Monday, October 27, 2008

Bodyline,Headline, Mindline.......लक्ष्मण रेषेच्या पलिकडे ........

This is a nation where on a scorching bright weekend afternoon , almost throughout the year, you can see a gaggle of 8-9 year olds, playing cricket in a clearing . It could be a narrow gap between building in a typically urban milieu. It could be something next to a garbage dump, and it could be a rolling plain on the banks of a river miles away from the nearest town. They may or may not have gear, and stumps are often the fenders of a parked car, a sitting ruminating cow in a rural field, 3 lines drawn on a wall, a gnarled tree stump, a biggish tin box or even sometimes, school bags piled on each other, with a fine disregard for impending maths homework. Boundary lines sometimes extend into rivers, heavily trafficked roads, or even someones living room, sometimes even when its the only room in the house .Occasionally, folks passing by will stop to admire some one's bowling action or the effortless sweep of a fellow barely taller than the stumps, and then suddenly swerve as a ball barely misses them .

The guys may not know their geography (as they have left school to work and supplement the family income), or they may be fellows who spend every summer in a different country with their corporate honcho parents. But A lot of the chaps are dedicated followers of current world players, and I personally know one fellow, who admires Brett Lee so much, that every time he runs in to bowl while playing with his friends, he will give a self commentary , like, "Brett Lee, bowling from the pavilion end, right arm round the wicket......blah blah blah.... and Sachin sweeps. Symonds chasing the ball, yes, yes, no,. no, ....and its a four !" My son at a similar age, 21 years ago, would only answer , at one time, if you called him"Maninder Singh" who was a favourite bowler at that time. There is an entire generation of these folks pretending to be Jonty Rhodes, Lance Kluesner, even Shane Warne. And never mind that cannot spell the names.

What I have found interesting, is no one pretends to be Sachin Tendulkar.
The entire nation , cricketing and non-cricketing, holds him in great esteem, a fact unsurpassed in cricketing history of this country.

More than half a century ago, a bunch of chaps in white flannels, bats, balls, 3 stick sets and a few devious calculating minds , set sail from the Mother Country, to challenge the teams Down Under, which were lead by the totally revered and incomparable Don Bradman. The Mother Country players, had a few secrets, besides skills in cricket. They specialized in aiming the ball at susceptible parts of the batsman's body, or bowling in such a way, that attempting to hit would injure the batsmen. Cricket writers and purists went ballistic with the accusation of Bodyline Bowling. The sport had become a one sided ugly fight. The bullies were not admired.

Several decades later, a team from one of the Mother country's ex-colonies, India, went for an away-series to the West Indies. Those were the days of sparse foreign exchange allowances,virtually no support staff, insufficient team clothes, making do with ordinary kits, and helmets were then worn only in movies like Ben Hur . No correlation whatsoever ,existed then, between helmets and cricket.

A gentleman ,then, by the name of, Gilchrist (more about that later), had a bowling action, which was , to say the least, alarming. But those days NOT being the days of, attaching-electrodes-to-folks-and-bending-arms-less-than-15-degrees, cribbing about subcontinental bowling action, and say, third umpires, no one paid any attention, so long as wickets kept coming. (On an earlier Home game in Amritsar ,India, Glichrist, incensed at a player called Swaranjit Singh making light of his speed bowling, decided to teach him a lesson and bowled and injured the guy with a beamer, despite warnings from his own captain, and was sent back home). It so happened that the then Captain of the Indian team Nari Contractor, was at the non strikers end then. Later in the West Indies , during the away-game, Contractor got hit on the head by a Griffith (another fast bowler) delivery, was seriously injured, operated upon with a shaky prognosis, , and had to compulsorily end a promising cricketing career. It created a sensation and panic here, changed a familiy's life, and I prefer to think of it as the second in a series of dangerous happenings.

Headline. After Bodyline .

The last few decades have been relatively more organized cricket decades. Cricket control bodies of various countries communicate with each other. Disagreements are solved in civilized ways. When tempers flare and aggression hits the ceiling, you don't need to fling the cricket ball at someones face or head. For one thing, helmets rule. Some wise people decided to put microphones near the stumps and in addition to detecting bat-ball sounds, it can also pickup words one wouldn't use in civil company, forget them being broadcasted worldwide.

And so the war, if you might call it that, now strays away from the 22 yards

So we come come to Mindline. The third in the series of Bodyline and Headline.

In Mindline , you play mind games. That, of course, assumes that a thinking mind exists. Cricket as a game is today played on the field, as well as in the mind. When the two teams playing come from cultures of extremely different origins, things get even more confusing. Some teams may prefer to drown their considerable tears in mugs of beer, some may go fishing, and so on. Some may just shut their cricket minds and open their other minds and enjoy the Taj Mahal. Some teams may brood and get deeper into trouble. Some may get militant and aggressive.

Sometimes it has something to do with the name Gilchrist. A guy who declares himself out, as the ball scrapes past an inside edge of his bat, and starts the walk back to the pavilion. Everyone applauds his "sportsmanship". But wait. The same guy is often seen hiding behind the opposition batsmen, crouching and jumping to appeal alternately, whether or not the bat and ball ever met. An opposition batsmen often returns to the pavilion while the great sportsman wicket keeper remorselessly crouches again, ready to make another fake appeal. And everyone applauds his loyalty to the bowling team. Truth be damned.

And so we get cricket match referees (with varying sharpness of sight and perception of color), self righteous, demanding, scheming cricket associations, and when all this becomes too much, they even throw in a New Zealand High Court judge to decide the rights and wrongs.

You would have thought the matter ended there.


The second Gilchrist, answering to the name of Adam, retires in a blaze of glory and adulation, then plays in a Subcontinental Cricket league for a huge compensation, and decides to write a book. (Even I wanted to write one). He times the publication to coincide with the festival break during the current India Australia series, where Australia just happen to have lost a game, where one of the members of the opposing team , Sachin Tendulkar, just became the world's highest run getter in test cricket, at 12,000+ runs. So far so good.

At this point Gilchrist slips. These are not mindgames he plays. These are lies. He accuses Sachin Tendulkar of lying. In front of a judge. A New Zealand High Court Judge, who was acceptable to the Australians. Whose verdict was gracelessly accepted by the then concerned members of the team attending the hearing, , which did not include the aforementioned Gilchrist. Then he also comments on Sachin's unwillingness or inability to walk into opposition dressing rooms to shake hands after a game.

Hello. The game ended on the field. Teams came out to shake each others bruised hands at the end of it all. Anything more is a cultural thing. And it is expected that someone like Gilchrist, who has played so much in so many countries would try and understand from other cultures too.

At the end of the day, Sachin Tendulkar, who is renowned for his balance both on and off the field, ignores these mindgames. He treats these things the way he treats balls bowled by sledging bowlers; whips them for a six.

All the talking is being done now by Gilchrist. And his publishers. But he has hurt an entire nation. Sachin is aware of words in English as well as his native language(s). Gilchrist is not. That's why the new Zealand judge believed Sachin.

This Mindline word bowling must stop. No one gets up and makes false accusations against Sachin and gets away with it. He is a unique phenomenon in Indian, nay world sport. It is incidental that he plays cricket. But young and old, men and women, couch potatoes and athletes, corporate honchos and tattered paupers, celebrities and the common troubled man on the road, all look up to him for his impeccable behaviour on and off the field. Even the great Don Bradman sensed his specialness and expressed a desire to meet him. Sachin felt extremely honored and respectfully flew specially to Sydney for that.

Here is a player, that Australians stand up and applaud, every time he walks in to bat. We in India appreciate this gesture from the public of a great sporting nation.

Maybe we need to come to the end-of-the-line.

Whether it is Bodyline, Headline or Mindline.

The only thing that matters should be the crease-line. And remaining within it, really or vrtually.


  1. cooking up controversies has become a habit of late to drive book sales.

    Loved the way the story began, with what cricket means to India.

  2. Wow that post should be published in the press. Why dont you send it to newspapers, magazines and the like? Cricket means a great deal to Australians to. I used to love an Indian cricketer called Masood (not even sure on the spelling) but dont recall anything more about him. He played around the time that Imran Khan played I think. I am going to print this one and read it to Des and I will type his comments back for you. It will be interesting to see what he thinks because he played cricket until his 50s. Great post. You are such a brilliant writer. And so why haven't your written that book?

  3. तुम्हाला ही दिवाळी आणि नवीन वर्ष आनंदाचे आणि सुख-समृद्धीचे जावो

  4. Don't know what got into Gilchrist that he said such things. But than his life has been full of double standards. Walking off when he nicks the ball and than appealing when he knows the batsman has not nicked the ball.

    The fact that he thought Sachin is a hard bloke to find after a loss was the ripper. That is really what would anger the Indian fans and probably earn him publicity.

    The man says the aussies like to leave the things on the field. Well if you have been following Indian cricket you would know we never complained about them. It was them who took the field matter to the Match Referee.

    At that episode it was Harbhajan who just patted Brett Lee on his backside. LEE had not problem with it but Symonds came up to Bhajji and told him he had no friends there... Did he have any business to say anything there?? If he gets a mouthful of a reply from a fiesty young sikh, he cant take it.

    Also some day some one explain me how is MONKEY a racist thing?? In india we call every one a donkey and a monkey. Dont we all come from monkeys. The height of the whole episode was An Indian who is considered black racially abused an aboriginal Australian who also is incidentally black. So how can a black man racially abuse a black man?? I will never understand this..

    What takes the cake is if you say F$%% You or You mother so and so its fine... But you cant say MONKEY!!!!


  5. What I know about Cricket could be put in a thimble. All I know is that it's the UK's answer to baseball (or visa-versa).
    Even so, I found your post very interesting because you write so well.

  6. ah ! this is a cricket crazy nation and everyone loves sure even Sachin loves these...i like the way u describe how the kids ape the foreign players..its aspirational I guess ..

  7. arun,lilly,harekrishnaji Thank you.

    hitch writer We dont need to rake up the detailed past. Everything you have written here has been discussed ad infinitum. We need to move on, and just learn something from it, and hope others do so too. Winning and losing cannot be excuses for bad behvaiour.

    Darlene Thank you for the comments. Cricket is something common to many of the so called historical British colonies. Maybe you guys were so busy throwing tea into the Atlantic at Boston, the British forgot to teach you Cricket. But the latest I hear is that the US also has a team and may play in the next Cricket World Cup.....

    lakshmi You ever do photographs of cricket fields and amateur players away from the mainstream towns ? I searched a lot for my small slide show in my post. Maybe you can do some photos sometime ....

  8. Enjoyed this post very much as I learned more about cricket. Like Darlene, I don't know much about it but I am not a big sports fan. Some people will do anything to sell books though.

  9. I have seen a live cricket match only once in my life. That too it was some friendly game on the Nehru stadium. I too try to stay away from sports hee hee for lack of interest.

    But your post as always great description.

  10. I understand so little of cricket -- okay, nothing -- but that was the most interesting thing I've read all day. You truly have an impassioned way with words, and I like how you think.

  11. I have to admit that I'm another one who doesn't know a lot about cricket, but I love your article and feel like I have a better understanding of the sport and how important it is in countries where it is a major sporting event. But then I always find so much to learn in your posts. Thank you.

  12. It seems cricket is to your sports culture as football is to Americans. We are passionate about the games and about how it is played with integrity.

    I know very little about cricket, but found your post fascinating. As many commenters already stated, you write beautifully.

  13. all of this... its not quite cricket no :-(. But the good bit :D inspires posts like this from you.


  14. Judy,Pearl,Sylvia k,Aleta Thank you for your comments. And having the patience to read through a cricket related post. (I am one of the most cricket-unfriendly folks in the family, but sometimes some things just get you angry. Hmm....)

    Vinita I dont stay away from sports, but I (unlike some diehard cricket loving family members), realize that there exists a world outside cricket. But I cannot stand any, as they say " fajilpana" , of the type Gilchrist is doing now.hence this post. One has to completely admire the way Sachin Tendulkar has conducted himself both on and off the field...

    Gayatri Yes. As you say, all this stuff isnt, well, cricket. But when chaps like Gilchrist insist on making Silly Points, and irresponsible Sweeps, I feel the Third Umpires(ess) need to enter the picture :-)

    Hip Grandma Thank you

  15. Dear ugich konitari,

    Wish you a happy Diwali!!

    I always enjoy your writing, and look forward to the next installment.

    Just to put the matters straight, Nari Contractor was hit on his head by a delivery from Charlie Griffith, and not Gilchrist as you have mentioned. Please refer to for details.

  16. Samc,

    Thank you for pointing out the error. I have made the necessary corrections. Just found out about the actual chap who Gilchrist injured, and have put that in the blog.

    Are you one of the cricket bloggers ?

  17. In this giant theatre, all of us have our entrances and exits. How graciously we enter and exit and stay out count a good deal !

    Its time we look at the boys who play down the road, and help them correct their stance !

  18. Hello Suranga
    A wonderful post that gave a glimpse of feelings from 'the other side'.
    I lost interest when manners went out of the game. I vaguely remember conversations about body lining and the Larwood scandal.
    I thought Packer's remake of the game for his commercial gain a scandal, and the mind games even more so.
    My Dad was a wonderful cricketer in the days of the Great Depression and was chosen to be trained with the NSW team but couldn't afford to travel to practices.
    He was the captain of his outer Sydney team and talked about fielding at silly mid on which I gather was a very dangerous place to be.
    June in Oz

  19. Hi Ugich just to let you know that I read your story to Des. He said he wished he could visit India and talk cricket nonstop. He used to play till his 50s and played in England too. He agrees with your article and thinks the game changed when Packer took over as June says. Cricketers can earn so much money and its a job to them and hence the games. Gilchrist was clearly wanting to sell his book. He loved the ending of your post and says the game should indeed be about the crease-line.

  20. Appreciated!!

    Cricket blogger, no, I am not, but I am actively following a lot of Cricket blogs :)