Thursday, January 6, 2011

So this is how it goes.

So the Test series is over. The third Test ended in a draw, and the series is drawn at 1-1.

I... don't know what to feel about this, really. For most of today, I was practically fuming. 340 in a day - the fifth day, no less - was difficult but surely gettable - but hey, what do I know. I'm worse than an armchair critic - I've almost never played the game, right? They have their reasons, whatever they are. I'm sure there'll be a lot of talk about the pitch, the bowling, the batting approach, all that pseudo-intellectual analytical bilge that will eventually drown out a simple truth: neither team really tried winning this thing on the last day.

I think my main heartbreak of today was the moment I rushed home from college, eager to check India's progress. Gambhir and Dravid were fermenting at the crease, which probably meant that Sehwag had left early. I checked what he'd scored: 11 off 40 balls.

Eleven. Off forty balls.

The disappointment was a physical thing; a lump in my throat. These guys had come out to play for a draw, and nothing else. The disappointment grew into frustration with every maiden played, every ball that was padded away or left or idly observed like the delivery was some remote scientific phenomenon. I raged and I cursed, and finally burned myself out. I'm just... disappointed. This was a fabulous series - I haven't had this much fun watching Test cricket since our Australian tour of '07-'08 - and this wasn't the ending it deserved. Not at all.

Sometimes, it's easy to fall into the notion that this Indian team is progressive, aggressive, super-modern. We haven't lost a series in a long time, we've staged some of the most memorable comebacks in recent history, we've got an awe-inspiring line-up with seniors who can apparently do no wrong. But this tendency to fall back when things get tight? That's not keeping with our super-aggressive image, but it's the truth. This team only bites back when it's been kicked to the ground, spit upon, and told that it's crap. Venom spews from otherwise sedate eyes; there's a manic intensity where there was once complacent indifference. But when we are going good, when we are at an advantage and there remains only those final few steps to cement our supremacy? We falter. We think, ah well. Y'know, we gotta be safe and ensure that we at least secure a draw. We think, a series draw is good. We're happy with it. NO.

This is the first time we haven't lost a Test series in SA, right? But we haven't won any either, and that's the whole frickin point. After a position of strength - they're 130/6, on the fourth day, one batsman injured and the other - not even a specialist - out of form, and we've got some bowling mojo going for us, what do we do? Fall back, and let them get away with it. I remember the same happening against NZ when we toured them, almost two years ago now. The third test was supposed to be ours. It had 'India' written all over it. Sure, there was supposed to be rain on the fifth day, but NZ were already 8 wickets down with half a session to go on the fourth day, so no problem, right? Except we fooled around, bowled rubbish, dropped catches, and allowed them to survive. No play was possible on the fifth day and the match ended in a draw. We won the series 1-0 anyway and there was much hot air about our first series win down there in decades, but what's the point, because we could've so easily won it 2-0?

We talk about a unified, super-modern team, but with this team? Same song, different verse.

Dhoni. Just to paraphrase your delightful little statement on crowds at Test matches: "we are the performers in the circus, but you need the circus to be full." We are not fools to sit in a circus where all that the performers do is juggle a single ball because it's too risky otherwise. This is exactly the kind of pointless bullshit that drives people away from Tests. It's not so much the low scoring rate as it is the lack of intent from India, and to a lesser extent, from South Africa. It's made me ask existential-esque questions.

Why am I here? Why am I watching this? What's the point? Do I really care that Sachin is the first person to score a run at the precise moment the sun's rays are at an angle of 34.98 degrees with far end of Table Mountain, thus creating a new record in the process? You can stuff those runs and inflated averages somewhere else, because they are worth jack-squat.

I don't care about history. I love this team, and I not only want it to win, but have come to expect it to win, or at least try.

Unfortunately, the team itself doesn't seem to think the same way.

1 comment:

A said...

the second half...brilliantly said n put!!! n absolutely true!!!