Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The decline of the sub-continent ....

Around this time last year, Indian cricket was at their (arguably) all time high after managing to perfectly ruin Steve Waugh's farewell party at Sydney. What was supposed to be red-hankie waving crescendo of a Australian white wash over India turned out to be a run-fest by an unusually reticent Tendulkar and a usually brilliant Laxman. And with Kumble (of the steely glare and gritted jaw) making sure Australia lived on tenterhooks all through the fifth day, it was by far the biggest wet dream come true for all Indian supporters.

To generalise a bit, India's refusal to bow down to the great Australians led by greater Waugh was to be the beginning of the rise of the Indian sub-continent teams. The Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan teams which were regularly had for breakfast by the Pommies, Kiwis and Aussies at Headingley, Dunedin and Brisbane were supposed to stamp their dominance on the world stage. The sheer batting class of M/s Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Sehwag, Laxman, Youhana, Inzamam which was so much in evidence to their respective supporters suddenly became apparent to the cricket fraternity (including those jingoistic English writers who still think Grame Thorpe has better technique than Brian Lara). Kumble, Pathan, Vaas, Shoaib, Sami, Murali seemed to be almost an embarassment of riches in terms of bowling talent.

Sadly nothing seems to have changed one year later. Aussies beat Sri Lanka 3-0 (in Sri Lanka), India 2-1 (In India) and Pakistan 3-0 (in Australia). India and Pakistan seem to have spent so much of their collective energies in battling each other that they could barely get up for the Aussies.

Actually, the apparent paradox of sub-continent teams having such abundant individual talent and so little collective results can be analysed from any of these angles:
1. The Hayden angle - sub-continent players play for themselves and their records and not for the team.
2. The Boycott angle - sub-continent players lack discipline. They need to be whipped by their moms regularly.
3. The Sunny angle - There is no such problem which revamping of domestic cricket and more Mumbai batsmen in the team cannot solve.
4. The Dalmiya angle - Its all a conspiracy by racist ICC.
5. The Ganguly angle - At least we are the second best team in the world in terms of whining about pitches (England still remain the undisputed numero uno).

Jokes apart, is it something mental? The sub-continent teams just seem to fizzle out at the most critical part of a cricket match after having the upper hand. Blame my opinion on watching the recent Aus-Pak series, where Pakis reigned supreme for about a day and got soundly thrashed for the rest 2.5 days in each of the tests. (My arithmetic is not so bad, no test actually lasted beyond the fourth day).

Whatever it is ... right now the things are not hunky-dory at all for sub continent cricket. India looks capable of beating only Bangladesh and Zimbabwe (well maybe the West Indies) on current form ... Pakistan must be still shell-shocked .... Sri Lankans really don't have the firepower to consistently win test matches outside the sub-continent.

So what ... does that mean Tendulkar will open a vada-pao joint after the failure of "Sachin's"? Will Sehwag make an educational film about his happily married life? Will Zaheer Khan start acting in Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahi? Will Harbhajan live off Priya Reddy's income? Will Kumble open a tutorial class for engineering entrance? .... the mind boggles at the possibilities .... My bet is as long as there is Bangladesh (and if Dalmiya is lucky, Kenya, UAE, USA, Holland and Hongkong), there is always hope. And maybe the new "Harsha Bhogle" does not have to resort to a career at All India Radio, after all.

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