Daily Archives: 17 February 2007

Indian “Water Carriers” in World Cups

India, since becoming a one-day threat in 1983, have almost always selected atleast one player in its World Cup campaigns as a mere spectator. These “Water Carriers” have had relatively inconsequential careers in both forms of the game, barring maybe one or two of these. The squad announced for the forthcoming World Cup (2007) may run the risk of the same tag. However, I personally feel that it is highly unlikely.

Let’s examine some of the strange “Water Carrier” selection decisions in the past.

Sunil Valson 1983 World Cup

Sunil Valson’s is the strangest case of the “Water Carriers”. He has never represented India in any form of the game. In fact, he did not get even one game in the 1983 World Cup and did not play any game for India either before or after that campaign! Yet, he is fortunate to share the glory of India’s only World Cup win so far! Valson had represented Delhi and Railways in the Ranji Trophy and almost played for Tamil Nadu if I am not mistaken.

RMH Binny. CS Pandit, L. Sivaramakrishnan1987 World Cup

Roger Binny got one game in this World Cup while Chandrakant Pandit and Laxman Sivaramakrishnan played in two games each. However, as is known to all Indian cricket fans, these three players have represented India with some distinction. The 1987 team was very similar to the one that won the Benson and Hedges Championship in Australia in 1985 and had, one felt, immense potential.

Subroto Banerjee1992 World Cup

Subrato Bannerjee had a forgettable World Cup, following a disappointing tour to Australia. Indeed, the entire 1992 World Cup campaign was a somewhat forgettable one for India — with the exception of the introduction of one Sachin Tendulkar to the World one day scene. Subroto Banerjee, while getting an opportunity to play in 3 of the World Cup games didn’t necessarily ruffle any feathers. Ironically, in the only test that he every played for India he took 3 for 47 and his scalps included Mark Waugh, Mark Taylor and Geoff Marsh. He was one of the first off the blocks from the MRF Pace Foundation. He has represented New South Wales in addition to being a Bengal regular.

Salil Ankola1996 World Cup

Salil Ankola played one game in this edition of the World Cup and took 0-for-28 in 5 overs. He is perhaps an archetypal “Water Carrier”! Ankola made his debut in the famous 1989-90 series against Pakistan which had Krishnamachari Srikkanth as captain (this series also featured Sachin Tendulkar’s debut and Waqar Younis’s first game as well). Ankola was a terrible fielder and his run up would have put put Shoaib Akthar’s to shame! Ankola found solace in acting and film directing — cricket was obviously not attractive enough for him!

Amay Khurasia1999 World Cup

A classic “domestic champion” but not good enough for international cricket, Amay Khurasia did not get a single game in this edition of the World Cup. While he did play a few one-day games for India, he never quite materialized and blossomed as a player of repute. He remained a “domestic bully”! His selection into the 1999 India World Cup team remains a puzzle. Having said that, that entire tournament is a strange one for me. Mohammed Azharuddin was captain with a strong “fixing” squad (with players like himself, Ajay Jadeja, Nikhil Chopra, Nayan Mongia, et al). This campaign also had Sachin Tendulkar return from the unfortunate personal loss of his father midway through the tournament. It also featured that amazing run feast against Sri Lanka. And of all bizzarre things, it had Sadagopan Ramesh in the side as a middle order bat! A forgettable campaign in which the team management admitted to not knowing the Super-Six rules of engagement regarding the carry-over of points from the league stage of the tournament!

Sanjay Bangar2003 World Cup

This was an amazing World Cup for India, but for the finals crucial game. It was only understandable that Sanjay Bangar did not get a game. Neither did Parthiv Patel, with Dravid donning the gloves for the entire tournament. With one fifty to his name in one dayers, Sanjay Bangar had a better record in the national Test side. His 100 against Zimbabwe in Nagpur during which he gave company to Tendulkar — who got a big one as well — is one to remember, especially since he hit some big shots in that game. Bangar and his successor of a similar style, JP Yadav, who seemed to show some promise and faded away like the other Railways players. Yet, he and (perhaps) Parthiv Patel, remained “Water Carriers” of the team.

2007 World Cup

The team for the forthcoming world cup is seemingly different. Each and everyone on the side deserves a place in the final eleven based on the current form and experience. With form and physical fitness also coming into question, there is every chance the entire 15 will get reasonable outings at the tournament. Only time will tell!


On why the Australian Team is disliked in World Cricket…

[I was requested recently to post this article on this blog. I had originally blogged this at my other blog. Warning: This is a lengthy article!]

Australia won the 2006 Champions Trophy in a rather convincing manner. The campaign was a typically intense Australian performance. The Champions Trophy was one cup that did not adorn the Australian cricket trophy cabinet and they set about acquiring it with clinical perfection — as the Australian team normally does. I am an admirer of the Australian approach; their intensity; their practice; their inputs; their efforts; their self-belief; and more. All of these necessary attributes combined in a compelling manner to see Australia claim the Cup after a terrific team performance. Their key players fired at the right times. They had a good balance to their team.

However, their journey was once again marred by the Michael Clarke incident with Chris Gayle. Admittedly Gayle was the one who was fined in that incident, but one could not help noticing that, yet again, the Aussies are not great at receiving the slegdges as they are, giving it. We have seen time and time again, the preciousness of McGrath (with Sarawan, which even the Aussie PM weighed into), Hayden (with Simon Jones and Collingwood) and Ponting (with almost everyone).

The Aussie team’s Champions Cup journey was spectacularly marred by the team behaving in a disrespectully unruly manner as they appeared to bundle the Chief Guest off the stage so that they could have their photos taken. As in other such episodes that have plagued the Australian team, rapproachment was again needed — and quite rapidly at that. Given the amount of money Aussie cricketers make in India, cynics would easily understand the urgency of the apology! But this is an embarassing cycle of rudeness-apology-rudeness-apology that begs a deeper and more sincere look at what drives and motivates such behaviour.

I remember Justin Langer — ex-Australian Test cricketer who recently retired during the 2006-07 Australian summer — once pontificated that he was immensely upset when a young rookie leg-spinner (W. D. Balaji Rao) sledged Steve Waugh in a tour game in India in 2001 (India ‘A’ Vs Australia). I remember Langer saying he could not stomach the fact that the rookie Rao was sledging Steve Waugh, by then a legend of the game. The same pontificator, Langer, would have absolutely no problems standing close in and applauding when (say) Brad Williams, Nathan Bracken or Mitchell Johnson would have some choice words to say to Sachin Tendulkar — and in World cricket, they don’t come bigger in the legend-stages than the great Sachin Tendulkar. Three words come to mind — pot, kettle, black!

Langer once professed, after he had signed the Australian players’ self-motivated “Spirit of Cricket” treaty. A good move indeed. But was it all gloss and spin with no substance? Langer indicated that he would strive to play the game in the spirit in which it should be played. At the time of the historic signing, I did wonder if it was genuine or whether it was all nothing but gloss, sheen and spin to cope with the dreadful image Australian cricket had in the International arena. At the time, Langer said he would accept umpiring decisions in a sporting manner. Yet, he still continued to shake his head annoyingly almost after each LBW decision that was given against him! Such was the vigorousness of his head-shakes that I was afraid his neck would detach itself from his body one day — in protest, if not out of repetitive stress weakness!

Indeed, barely a week after Langer had made his pledge, we saw a curious set of incidents in the Brisbane Test. Langer, had received a huge repreive when on almost nothing. Subsequently, after having scored more than a hundred, he was given out LBW. He shook his head all the way in a slow walk to the pavillion that would have made both an Indian Manipuri slow-dance dancer as well as Phil Simmons (that master of the slow-walk-back) think about re-training their trades! The ball that got Langer would have hit middle and leg! Even if we ignore the huge repreive Langer had received when he had scored not much, the head-shake-slow-walk made a total nonsense of Langer’s “spirit of cricket” proclamations!

Meanwhile, when the Indians were batting, Sachin Tendulkar received yet another shocker from Steve Bucknor. Jason Gillespie had bowled a decent ball on off-stump. It was climbing on a dry and bouncy Gabba wicket when Tendulkar left the ball alone. The ball climbed and thudded into the top of his thigh pad! Gillespie suppressed an appeal. Bucknor thought about it and nodded slowly. Tendulkar looked up, saw Bucknor’s finger go up, opened his mouth for just a moment in an expression of surprise, swivelled quickly in the direction of the pavillion and just walked off. He walked fast and straight to the pavillion, head bowed.. and straight. That was the walk of a champion.

The difference was palpable. The difference was that Sachin Tendulkar had not indulged in any pre-match talking (read: spin) about sportsmanship. He didn’t need to. He was (and remains) a true sportsman. His actions mean that words are (were) not required. He did the walking. Langer had done the talking. Langer had done the pre-match chest-beat and was looking like a pillock… again!

But I digress!

I do admire the Australian cricket team for their ability to play good, strong, hard, committed cricket. They are the best cricket team in the world today. Of that there is no doubt in my mind. I have played club cricket in Australia to know that they receive solid grounding at the grass-roots level. They are polished and grounded in every aspect of the game right from a young age — the committment to training, the seriousness with which they take their sport, the winning habit, as well as the sledging!

Lest you think otherwise, let me state that I am not a puritan. I believe that if players want to sledge, they should. However, they should also learn that if they give it, they should be prepared to take it too. It has been reported that Parthiv Patel whispered to Steve Waugh, “Go on mate. Give us one last slog-sweep.” in that famous last Test in Sydney that Australia hung on to dear life to save. Steve Waugh is reported to have said, “Give us some respect young lad. You were in your nappies when I started playing cricket”!

Duh! So, there are rules for “appropriate and proper sledging”?

Mind you, I do have a lot of respect for Steve Waugh. He did not suffer fools. He played hard and overcame all sorts of obstacles to become a true legend of the game. But could he really take it as well as he dished out his “mental disintegration”? He was tested by Saurav Ganguly and in my view, he “disintegrated” himself. Saurav Ganguly’s toss-tactics and return-sledges during the famous Laxman-281 series made Steve Waugh boil. Perhaps the great Waugh had been beaten at his own game?

The recurring theme of this piece is whether the Australians can take it as good as they dish it out? I am yet to be convinced of that.

Another strong thread is around “ground rules” for sledging. The Australians seem to think that there is a “line in the sand”.

My view is that those who throw stones in the gutter should expect a splash or two to soil their own clothes. There are no anti-splash rules once you throw that stone in.

McGrath just can not claim “but there’s a line in the sand and comments about my wife are not on”. He himself is reported to have sledged Sarawan with the choice words — “So what does Lara’s **** taste like?” When the answer was, “I don’t know mate, you should ask your wife that.”, he exploded as only McGrath can. There was talk about lines in the sand. Where? Why?

I don’t get it. Where does McGrath get his halo from?

The Australians are a good cricket team. Of that I have no doubt. They are hard-nosed and bloody-nosed. I umpired for 4-5 seasons principally to learn more about the Aussies and the way they tick. They play hard and work hard. But they are also willing to (and they do) play the “mental disintegration” card at all levels. They are taught to play hard and train hard. And they are good at it. They are taught to sledge and they are terrific at it.

So it is not surprising that Warne, Martyn, Watson, Hayden, McGrath, Healy, Chappell, Border, Ponting, et al turn out the way they do!

I do admire them as people of immense calibre. I just do not admire them as sportsmen.

To be “a sport” is to be fair, even-handed, respectful and level-headed in things that you do in the sporting field — and these days, out of it too. Impact comes not merely from the number of cups that one has in ones trophy cabinet. History differentiates great sporting teams from good ones on the basis of how the team played and not merely on how many cups the team won. Long lasting success comes only if the ‘means’ and the ‘ends’ are balanced. The end rarely justifies the means.

A true champion (and almost everyones’ sporting hero), will be a Roger Federer or a Tiger Woods or a Sachin Tendulkar. They enjoy their sport. They play fair. They play hard. They play strong. They dig deep when their backs are to the wall. They query bad calls. But they get on with it. They have fun. They leave an impression. They are modest. They are level-headed. They are geniuses. They are also as good on the field as they are out of it. They are icons. They are role-models.

We like them not just because they win. That is a fact. They just do! We like them because of the way they win.

I will applaud when Federer or Tiger Woods or Tendulkar win (for they are true champions). I will also empathise with them when they lose.

However, I will continue to rejoice (along with the whole world, perhaps?) when Australia loses. The difference is that they are champions of the game (temporary). They are not champions of the sport (permanent).

So it does depend on ones outlook. Do we want temporary success or permanent glory?

May be it is time for the Aussies to ponder why almost the whole cricketing world dislikes them. If they believe the world hates them because they keep winning, they need to look at Federer and Tiger Woods (habitual winners who are loved) of the world and learn a bit.

— Mohan