Thursday, September 27, 2007

India expects!

In the mid-nineties we used to have a cute, precocious boy of seven who used to be a frequent visitor at our house. The reason? He was not allowed to watch television in his house and whenever there was an India match he would slink in surreptitiously. But once he was inside and away from the prying eyes of his parents he would park himself securely on my sofa at a prime spot in front of the television set. We were watching an India match and Tendulkar played an audacious, amazing shot as he used to do often those days and my young friend jumped up and pronounced “I have not seen a shot like that in my entire life!” A lot of India watched something that they had not seen in their entire lives - India winning a cricket world cup! It was amazing! What an eloquent way I have with words! And what was making it even more pleasurable was that it was not expected. Our one day form which hit its nadir in the World Cup in the Caribbean has not been anything to write home about despite the odd win here and there. Three of our all time greats Sachin, Rahul and Saurav opted out of the tour or so we were told. We had a young captain and a younger team and we were taking on the likes of Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and our friendly cricketing neighbour Pakistan. Teams like England(!) spoke about their experience with this format and South Africa, as always before any tournament pronounced itself as the favourites as the matches were being played at home and they already had a domestic twenty twenty competition in place. Let me not go on and on about how well we played or how we humbled the Aussies or beat Pakistan twice or beat the much vaunted South Africans. However I must digress and mention that South Africa as a team never ceases to amaze me. Ever since the tied game at Edgbaston when they lost the world cup (and I can say with real pride that “I was there”) they have discovered new ways of losing. Perhaps this one must rank close to their Duckworth Lewis fiasco. Confronted with a choice of three different scenarios, they chose the unlikeliest and made their way out to sulk and hopefully learn some maths. But the team that the bookies had not bargained for made it and that is our own. As a result of this win our expectations are sky high. We believe now that the world is our oyster.

The power of expectations

“England expects every man to do his duty” said Winston Churchill. Clearly the present English team was after his time. But to get back to expectations. Now with all the euphoria about the twenty -twenty triumph it is easy to believe that a golden era of Indian cricket has arrived. While I hope it does, it is possible to be just a little circumspect as one who has watched Indian cricket ebb and flow for over forty years. One has also watched the weight of public and media expectations and its impact on team (non) performance. It has humbled quite a few. I suspect Yuvraj in the finals was probably weighed down by the collective expectations of a billion people. We are a funny lot, we Indians. We alternate between complete diffidence and absolute arrogance. Now I can see us getting into arrogance mode. “Bring on the Aussies” is the chant now. Look at our schedule. Our team comes back on 26th to a ticker tape welcome and an open bus ride in Mumbai but will have to play the Aussies on 29th in Bangalore as part of a seven match series. Then we host Pakistan and go to Australia for a four match test series followed by a tri-series in which we could play ten one day matches at least. The other teams? Australia and Sri Lanka. All this after a close test series in England followed by seven one dayers. While the BCCI and the TV channels are raking in the money, there will be injured bodies, tired legs and stale minds in the team soon. Look at the rush of injuries in world cricket. The Australian team already has four doubtful starters for the India series in Ponting, Watson, Hussey and possibly Bracken. Sehwag had to miss the finals. Yuvraj has not played all the games while Dhoni seems to be showing more of his back to the camera than he ought to in the field as he gets treated for some ailment or the other

What has worked

How did we win this 20-20 world cup? We won it simply because new, untried, youngsters who were not bothered by reputations played calmly. In fact we won the final because we held our nerve and if one may add catches. Let us use this great opportunity to get in more youngsters. Let us use the “rotation policy” that is easier to talk about than practice. Suddenly our chairman of Selectors is talking about our bench strength, something that he said that we did not possess a few months ago! The same Indian malady of alternating between diffidence and arrogance starts with the chairman! We are playing at home against an Australian team that is struggling to get into a season after a long break and is already haunted by injuries and a defeat in the twenty twenty world cup. If one knows them they will come out flailing. Thankfully we are playing at home in front of a fantastic, biased audience and a team that is on top of the world. Yet all is not hunky dory with our team. Our bowling weaknesses remain, more so in the sub continent and our fielding will take a toss for the worse with the entry of three seniors. This leads me to the next concern. Now that India has tasted blood, I see our thankless people baying for the blood of the seniors if they do not perform at the rate we wish them to.

Patience a wonderful virtue

Parents, at least the smarter ones, have discovered an important route to happiness. The secret is to have no expectations from children. The moment you expect certain things from them you get into trouble. You are disappointed, sometimes because your expectations were not justified in the first place. If India thinks that we are going to become the number 1, one day and test team in the world just because we won the truncated version of the game, then we could be in trouble. Yes we have done something unique. We are the first winners of this new format which is going to be the future. We have come from the cold without any of the stars. Let us savour the moment without worrying about the future. Then when that happens we can have the same unexpected pleasure we had on the 24th of September. Expect at your own peril. As for me I am still celebrating!

(Ramanujam Sridhar is CEO, brand-comm, and the author of One Land, One Billion Minds.)


Ram said...

I myself was the cute little boy at home when India won the 1983 worldcup which I had the previlge of watching in a 20 inch EC tv needless to say black and white. 24 years later I unbelievably saw another Indian world cup triumph unfold in front of my eyes but ironically and justfully enough without the mega stars of Indian cricket who played most of the matches in that 24 year gap. I honestly feel we won the tournament with the grace of god closely followed by the grace of Dhoni whose captaincy was brilliant. I truly believe a good captain should also be a lucky captain. And fortune favours the brave. Here we had a captain who didn’t go by formulas that would have meant that the two best bowlers bowling the last two overs. We won the last two matches only because the matches were taken into the last over and then even a lesser bowler could hold the pressure. Dravid or sachin am sure would have used joginder for the 18 over and we might not have had a 20th over. The enormity of the triumph has been dwarfed at a global level because it was an inaugural 20 20. The sanctity of this win would be intact only if this event is held once in 4 years and not like the champions trophy. 20 20 could be the future of the one day version of the game. Test cricket would always reign supreme for the pundits and also those who think they are the pundits. But 20 20 requires enormous skill and fitness levels. The people who have clicked the most have not been the sloggers and the six sixes that yuvraj hit is the best cricket you would get to see ever. Clean cricketing shots. This truly is a momentus occasion as was confirmed by the crowds in Mumbai of which I was a part of and I feel this marks the beginning of the end of the big 4 of Indian cricket even though what they achieved for the country was hardly anything big! Welcome to the era of a star less, coach less, Indian cricket that could see many more wins coming our way. Now are we going to have a 34 year old unsuccessful test captian grooming a worldcup winning captain. That woud be a joke. Hope better sense prevails. My prediction is India will beat Australia in the one day series and it will be a close series and I intend to go for the Mumbai match only if it is the decider.

Ramanujam Sridhar said...

Yes I hope India wins and it should be possible because it is at home and a few key Australians are not around including Ponting for the first two games.Yes I suspect the seniors will have adifficult time.I just hope we are patient and do not go overboard in our criticism of them.

Raghu said...

Dear Sridhar,

Thanks for having given an opportunity to read your expert views on Indian Cricket. After Incredible India , it is now Incredible Cricket.

I believe we have come a long way from what we were once, both economically and to some extent in sports, especially in cricket. To be able to sustain the momentum, we may have to shed certain inhibitions, like not getting carried away with emotional outbursts and/or our typical Indian complex.

On the eve of our ODI series against Australia, I have been prompted by your blog to share some of my views, albeit a lay man's.

I liken the twenty 20 format to Rajnikant's style in his films. You enjoy it while it lasts and once out of the theatre (ground), you tend not to dwell too much upon it. Because, like in the film, the aggression factor becomes the predominant style but not the suave elegance that one used to watch, appreciate and chat about endlessly in the earlier days.

I can foresee where all the present hype and euphoria will take us into. The aggressive style is bound to percolate into the minds of the three musketeers also (poor chaps, they must have thought let us be out of the ignominy of a bad defeat in the twenty 20 world cup) but I hope they have the common sense to slowly but steadily wind down their innings.

It is paradoxical, as I am now more optimistic about our future cricket placed in the hands of the younger generation, and the question arises why not. Why should we/I cling on to the old notions and curb unfettered raw power and enthusiasm.

I would now give them a chance to show the world that the world cup win was not one off. I bet the series will be won by India 5-2.