Perhaps the contrasting performances of the two captains playing at number three best described the proceedings in the Twenty20 played between India and Sri Lanka on Thursday.
Sangakkara, suave, authoritative and just as articulate with the bat as he is with the English language, blasted 60-odd off 20-odd, while Dhoni left with a failed attempt at (once again) transcribing his ODI game into his Twenty20 one.
India's problems probably started before the match itself.
For one, it's bowling "attack". Nehra, Dinda, Ishant Sharma. Yusuf Pathan.
Ishant Sharma has been dropped from the ODI and Test teams. So why was he in the Twenty20 team? Has he confidence or recent good performances in the shorter versions of the game on his side? Was he successful in the IPL? Hell, was he even part of a successful team in the IPL?
And what was with Zaheer Khan being treated like a giant pista and rested for the Twenty20s?
The less said about the fielding, the better.
The last time India -- the same India that's ostensibly deriding the highest echelons of the game, ruthlessly promoting Twenty20 to the point of blatant exploitation -- won a Twenty20 international convincingly was October 2007.
India falling prey to a lack of seriousness in Twenty20 that used to characterise its opponents in the past?
I don't know, but then again, I don't know how else to explain the selection of the likes of Ishant, Dinda, Yusuf Pathan, Rohit Sharma.
... not to mention crashing through stacks of meaningless rhetoric, tangling up in a bunch of sticky metaphors, eventually to fall into a roiling adjective soup, breathless descriptions cloying on my skin and rolling onto my laptop in great lumps... pretty much the kind of situation I find myself in when Virender Sehwag decides to play yet another of those innings.
It is usually prudent to give oneself sometime to regain lost breath, lest one starts giving into that sticky tangle of hilarious exaggeration (the Neandrathal comparsion's my favourite. Somewhere, Charles Darwin is rolling over in his grave... again). There's something about watching Viru Sehwag (and I don't think it an exaggeration when I say that it was indeed a Divine Intervention that the only full day of Test cricket I managed to catch all year was day 2 of the Mumbai Test) play that provokes intense emotion out of you. He nonchalantly spanks all and sundry on his way to 100, 200, 300... and you think, here's an epiphany. Even with the commentators regurgigating their usual staple of "No footwork, it's all exquisite hand-eye co-ordination" you think, you are obligated to say something about this. Because Sehwag sure ain't. It is brilliant, it is brutal, it's a million Thesauri meshed together into a savage beast of Biblical proportions as you search for -- and fail at finding -- words to fit in everything you wanted to say about Sehwag's innings. You are only more intent on celebrating this "simple, yet brilliant" mind when he comes out later with things like "I see ball, I hit ball."
He still says that, now with a smug matter-of-factness, probably amused at how people are fascinated by that statement of his. He probably still means it, but I'd like to believe that a lot of care, a lot of careful thought and construction go into each of his big innings. But even the cynic in me is defeated when he goes, "I was hitting only the bad balls, but in the dressing room they were telling me I was hitting some good balls too", or something to that effect.
In short, Virender Sehwag = all that's awesome about the Indian team right now. When he fires, he really fires; when he fails, it's not in half-measures, either.
And what can I say about Murali Vijay, other than he was really unfortunate to miss out on a well-deserved maiden ton? He looked delightfully assured and competent at the crease, and not for a moment was Gambhir missed. I loved how he kept the tempo up in the beginning as Viru settled at the other end. He is just so much awesome right now I can't even.
And Dhoni got his second century of the series. Wow. When it rains, it pours, huh?
And what a difference the return of Zaheer Khan has made to the team. Even though he didn't really start pulling his weight until toward the end of the series, just his presence, I believe, could rejuvenate our suddenly-floundering pace attack. It might be the most important plus point EVAH.
The Sri Lankans stuck around, and, uh, that's about it, really. There've been renewed murmurings about the presence/absence of the Umpire Decision Review System (or what the hell ever it's called), with Sanga going as far as to say that a couple of bad decisions cost them as much as 500 runs and possibly a victory or two.
Maybe, but the argument is moot when strong protestations against the newfangled thing are sounding with the backing of rock-hard evidence from the Aus v Windies series going on right now.
Either way, it's like stirring an old pile of stale shit, so.
It kind of reminds me of my travails with Hindi in high school. I used to hate the language, and I believe the feeling was mutual. I scraped through the subject, until I came to my tenth Boards - the last time I'd be writing an exam for that subject. I was a jingling pile of nerves the day of the exam, and, despite being the most pathetic Hindi conversationist even this side of the Vindhyas, and getting my tenses mixed up practically every other paragraph, I passed with the highest distinction in the exam. "Pratham Shreni" says the certificate, still, and my mind still boggles at the sight. And how did I do so well? Pure dumb luck in that a lot of the questions I'd memorised the answers to made their appearance in the question paper, the fact that I was taking a less advanced Hindi course, and a little bit of innate ingenuity on my part at the time of writing the paper. I was surprised, more than a little pleased at seeing the high ranking, but I also knew exactly how much work I needed to actually put into my Hindi. Certainly I could blame the system for assigning qualifications to people who don't exactly deserve them, for the way the language is taught in schools with more emphasis on memorisation and rote than on conversation and free reading, but that's the way things are. Hindi and I have a much better relationship now - I hope - and perhaps one day I'll be deserving of the distinction I was awarded all those years back.
So, at the end of it all, what am I trying to say, you ask?
... and other such onomatopoeic expressions of 'where the hell did all that time go."
'Cause, really? I could've sworn that the Ill-Fated ODI series against Australia finished just now, and already we're in the final Test of a series against Sri Lanka, Dhoni scored his first Test century since the Stone Age (and it is a little scary when I mean that literally), everybody else is helping themselves to centuries apiece,Sreesanth, frickin' Sreesanth, back in the team and producing match-winning performances (not that, of course, I have anything against him or nothin'), India won its 100th ever Test win, and really, what?
Whatever happened to the deliciously slow build-up to Test matches, all that speculation, all that gathering of momentum. Conidering how much resources and how many brain cells are expended on each Test, you'd want to make each of them actually count, yeah?
Honestly? I can't blame Gambhir putting attending his sister's marriage before playing the third Test. After all, your sister gets married only once (hopefully).
Also, it means Murali Vijay gets to open, which, yay! I'd just spent a lot of time arguing with a friend a couple of days ago about how it was certain that Wasim Jaffer would make it ahead of Vijay -- experience, home ground, whatever -- but I'm super-happy he's gotten another chance at wearing the Test cap for India. Hopefully this time he'll get more than a couple of gritty forties and a Run-Out of Awesome.
Also? R Ashwin and Ashoke Dinda in the Twenty20 and ODI squads, leaving out Ishant Sharma. I heartily approve.
I was going to give some -- ostensibly -- deep insight about the first day of play at Mumbai, but then I came across this:
My first reaction was, "Holy hell, that's unhygienic!"
And then it all sunk in and a small part of me died inside.
A medical student who, according to everybody who knows better than her, should NOT be obsessing with cricket and randomly fangirling its players, but hey. It's a free world, right? Loyal Chennai-ite and hardcore MSD fangirl to boot.
Oh, and watch out for my Mad Random Capitalisation Skillz.
In case you're a) feeling bored b)feeling really young or c) both, do feel free to check out my attempts at fiction based on stuff I obsess over other than cricket: