Irony …

February 9, 2009


First the good part. It is absolutely wonderful to see the West Indies annihilating England and showing definitive signs of moving up the cricketing ladder again. For anyone who has been weaned on the sport watching the West Indians dominate world cricket under Lloyd and Richards, there is something about West Indian cricket that is very unique and romantic and it is almost as if by willing them to dominate once again, there is the promise of regained childhood. Two things that restrain my jubilation though. Firstly, one swallow does not a summer make and more relevantly, this appears to be an English team that has come apart at the seams.

Now the not so good part. After the Ashes o f 2005, England looked poised to seriously mount a challenge to the Aussie hegemony. They had a wonderful seam attack, one of the world’s leading allrounders in Flintoff, a most exciting batting talent in Pietersen and reliable performers in Collingwood, Bell, Strauss, and Trescothick . Add to this the settled leadership and batting solidity of Vaughan and the cricket fraternity was lulled into believing that all was well with English cricket. Alas, how things have unraveled since then, this despite the emergence as one of the world’s leading finger spinners. Logically this should have bolstered their bowling arsenal. Unfortunately, during the same period, Simon Jones and Flintoff fell prey to injuries, Harmison managed to lose his way, and Hoggard forgot how to swing and seam the red ball. To add to their woes, Trescothick decided that he needs to spend more time with the shrink than in the nets, Bell decided that his career will more or less replicate that of our own Sanjay Manjrekar (technique over effectiveness) and Vaughan’s knees started wobbling. Talk about the vicissitudes of life.

Jones is all but lost to the international game, Harmison is plain lucky to be flying around with the team, the English think tank appears to have faith in Hoggard, preferring Sidebottom over him, the need to score runs continues to pass Bell by and to ensure that any possibility of even a modicum of stability in the ranks is obliterated, the English selectors decided that the best way to fill the wicketkeeper’s slot is by orchestrating rounds of musical chairs amongst the pretenders.

Not to say that there were not the occasional highs in the interim. The squared series in India, along with the one day victory in the Commonwelath Bank Series in Australia most definitely being the stand out performances. In all this period, the most consistent performers were Collingwood, Pietersen and Flintoff supported by inspired moments from Monty, Sidebottom, and Strauss. But for the emergence of Stuart Broad and Alistair Cook along with Monty, English cricket would definitely have slipped most decisively during this period since the time Nasser Hussain took over the captaincy a decade or so back. As things stand now, it looks like the inevitable was only being postponed.

The chutzpah of Pietersen at the helm has not helped, neither has the sacking of the poor coach. At the end of the miserable day in Jamaica, the rest of the world was led to believe that the IPL auction during the match is to be blamed for the abject surrender at Sabina Park. What absolute balderash !!. If at all the English players who were successfully pawned off to the IPL franchises should have been inspired to over perform given the extent of their windfall. One would have expected Flintoff, Pietersen and Collingwood to perform out of their skins in sheer exuberance. Or as it was suggested by a cricket pundit, did the fact that the rest of the team members could not partake in this orgy of cricket’s rampant commercialization demoralize them so much that they decided to prove to the rest of the world that, lest it be forgotten, cricket is a team game and stars, overpaid at that, do not necessarily make for a good team. Sitting in the comfortable confines of my writing desk at home, I can only conjecture.

When confronted by philistines who do not understand the intrinsic beauty of cricket and cannot look beyond it as a sport, I never tire reiterating the fact that to me there is nothing in this earthly world which reflects life as beautifully as cricket does. Notwithstanding my inability to articulate this point of view sufficiently well, I shall cling onto this view for dear life and the English capitulation at Sabina Park has elements of irony that is so much part of life. Sample the following:

1. Pietersen and Flintoff were bought by different IPL franchises for USD 1.5 million EACH
2. Owais Shah was picked up for USD 275,000 by another hapless franchise
3. Collingwood (God bless him) was also picked up for a relatively reasonable USD 275,000
4. Ramnaresh Sarwan remains unsold, like he is part of some dead inventory of a steel manufacturer!!
5. Jerome Taylor was the “cheapest” pick at USD 150,000 !!

Who said life has to be fair.

In the meantime, let us celebrate, muted or otherwise, a famous West Indian victory.

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