Thursday, October 22, 2009

5 hungry men

Still infuriated by Dravid’s omission from Team India, and inspired by other analogous blogs doing the rounds of the internet, I have come up with this conversation that could have happened between the Indian selectors when they met on October 15 to decide what the Indian team would look like.

Disclaimer: This is purely a work of fiction but co-incidences are possible. Although we’ll never know, any resemblance to actual happenings cannot be ruled out.

Srikkanth: “Ok gentlemen, we have gathered here to select the Indian team for the first two ODIs against Australia. We all know South Africa was a disaster (pauses) - the board refused to let the selectors accompany the team. But like true gentlemen, we must put all this behind us and get on with our job – and fast. We are already two hours behind time and we don’t want to be late for lunch. I think going by the media review we got the last time, we can pride ourselves in having done a great job in selecting the team when we had last met.

Yashpal: But I saw someone's Facebook status message saying that India was knocked out in the first round of the Chamions Trophy.

All in chourus: What! (Everyone is shocked and dismayed)

Raja: Then I think we have to make a big change somewhere. This is how it generally works. When things are not working, change it.

Bhave: Yeah you’re right. How about changing the captain?

Srikkanth: (immediately feeling his right cheek with his palm) Er.. Er.. I don’t think so. He has been doing a good job for India. And you see we are from the same Chennai Super King outfit. (Again rubbing his cheek as if reminded of something.).And.. and besides he is strong, very strong. Er.. I mean he has the necessary strength to lead India.

Hirwani: Hmm… Then I think we can sack the coach, Kirsten.

Raja: I doubt that is an option. His contract does not expire until March 2010.

Bhave: We have to do something. We can give the boot to Venky and Robin.

Yashpal: But it may not go down with the players so well.

Bhave: Oh. I didn’t know the players were that close to them.

Yashpal: No, no. It’s not that. What I meant was who will serve them coffee and snacks.

Raja: That can be taken care of. The manager can double up. As it is he never does anything. My only concern is who will notify the two.

Srikkanth: (frowns with surprise) why do we have to tell them? The media can do that. Hey guys, lets start some sort of a trend. Countries have separate teams for tests and ODIs, let us have separate teams for home and away matches. It'll be fun. Something new.

(Everyone looks up and are delighted with the idea. This was their chance of being pioneers, and scripting their names in the pages of history.)

Yashpal: India’s best batsman in away matches, by far, has been Dravid. We can drop him. But the only problem is he hasn’t done bad in matches at home.

Srikkanth: Listen, I am in no mood to go with someone with a nickname Jamie, when I am sitting here, deprived of lunch.

Bhave: But with what pretext should we drop him?

Raja: We can tell the people that he is old.

Yashpal: But he shows no signs of ageing. Shouldn’t form and fitness be the criteria?

Srikkanth: Not when you’re hungry. Common guys we can’t be wasting so much time.

Hirwani: Ok. Let’s pick Ravindra Jadeja.

Raja: Jadeja! But there were reports that it was because of him that India lost the T20 World Cup.

Hirwani: Hmm.. But Shane Warne thinks he is the future of India and we could do well to use his expertise.

Bhave: But Warne also told the same thing about Yusuf Pathan as well. So are we picking him too?

Yashpal: Hey common, Warnie cannot be right each time. He maintains that he likes baked beans. But they have always given me stomach upsets.

Raja: Yeah right. I fart a lot too whenever I have baked beans. Makes me wonder how he handles all the women after he has eaten baked beans!

Srikkanth: Well guys, we just found out, why, at times, he restricts himself to phone sex!

Bhave: Hmmm.. Moving on, should we pick Virat Kohli?

Hirwani: Yes, yes. He always reminds me of my childhood days.

Yashpal: Why? Were you thin during your childhood days?

Hirwani: No. My mother used to cook in Virat pressure cookers when I was a child.

Srikkanth: We should give this youngster named Sudeep Tyagi a chance. He is also in the Chennai Super Kings team.

Raja: Yeah. You must have observed him closely then.

Srikkanth: Not exactly. But Srinivasan is a shrewd fellow. He would never have him in the team if Tyagi were not good.

Bhave: What about Sreesanth. Do we give him another chance?

Raja: He’ll be fined a lot of times so that’ll save the board a lot of money. Moreover, when he was last slapped, he skipped dinner. He'll be an asset in times of recession.

Srikkanth: The board will not share the money with us. And why should we be concerned with anybody’s dinner when we are starving here for want of lunch. He is not selected. And perhaps, we could be getting the Nobel Peace Prize next year for keeping him out of the team.

Bhave: Does anyone realize it has been 15 mins since we came here.

Srikkanth: Yeah. Enough is enough. We will each write a random syllable in a piece of paper and assemble it to form names. We will then select those players. As it is too many cooks spoil the broth. Let us not waste anymore time and proceed for lunch. We sure have earned our bread and butter today.

And the rest - as they say - is history.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

The Namesake

Francisco d'Anconia “If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulder - what would you tell him to do?"

Hank Rearden: "I . . . don't know. What . . . could he do? What would you tell him?"

Francisco d'Anconia: "To shrug."

Venkatesh Prasad and Robin Singh find themselves out of favour with the Indian selectors. But it is not this which is making news. For once it is Rahul Dravid! I use the expression ‘for once’ because we are talking about the man who has been content playing second fiddle in his life time and who never called out to be given the due recognition he has so much deserved. While Laxman made that unforgettable 281 at the Eden Gardens, there was someone at the other end battling as hard to make an equally important 180. While Sachin blasted his way to a career-best 186*, there was someone who had scored a run-a-ball 153 which went quite unnoticed. While Saurav helped himself to his all-time-high of 183 in Taunton, there was someone 22 yards away who had scored a magnificent 145 and was the who actually started the tormenting of the bowlers at a time the former was struggling at the crease, setting the stage for him to take over While Sachin made that memorable century against Kenya immediately after the demise of his father, there was someone who had silently helped himself to three figures as well. Why is it that then that this person could only merit a mention in the second paragraphs of the news? But the legend in question never let these things bother him and went about doing what he knew best – batting.

Whenever the team needed flexibility there was only one man who had the answers. When the team felt the need to accommodate an extra batsman, we found Dravid donning the gloves himself. There was a time when the team management found itself struggling for alternatives when it came to finding an opener in tests. It was Dravid again who stepped up – both literally and figuratively. It never did his own average any favours, but helped Team India tremendously. Did we hear any news about Dravid bragging about the sacrifices he was making for a greater cause? He silently continued with his job. How many other people could have matched that? Even the legendary Sachin never allowed himself to be dictated into batting at No. 4 in ODIs.

Dravid was made the captain, and Dravid was sacked as the captain. In the series against England in 2007, it never came across his mind that he should be playing to retain his side in the place. Instead, he never hesitated to promote a more aggressive player ahead of him when that was the need of the hour. He still finished with an average of 53, but even then found the ‘(c) tag’ next to Dhoni’s name in the next series. After the Australian series that followed, he was not even in the team.

Then came IPL 2008 and it was a disaster for his team. The owner - who knows as much about cricket as Paris Hilton does about public behaviour - was calling for his head publicly. He never bothered to find out that Dravid had averaged above 28 in the season (remember we are talking about 20 over matches) with a strike rate of over 127. Dravid remained silent. IPL 2009 moved to South Africa, and he allowed his bat do all the talking to put all his critics back to their places.

Everyone thought there was justice in this world. When the “stars Indian youngsters – the future of India” were found wanting against short-pitched bowling, Indian selectors called upon his reliable services. And now that the battle will be fought in a relatively friendlier terrain, our great selectors think they do not need the expertise of a veteran warhead. Doesn’t Dravid have every right to feel cheated, every right to feel used? You don’t treat the finest gentleman Cricket India has produced in this way.

Sir, as much as I love to see you play and as much as I love Indian cricket, I pray that you shrug – Team India does not deserve you!

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