Sunday, January 20, 2019

Team India & Gentleman's Game!

“A lot of things have changed since I made my debut in 2004. The way cricket is played has changed. The kinds of players that are coming in the Indian team are drastically different than what we were used to. My role is quite the same. You only evolve with time, and that's what I am trying to do”... MS Dhoni.
 “I will prove myself strong when they think I am sick.
I will prove myself brave when they think I am weak.”… E. Lockhart.

Emily Jenkins, who sometimes uses the pen name E. Lockhart, is an American writer of children's picture books, young-adult novels, and adult fiction. Well Emily’s introduction was necessary but no need to readers for the person of which I used the first quote! Rather Emily’s quote made me use it to describe that person as he lives by it time; yes, I am speaking about M S Dhoni, India’s former (well I hate to use that word for him) cricket captain of all formats & still captain of Chennai Super King’s IPL team. This sharing when I thought of writing was not about MS but it was history created by Indian Cricket team in Australia by defeating them in test match series but by the time I sat on my PC even One Day series was over with India winning that too & MS becoming man of series for it! So I have to start my sharing with MS’s quote as how can present Team India’s story will be complete without MS’s name in it!

For non cricket lovers, yes there are still such souls in India & for those who are still reading this piece, Indian Cricket team has made a history in its recent tour of Australia in many ways. It’s about Team India winning (retaining) Border–Gavaskar Trophy which is a Test cricket series played between India and Australia. It is currently played via the International Cricket Council's future tours program, with varying lengths of time between matches. If the series is drawn, then the country holding the trophy previously retains it. The series is named after Australia's Allan Border and India's Sunil Gavaskar, both of whom have scored over 10,000 Test runs in their career, captained their respective teams, and was world record holders for most runs scored in Test match cricket. The first edition was held in 1996 in which India won by seven wickets. The series is mostly a four test series with the exceptions being the first four editions and 2010. By doing so, this team became the first Indian team to beat Ausis in their turf in test cricket. Then become first Indian team to beat Ausis in one day series too. Leveled the T 20 series & in doing so became the first cricket team visiting Australia & went back home not losing any series in any format of the game; “whoohoooo Alexa give me applauds”…!

Well for cricket lovers, they must be knowing all this but then my sharing is not just to tell you what history Team India has wrote but why this particular team & a dash of words as tribute to MS! Like most other kids I too grow up in a small town playing cricket & thinking one day I too will play for Team India (please don’t laugh most of us did so, when we played in galli cricket) & my first memories of Indian cricket team in Australia are from 1977-78, when Bobby Simpson the great was Aussi captain & all we can do is wake up at odd hours & try to tune in radio as TV wasn’t yet come in Khamgaon. Since then as I grew up, playing for Indian Cricket team dream has long vanished but to see India winning in Australia dream remained & now when I turned fifty, it has come true. Many will laugh & criticize cricket for its being played in just ten odd countries & yet getting so much importance but then even with just ten countries yet there remained a country named Australia which was like some unbeaten fort for nearly seventy years for us & I am happy for knocking down that fort as a diehard cricket lover. As the game has given me much more than just joy of watching India play or win! In these seventy years team India visited Australia nearly 12 times barring present series & every time it has returned with defeat. Out of these seventy years last fifty I am witness & indeed during this Team India has won every other tournament including World Cup twice in One day format, once in T 20 format, team India had been ranked number 1 team in tests for quite some time yet to beat Aussis’s in Australia has not been achieved by any Indian Team & this team did it, “Whoohoooo, Alexa give me more applauds..”!
If you think I am over reacting then ask any cricket lover (who understands this game a bit seriously) & he will ask Alexa for still more applauds, such is worth of this victory! Well, is this team very talented or special than all  earlier teams, is the question that  many will ask; just have a look at the names of some earlier team members who has visited Australia in last 11 attempts. Bishan Sinh Bedi, Chandashekhar, Vyankat Raghavan, Ajit Wadekar, Pataodi, Salim Duraani, Vijay Hajare, Vijay Merchant, Sunil Gavskar, Dilip Wengserkar, Gundappa Wishvanath, Mohindar Amarnat, Kapil Deo, Sachin Tendualkar, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguli, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Sing, Jvangal Shrinath,Virender Sahewag, Vyankesth Prasad, Gautam Gambhir & many others! Are these names were not special, well some of them are legends, few of them are Gods in this country not by just the faith fans put in them but by sheer record books & look at the names in this cricket team, barring Virat Kohali & MS in one, tell me one name which goes at par with one to one basis with the names in that long list I have mentioned above! Many will say at the same time the present Aussi team was the weakest t team till now which we have faced, may be so but then our team too was immature, in-experienced & then even the team under captaincy of Kim Hughes during Carrey Packer days was considered as weakest then, yet we couldn’t beat that Aussie team is a fact. Frankly game of cricket (or any game) is not about weak or strong but the team which held its nerve on the day of game wins! And who better than this Indian team knows this as it has proved the basic rule of game about temperament! And that is the difference between earlier teams & this team as this team knows wining a match isn’t about just talent or having big names in the team but it means everyone performing his best on the day of match, which they did. Indeed we have our own lacunas but important is with those lacunas also we won the series.
And then as MS said in his quote, this is new India because look at the way every player retaliated Aussies on every front, right from sledging (taunting opposite team’s players on field) to shot back nasty looks after every wicket taken or a four has been hit! Look at all the names from my list, they were great names with great character but when you play with Aussies in Australia, it’s equally a mind game too! Right from the Aussie captain & wicket keeper, all slip  squad continuously taunting the batsman for his game weakness as well personal front, you need a cool composed mind as well a fire within to give it back, both by words as well by bat & ball & this team has it full! Recently I saw a movie about Surgical Strike, “Uri” in which the Captain of commando team while selecting his team for mission says, “jawano me me sirf Jajabaat nahi Jajba bhi jaruri hai”. Means the soldiers must have anger for the enemy & fighting spirit too along with patriotism & exactly this team India has perfect combo of Jajbat & Jajba! As average age of present team is mid twenty & most of them have been born in well to do families (indeed there are some from middle class families too) but then the game has given them good money & it indeed has boosted confidence in them. Many of them can speak fluent English & not just understand taunts thrown at them but can give back nastier words with perfect assent, ask our wicket-keeper Rhishabh Pant who is not even twenty by age but took on none other but Aussie captain himself by commenting while Tim Penn was batting, “have you ever seen a part time captain & then went on hitting a big century which made him maximum run scoring wicket-keeper in one inning! This has been never done before, as all our earlier players were great in their own way but represented old school of the game were you are taught to neglect sledging & play the game as Gentleman! This team’s members are no more Gentlemen is sure but at the same time they do understand, just words are not enough & it should be backed by equally with the performance with ball & bat as well & they did that too!
One very important aspect with Aussies was their aggressiveness backed by their extreme physical fitness in the field, may it be bowling or fielding or even throwing the ball at stumps (actually at batsman), they were always way ahead on fitness front & that had been a major wining factor over our team always. But not for this team India as look at our captain, Virat Kohali himself is one of the fittest players on world & that does push other players to raise their bar of fitness & it reflects automatically on field body language! Aussies are known to play total cricket, may it be sledging (mind game, off & on field), fielding, batting to make more runs, every ball bowled to take wicket & every move is to win the game, that’s the way they used to play the game. This Indian team was not better by just the way you bat or ball or field, this team is better than Aussies by the entire attitude towards the game; they want to win every game & in cricket you do it only by hitting four on every ball thrown at you, by taking wicket on every ball you bowl & catching every skier comes in your direction & then you are bound to win the game, which they did!  What I meant was the way you look at the game, with extreme positive mindset & then you deliver too! Yes one credit I can’t take away & that is fast bowling as never we have got four pacers firing the ball above 140 km/hr toward the batsmen like a wave coming after another! It was indeed a pleasure to watch our fast bowlers show as all these years we have witnessed only the like of Lily, Thomson, Stark, Mitchell Jonson, Bruce reed making our batsmen run from the bouncers but rarely did we have that fire power for Aussies which we have now!
Cricket has given me not just the joy of watching the game while India win but it has taught me attitude to life as we are part of team always, may it be at home or at work or with friends & fight is most of the time with our own self!  In the match of life, not necessary every time you can see the opponent but whenever I see it I see it in green baggie cap; as adverse time is just like Aussie team, it taunts you, tease you, try to demoralizes you & takes away game from you! This Indian team has taught us the only way to defeat an aggressive & competent team is by being more aggressive & more competent than them & that’s the biggest gift they have given to me personally by defeating Aussies in their home!!

Lastly about MS Dhoni, as at age of fifty also this guy who is at least thirteen years younger to me makes me awe by the way he thinks, he speaks, he behaves, he plays & he handles success as well criticism! With due respect MS may not be even in top hundred by just going with figures in record books but does that matter? Right from the days with his long hairs flowing over his neck to the crew cut he has come longest way as player, as a captain & more than that as a man who has seen failure as well biggest of success & survived from both! Just 37 years yet the hardness those eyes carry & whiteness of beard shows the price Dhoni has paid for being one of the most successful captains of Team India & do mind we the Indian fans are worst lot, as we can make a player God & in least time we can booo the very same player; ask Ajit Wadekar the Gentleman Captain, Gavskar the Great, Sachin the God, Shastri, the Champions of Champions & Yuvraj, Man of Tournament of World Cup 11, they all will vouch for it! And for fourteen years to remain popular in this country to such extent that when he is playing from Chennai in IPL vs Mumbai in Mumbai, still the Mumbai crowd cheers for him, such is charisma named Dhoni & that’s not for just the runs he makes or the way he keeps stumps, that’s because the way he lead, he play or he live! The man is ideal subject for any management course by him-self is all I will say about him! This Australia tour was historic for him also as age is cruelest enemy & it defeats best of the players but not Dhoni, not yet is what he proved by becoming Man of the Series at 37, probably oldest in history of One Day games! Does this guy has left to prove anything; I think no, all he does is keep playing. Someday he knows he has to stop but the finisher he is, he knows when his game is over & I wish the day should get delayed as long it can be!

Finally,  Virat & Team India, thanks a ton for making me part of history by allowing me to live it & do mind for Champions it’s not some win or loss but it’s the way  you play every game is what makes them a Champion; just keep playing as that’s best way to write new history every day, so you will!

Sanjay Deshpande 
Sanjeevani Dev.

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