Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Naked King

Guess where team India for test matches is headed right now - vacation, and a well deserved one at that. At least they don't have to play test cricket and make a mockery of their talent. Nor do they have to sweat it out on tailor-made pitches only to disgrace themselves. For the thinking Coach it is a good break for his thoughts too. Nothing personal Mr. Chappell, but your ideas have resulted in a premature demise of what we knew a good enough test team - good enough to hold its ground in this part of the world, good enough to command respect and not contributing to the fond memories of an England team that could barely field eleven gentlemen.

Coach, in cricket that matters, otherwise known as test cricket, you have been out thought by your counterpart Duncan Fletcher. Does it bother you?

Apparently the way we surrendered in the Karachi test and scraped our way to a drawn series against an England C team was not shameful enough. Since then, the trumpet blowers of Chappell-Dravid are playing the familiar "all is well" theme. May be only the cynics like us are crying foul.

For the record, during the Wright-Ganguly years, our overall score card reads 3-2 against Pakistan (one home and one away), 2-1 against England (one home and one away) and an immensely respectable 4-4 in the 11 tests against the Aussies when they routinely demolished every other side in the world (here I am willing to ignore how the petty board politics lead to the green top at Nagpur during the last home series; all conspiracy theorists - think of the same pitch when we played against England).

How exactly does our previous record fit into our recent 0-1 showing in Pakistan and humbling against a broken beyond repair England team that even managed a rare win after twenty years?

To be honest with you, I am not surprised. This bias is nothing new. The conveniently misguided souls would be singing a different tune had Dravid or Tendulkar paired with the polite New Zealander instead of a certain arrogant and passionate bengali from Kolkata. Success buys enemies and Ganguly never made many friends in the media anyway. Even worse are the deliberate attempts to discredit the wonderful run team India had. And for what? To cover up the embarrassment inflicted upon us by the so called preachers of taking team India to the next level. Amazing.

Surely we have found the next level in the reverse direction. We should just start viewing the world upside down to appreciate Coach Chappell.

Questions were raised about the authenticity of the wins before Chappell-Dravid raised our bar. People forget that a victory against any team, stronger or weaker (based on factual records and statistics) stands out simply on cricketing merits. Every one of them requires effort, no less sweat for that matter.

You need proof?

Just ask our current outfit that played the England team (and managed to bring themselves to their knees). Had we won, would you acknowledge the victory or choose not to because more than half the opponents were a bunch of no-namers? Seriously write down the playing eleven of the England team right now if you can.

Make no mistake, Chappell might be the architect of a faulty design but he is not alone. The senior players who sent their cricketing acumen to exile and stopped questioning the coach should share the blame as well.

Perhaps we needed to be wiped away in the England series for the sleepwalkers to wake up and find the King truly naked! It is easy not to acknowledge the rude facts that are only a curtain of truth away for they might compromise the agendas.

Now why did I start this rambling in the first place (of course why should you care)?

A week ago fellow Desicritics Angshuman Hazra and Nanda Kishore politely stirred the issue with bits and pieces of scepticism thrown in the mix for good taste. Nevertheless they offered fairly balanced views, appeared supportive of the coach, and ready for more suffering. I assume they are bravehearts which is good in a way. Now cricinfo has got the issue rolling in their home turf with Ashoke Malik driving his point home while the others to their credit continued the mission of diluting one of the most successful eras of Indian cricket. For some, truth is fuzzy and agendas are proven theorems.

It is also equally painful to find cheerleaders only for certain individuals in hard fought wins (in the past). This is just not a case of bad taste but a case of serious disrespect to the rest of the team.

The ride with Wright and Ganguly was never dull. We accomplished a lot, missed a few chances but the playing eleven always fought with pride and passion.

The ride with Chappell and Dravid, two all time greats of different eras is going to be bumpy. Here is hoping the bumps will even out with time. Also once in a while they should know where they stand. They are accountable too. To us - the fans of Indian cricket.

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