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.
No.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.