full of glorious uncertainties, we are told. And a good game of Cricket is but a great exhibition of great choices made in split seconds. Let’s think about it.

The game begins with a toss, and the leader of men has to consider many parameters before offering his choice of either heads or tails. For instance, what he had for breakfast, how many members of his team are recovering from injuries, and how many are nursing hangovers from the game of strip poker being played in the dressing room. Just think of what all goes through his mind before the roll of the coin. And the game does not end with the toss. After winning half the battle, the remaining half of the game hangs on the decision of the captain, which is either to bat or bowl. Decisions like these require a great comprehension of Probability, which is usually left unanswered as a matter of choice in our Class XII Mathematics examinations. This is the sole reason why, ladies and gentlemen, we love this game.

Now moving on to choosing the team that represents our country, we entrust the responsibilities on the bright minds of former cricketers who have always entertained us with some phenomenal decision making skills on the field; like whether to attempt a shot or leave, whether to walk up to the crease during the run-up or settle for a quick stroll, whether to chase the ball till the boundary or wait for the ball boy throw it back to you, or most importantly, whether to ‘seen’ drinking Thumbs Up or Maltova. In choosing the squad of fifteen, they are probably the biggest custodians of the game in India. Just imagine the fate of the game, if it was not held safely in their hands. This post is a tribute to the final selection made by the Indian selection committee. And here’s the fruit of their labour:

MS Dhoni (captain & wicket-keeper): This was easily the toughest decision for messers Srikanth and co. Should you pick a keeper who can bat a bit, or a batsmen who can keep a bit, or a batsman who was good with stumpings, or a player from Tamil Nadu, or a player from Chennai, or a player who can win tosses, or a player who looks good in commercials, or a player who was good at press conferences. Some compromises were made (at least with the tosses bit) and we have Mahender Singh Dhoni, who is known to make astute decisions, be it with choosing his bike, or his bride. And he doen’t have a bad record either, winning 25% of the World Cups he’s played in, and 33% of the World Cups that he has captained in. Only Ponting, with a 40% WC winning record as a captain, has a better win percentage.

Sachin Tendulkar: The greatest player of all time. At least since Sunil Gavaskar sought his retirement in the commentary box. We have no choice in the matter of giving Sachin his World Cup. So much so that ICC is planning to retroactively award Sachin the 2007 WC trophy for sacrificing his opener’s position, just so that everyone is happy and TV ratings can bail West Indies out of the economic crisis that followed the staging of two world cups there in 2007 and 2010.

Virender Sehwag: Nobody has understood the 0.5 probability of the game better than Sehwag. In his own words, whenever he hits the ball, he either gets out, or he stays at the crease to face yet another ball. It’s this facet of the game that makes him the best choice for the vice-captain’s role ,of appearing for the toss when the captain is attending to his loosies.

Ravichandran Ashwin: Surely the captain’s favourite surprise package. He’s neither a great batsman, nor a great fielder. Neither a pace bowler, nor a spinner. But with whatever roles that remain, Ashwin is known to choose very wisely.

Piyush Chawla: Clearly a smart gambit by the selectors. In fact, Chawla is so far beyond the opposition radar, that the only videos they’ll find of him on youtube is of him promoting basketball (it’s a little late we think, considering he’s not going to grow any taller), and taking a great catch at backward point in an IPL match. Even the fans have no idea why he’s around, never mind opposition planners.

Gautam Gambhir: Easily the most useful cricketer in the team, Gambhir can open the innings when Sehwag decides he’s had enough of the game, or when Sachin declares that he needs rest. He can field at any position, when our best fielder Yuvi is bowling, or when Sachin declares that he needs rest. He can even captain the team when Dhoni has loosies, when Yuvi is bowling, when Sachin declares he needs rest and Sehwag decides...well haven’t we had enough of Sehwag already.

Harbhajan: No bowler in the game offers enough of variety to his skipper as Bhajji does, be it with the faster one, or the slower one, the straighter one or the slower one (got you there again, didn’t he), the turning one, or the tossed up one, the pehla, or the doosra, the right one, the wrong one, or even the one where he slaps another bowler in the opposition camp.

Zaheer: He’s the smartest bowler in the world. Owing to his constant injuries, Zak has learnt how to choose his games smartly.

Kohli: He’s probably done everything possible to get in the team. And yet he may be replaced by Raina in the XI. Virat’s case is a lesson for all youngsters in that, you can do everything in your hands, but to get results in your favour, you’ll still have to pay homage to the upar-wallah (MS Dhoni, the man at the top that is)

Nehra: Ashish reminds you of another generation, when life was simpler, when there was just one TV channel, and when Anil Kumble was India’s fastest bowler. Just watch him bat, or field, or swear at all the fielders when he’s taken for a few runs, and you’ll know why I turn teary-eyed with nostalgia every time I watch him in action.

Munaf Patel: This man used to be the fastest bowler in India. But that was before he started playing for India. And his wise decision is based on the fact that by choosing to cut down on pace, he can actually serve the game for a longer while, much to the delight of his millions of fans.

Yusuf Pathan: Possibly the best learner of the game, Yusuf is a man who can learn the tricks of the game from anyone, even his kid brother.

Suresh Raina: He hasn’t done much right in recent times, but he hasn’t done much wrong either. But what really works for him is his faith, which has moved mountains. Even that mountain which has patented the helicopter shot.

Sreeshant: It’s an old Indian tradition, where every king’s court needed an in-house clown. Sree is the one man who takes that role very seriously.

Yuvi: Every world cup winning team from India has had a tall left-handed slow bowler who gets hit for 5 sixes in an over, only to go on to hit six sixes in an over. After the retirement of Ravi Shastri, Yuvi is undoubtedly the best man for the job.

This certainly has to be my favourite Indian team for an ICC World Cup. Will they win the World Cup? It really doesn’t matter to me. After all, haven’t you heard Dhoni say it 314,159 times before – “ The end results will take care of themselves, if we take every game one at a time, and enjoy being a part of the process.”