Tag Archives: sport

200* – Sach an inspiration!

Oh no… not one more gushing Sachin-fan-turned-blogger!
20 years ago, a kid watched another kid playing cricket for his country on TV and thought, “I can probably bat better than that!”

That kid was me – and for those who are still confused, I refer to the kid doing the “watching”- and I discovered, very soon afterwards, that I was wrong… Fortunately for me, giving me elite company are several leading batsmen (and some bowlers too!) from the last two decades who have had the same silly thought cross their minds when they watched Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar bat. But right now, I’m just one among millions of ordinary cricket lovers, who have found themselves compelled to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboards) by one spectacular ODI innings that could either inspire aspiring batsmen for decades or make them choose an alternative sport that has more achievable records. 200* has never been seen on an ODI scorecard before!

But I didn’t write this post to say “Cricket is religion, and Sachin is God”, since it has been said too many times before, including in this very sentence. I wrote this to express my observations on how Sachin has been an inspiration in ways unrelated to cricket or even sport. Some of you may not agree with what I infer, but this post is to share with you what has worked for me… and maybe, could work for you…

Sachin resigning as captain

The short period of time that Sachin spent as captain of the Indian ODI team, was not a glorious one, but he realised soon after, that he could continue to influence and inspire the rest of his team without being the designated number-one in the pecking order. What he did next, was to resign from captaincy, and put in a strong recommendation for Saurav Ganguly to be made captain. The rest is history!

This happened nearly a decade ago, coinciding with a phase in my career where I strongly believed (wrongly so!), that I had outgrown my job. I remember telling myself that as long as I can find ways to be better at my job, I cannot possibly outgrow it. I also remember telling myself that growth, performance, seniority and designation are unrelated to each other; one need not be the designated leader to be the best. Looking back, I think I was right… after watching Sachin’s epic innings, I’m sure I was right!

There is as much honour in leading by example as in leading by designation…

An older Sachin, but hungrier than ever

20 years, 608 international matches, 31045 runs, 93 hundreds, 147 fifties and still no signs of slowing down! He has stated repeatedly (I wonder why they keep asking, though!) that he still feels as enthusiastic about the game as he did when he was a kid, and that’s what keeps him going. The one thing his modesty keeps him from saying, is that he still doesn’t have to worry about being selected, since he keeps performing consistently, and exceeds the back-breaking expectations of a billion fans most days that he plays!

Let me emphasize my point by leaving you with two facts to chew on…

The youngest member of the current Indian squad was 11 months old when Sachin faced his first ball in International Cricket!

India’s main strike bowler in the current series has 130 wickets in ODIs, Sachin has 154!

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been playing the game, don’t quit as long as you continue to enjoy it… just make sure you stay among the best!

5’5” in height… taller than most in stature!

I think his longevity is a result of prodigious talent, a passion for excellence and childish enthusiasm, and a hunger to keep playing. Now, you might say prodigious talent is not a gift all of us have, but the other factors are not difficult to cultivate… and all this counts for nothing, if it weren’t for the secret ingredient – humility, a rare commodity among sporting stars! Watching him in the post-match presentation walk back and forth four times to carry back the various medals/trophies/cheques/silver bats he was awarded, was a little funny. But when he was given the mike, he had a great opportunity to publicly vindicate himself by mocking the detractors and retirement-predictors that have plagued him for a few years now. Among those were a certain pair of Chappell’s (pun intended!), who had earned enough infamy for their family three decades ago, decided to earn some more, one of them by questioning Sachin’s attitude to the game, and the other by calling on him to retire. But when his time came to speak, all he did was to thank his fans for standing behind him in tough times, and admitting that he made mistakes as a batsman. That little speech reminded a lot of us why it’s called the “Gentleman’s Game”!

It is possible to be great at your work and still have fun doing it; the trick is to keep your head on your shoulders and your feet on the ground!

Opting out of the T20 World Cup… Cowardice… or wisdom?

There are times when a decision may seem to be completely inexplicable, and may have extraordinarily brilliant results. Sachin’s decision (along with Saurav and Rahul) to opt out of the T20 World Cup in 2007 was initially slammed as a cowardly decision, but how can you find fault with something that eventually led to the first world cup after 1983, as well as one of the most successful captains in world cricket today? Couple this with Sachin’s decision to relinquish captaincy to Saurav Ganguly in 2000, and we got the most accomplished Test Captain India ever had!

There is a lesson there too… Yes, it is important to lead from the front when you can; it is even more important and heroic to step out of the way of a more capable leader, when the situation demands it. Everyone may not understand then, but they do get it eventually.

Know when you’re the right one for the job, but more importantly, when you’re not!

And so much more…

Sachin Tendulkar is as human as the rest of us, he has also been the subject of a lot of criticism; a lot is spoken about how money is as important to him as cricket. But the man’s got a duty to his family as much as to his fans, why grudge somebody his livelihood? A Senile political leader (this time, pun not intended!) recently questioned Sachin’s commitment to his home state… this time, unlike the Greg Chappell comments, he decided not to react, and the entire country did instead! I don’t think anybody in the world has had a billion people tell him to shut up all at once, but this “leader” did! And it was such a tidal wave of support for Sachin that uncharacteristically for the “leader”, he promptly let go of SRT, but through force of habit immediately found a certain SRK’s backside to clamp his dentures on! But I detract, this isn’t about him…

I guess one of the things that appeals to people of all kinds around the world about Sachin is that he probably inspires a lot more people subconsciously than one could imagine, not all of them batsmen, not even cricketers.

I could go on… but this is a blog and not a book, so I’ll leave only these many of my thoughts with you… that is, if you’re still awake!

Maybe you could add to this with your own thoughts and make it a series of blogs. You know, if 200 runs by one man in a one day international are possible, anything’s possible!

Now if only he would oblige us with a Test 300…  and a hundred hundreds!

Even the BBC makes mistakes…

However nice I’m feeling right now about India’s come-from-behind test win against England today, I’m still not delirious enough to promote the beyond-compare legend Sachin Tendulkar to captain, but it looks like the BBC is, in this article(check out the caption under the image)

Maybe, just because history is on my side as far as this theory is concerned… they have a leaked email or something that justifies Sachin being referred to as “skipper”, you never know!

Kevin Pieterson, my sympathies…  no fault of your’s, ’cause nobody knows when Sehwag comes to the party, not even himself, and moreover, who counts on Sachin actually completing a century nowadays…

Actual skipper MSD, assuming the BBC was wrong(!), remains unbeaten, and now against the top test-playing teams at the moment… Australia, South Africa, England… not bad!

ANIDAC – All night I dreamed about cricket !

I woke up in my hotel room with cricket on my mind. Lingering scenes in my head… Last over of the match, 4 runs to win, 7 wickets down. In the last over of any one-dayer, even if the team batting had been Upper Mongolia and the team fielding, Australia, the above equation would seem to be tilted against the fielding team. But ’tis a strange game… they say, so what destiny h olds, who knows?

Relatively inexperienced bowler, very disciplined… but tense… A tailender at the crease, ill-at-ease but sure of scratching a few runs from the bat or any part of his body that the ball made contact with… Bowler runs in… the ambience at the ground goes from ear-splitting-roar to silent vacuum in the course of his 15 yard run-up… First ball is a dot… vacuum remains; by now it is easily obvious that the team batting has the most support. 5 balls left, still 4 more runs needed to win!

Second ball, two runs scored, complete chaos on the field, once the crowd realizes that the batsmen are safe, the roar returns, louder than ever! After all, who hears of a team losing a match after needing 2 runs off 4 balls with 3 wickets still in hand? Sensing an inevitable victory, all the optimists and a large percentage of the pessimists in the crowd begin their raucous celebrations… and trust me; this part of the world knows how to celebrate! But the celebrations start 3 balls in advance, too soon, a little too soon…

The bowler runs in with a unidentifiable expression on his face, but one look at him, and you know something is about to happen. He bowls the perfect last-over ball, the batsman tries the aggressive bent-bat technique that has proved so risk-free throughout the second innings… and gets bowled! The fielding team’s celebrations are muted, perhaps pondering that defeat has only been postponed, not avoided. The crowd goes relatively quiet again, but not silent; there are two more wickets available, if they score one more run, the scores will be level and defeat, out of question. And well, there are 3 more balls to be bowled. An eternity, it will prove to be… as the next batsman strides in, jaws clenched, without a helmet (!), the non-striker advices him in a 25 second staccato lecture, not even pausing to breathe… the new batsman nods assertively, confident that so close to the ultimate goal, all he has to do is play cool and not try to be a superstar… But for some inexplicable reason, as the bowler comes in to bowl again, the batsman seems to shed his terseness.

As the ball comes in… overpitched, just short of yorker length, swinging in, whereas the shine on the ball is on the other side (that’s why they call it reverse-swing!), the batsman succumbs to a temptation to play inside-out over the off-side infield and swings. In the process, he overcompensates for the reverse-swing and bat follows through to the leg-side, in the process, missing the ball completely and the stump goes flying!!! The non-striker stares holes into the back of the departing batsman. This was NOT what he’d asked him to do… But which batter does not want to clinch a nail-biting ending with a well-struck boundary and become an automatic hero? I would! The fielding team is ecstatic, the crowd, despondent… Now the ambience reminds us of the Colosseum, with impatient Romans shouting, “Kill… Kill…”, tired of the battle and not
wanting any more of it, wanting to cut to the climax…

Now, can this get any more exciting? Let’s reassess the situation: Batting team requires 2 runs off an equal number of balls, Fielding team needs one wicket to prevent the batting team from what looked, a couple of balls ago, like inevitable victory!

The bowler has bowled his best over ever so far, even if he does nothing spectacular to end it, he’s done justice to his thankless job as a death-bowler. But he’s on a hat-trick, and how often have we seen the bowler try so hard to achieve this personal landmark, that he delivers a ball that the batsman can, with some luck, take advantage of, and concedes an easy boundary or at least, a few runs. Fact of the matter is, everybody knows how difficult bowling the perfect yorker is, you pitch it long and it becomes a full-toss, pitch it a little short and it becomes a juicy half-volley. Both possibilities are not acceptable options for the fielding team… but a true warrior is one who, when given the opportunity to achieve ultimate glory disguised as a chance to do great service to his kingdom, to save it from impending doom, to help it gain an improbable victory, will not resist the temptation of taking the risk… the reward is irresistible. But will the bowler, who hasn’t fought as many battles as some of the teammates now egging him on, rise to the occasion?

The run-in on the next ball seems to take forever… the tension is so thick, you’d need to chainsaw through it, I’m sure even the Gods are holding their breath. But the bowler is in his zone… all he can see is three poles that probably look about 10 feet tall an a foot thick to him right now. He’s hit them twice in the last two balls, he wants to hit them again, one last time today…You can see it in his eyes…

He leaps at the crease and delivers another 134kmph reverse-swinging yorker, looks perfect, but the batsman reads it early, moves across and
positions himself perfectly for a front-footed flick into the vacant area between square leg and fine leg… two runs for the taking, he’s probably
thinking… But the ball does something remarkable, it dips and bends inwards, far beyond what one would have seen in any reverse swinging yorker. What initially looked like a ball that would curve in from outside off to travel towards off-stump, now has the batsman trying to pick the ball up from where it’s heading, which is towards leg stump… There is a thump and the ball rolls away from the pad of the batsman, just in front of the middle stump… no contact from the bat, plumb!

It’s over… the finger is up, the batsman is leaving, lbw, head down… wishing he was on another planet, probably wishing he hadn’t been born… the non-striker looks like a baby whose favourite toy has just been eaten by the dog… there is a collective cry of dismay from the crowd, that sounds like rigor-mortis… no significant noise will be heard from them anytime soon…

The distraught batting team in the dressing room, many of whom have sacrificed their fingernails (and probably toe-nails as well!) during the last nail-biting over, one of them now throwing his arms, some gear and choicest swear-words all around him… the losers at home!

The euphoric fielding team, who is now hugging, patting and smothering the bowler… the victorious underdogs!

The bowler… who can’t stop grinning and running… he’s scored a hat-trick, returned a 5 wicket haul and most-importantly, won the match and the series for his team… the warrior, who has achieved something even he might not be able to surpass…

Was this a movie, a dream… I was wondering when I regained sanity after the first few blurry moments after I woke up… No it was reality, a rare reality that I had the good fortune to watch at close to 4 AM last night… sorry, this morning! I gave up a few action thrillers to watch this match, never expecting something like this… but it was worth it, this was by far the closest game of one-day-international cricket I have ever seen… For the record, the actors in this action-packed, edge-of-the-seat, not-for-the-weak-hearted thriller were :

Lead Actor:

Charl Langeveldt (SA) 9.5 overs 0 maidens 62 runs 5 wickets (5nb)

Supporting Roles:

CH Gayle(WI) c Pollock b Nel 132runs 219mins 152balls 7fours 2sixes
HH Dippenaar(SA) c Marshall b Bradshaw 123runs 184mins 129balls 12fours 0sixes

These were the highest ever individual scores on this ground… incidentally, the record broken twice on the same fateful day…

Guest-Appearances by the #9, #10, #11 for WI:

IDR Bradshaw(WI) b Langeveldt 1run 4mins 2balls 0fours 0sixes
DB Powell(WI) b Langeveldt 0runs 2mins 1balls 0fours 0sixes
CD Collymore(WI) lbw b Langeveldt 0runs 1mins 1balls 0fours 0sixes

The result: South Africa beat West Indies by one run in 49.5 overs… winning the series 3:0… the 2 matches left are dead rubbers!

You know, I’m not a commited cricket fan, just a passionate one… but I had this uncontrollable urge to write down for posterity what I had witnessed last night… unbelievable… magical, unreal… cricket !

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/209027.html

[Disclaimer: This is one of the posts from my first ever blog, that is now defunct. Though amateur, and in some cases silly, I did want to retain an archive of everything I have ever written in the blogosphere. Thank you for your patience]