January 04, 2013

#JaAnedo India

It just seems like yesterday that I was dancing on the streets with friends & fellow Indians, the national flag wrapped around my shoulder, face paint dripping down to my throat from all the screaming & dancing. We had won the World Cup. We were the World Champions. I remember every match so clearly. I also remember putting all my projects on hold and attending as many matches at the stadium as possible. I remember partying till the wee hours of the morning with boisterous Irish supporters after the match against England. I remember my throat aching from all the screaming and shouting. I remember tears trickling down my face as the nation celebrated the victory. I remember Sachin Tendulkar being carried on the shoulders of the young brigade of India. This morning when I woke up, these memories seemed so far away and distant. I have to go back and play the recorded video of the finals that we played against Sri Lanka to actually believe India having won the World Cup. Because frankly, the current Indian team doesn’t look like a team that can beat a club side. I would like to consider myself a hardcore Cricket follower. I consider myself a die-hard Indian cricket fan. I am the person who would still cross my fingers and toes praying for an (unlikely) Indian win, even when we need 13 to win off one ball. I expect the bowler to bowl a no-ball, the Indian batsman (read tail-ender) to strike the ball over the boundary for a Six. I believe that the free hit from the bowler would also be struck outside the park and the two batsmen in the middle (and the million followers and supporters) to celebrate another Indian win. Call me crazy; call me stupid, this is me, till I woke up this morning. This morning, I didn’t bother reading the newspaper, obviously the sports page. I didn’t bother about what ex- cricketers and selectors had to say about the current state of affairs of Indian cricket. I didn’t bother reading about excuses given by players, mocking statements given by opposition captains and players. I felt like I had to vent out my frustration and instead of reading, I felt like writing this piece. We are a cricket crazy country. We idolize our cricketers and treat them like Gods! We shower them with moolah and brickbats, we are generous that way. We all have a take about the game, about our players, about the board, about the selectors and the coach and the pitch curator, so on and so forth. We also have a really bad case of short term memory loss. We don’t believe in introspection, we believe in living in the present. 4-0 in England, 4-0 in Australia, and who can forget the many earlier series losses outside the country on India’s every overseas tour. They knew we couldn’t face the pace and bounce. They knew we couldn’t play the short ball. They knew we couldn’t take 20 wickets. They knew it all. They also knew we had the money, we had the IPL and we had the richest board in the world. And our players knew how to talk, more than how to play the game. They knew how to market themselves than to be ambassadors of the game. They knew how to be fit and loyal to their respective clubs than being proud of representing the country. They knew how dumb and loyal we are- the supporters of this team! Agreed, the team is going through a transition phase and some of the regular players are either out retired or injured, but that does not mean the current crop of players should take their game so easy. Every team undergoes a transition phase, the Australians (the most powerful of the lot) had to go through their phase, and look at how they are playing now. New Zealand seem to be under all kinds of crap at the moment, but one look at the way their players play and you wouldn’t for once doubt their efforts or their commitment. Winning is important, agreed, but I just hope we put up a fight and lose than not try at all! We like our Sachin’s, our Sourav’s and our Sehwag’s. But there has to be a time, when we need to let them go. And when I say let them go, I mean it in the harshest of ways. There is no point hanging onto someone’s past. Hanging on to someone who has won matches for you, but past their prime at the moment. Who would like to see Sachin getting bowled, match after match, to bowlers who will eventually make their careers with his wickets? Why would you have young, talented individuals warming the bench & quenching the thirst (read Egos) of aged players who lack fitness, ability & the motivation? The questions are abundant, but I don’t see answers coming up anytime soon. I am old school when it comes to preparing for a game. I haven’t played cricket at the most serious level, but I have played enough cricket at junior levels to tell you this is no way to prepare for a game. We didn’t have technology like they do today; we didn’t have a chief coach, a batting coach, a bowling coach, a fielding coach, a physio, a massage therapist or a video expert, who can provide all analysis and details of your earlier matches! All we had was severe passion towards the game & the determination to make it BIG. While the opponents have done their homework against India, we are more focused on providing our time & effort towards the next ad shoot. While the opponents come early to acclimatize to the conditions, we feel inclined towards marketing individual brands more. While other teams play as a unit, we tend to play well at least ONCE so that we get the calling card to play for IPL. While other teams practice their cricketing skills, we practice our soccer skills and our modeling skills (or the lack of it). Gone are the days when we could claim that we were Tigers in our backyard. We could get thrashed out of the country, but at least in the sub continental conditions, we were a threat. I guess, every team is now getting the better of us. If we don’t do something drastic & serious about this, we are going to be quite the laughing stock- if we aren’t already! I could probably write another 100 pages of a word document, if only I didn’t feel angrier than I was when I started writing this article. So, I say #JaAnedo India, stop thinking you are better. Stop thinking you could get away with anything. Stop thinking people will forget. Stop thinking & start playing.