Sunday, April 01, 2007

The cricket debacle

I didn't want to write about this. Really, believe me, I'm totally tired of watching, listening to and reading the same analysis over and over again. Come on, it is not like we had a national disaster! OK, the team lost. Get over it. And it is not even the Indian cricket team! Would you be as disappointed if a Wipro coding team lost in an international software competition? [Substitute an appropriate company if you work for Wipro ;)]

Anyways, in the discussions and articles that analyzed reasons for India's defeat, I didn't see two reasons I think are central to the debate: the lack of a sporting culture in India and the lack of respect for hard-nosed, nose-grinding-on-the-mill-stone work.

I think the first is more basic. As a country and as a culture, we lack sporting instinct, and love for sport. Blame it on the hot weather, blame it on excessive academics, or on over-indulgent parents, but the truth is that we don't really care about sport. We have weird notions of national pride and state pride, which we want to see satiated everywhere, but we don't love the game for what it is. We don't understand the discipline it takes to succeed at sports. We don't go to our children's school games with a video camera, we don't cheer for a school/ college/ city/ state team when it is playing, we don't broadcast school games live on local TV. We don't fight for schools to have good grounds, we don't ask for good coaching at the school/college level, but we all want the national team to dive like Michael Phelps at the start gun. Remember though, when I say we, I don't mean just us - I'm including the establishment, the government, everyone. Let's face it - as long as we don't care about sport, barring the occasional world cup win or test series victory, we'll only draw blanks. As the saying goes, if we have one finger pointing at Dravid and co., we'll have four pointing at the rest of us.

Next, I must highlight the lack of respect for hard-nosed work. As the saying goes, "Success is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration". Bhimsen Joshi apparently stood in waist-deep water, practising his singing for over four hours everyday to become one of the doyens of music. Sachin is said to have stood in front of the mirror for hours - not checking his hairstyle as some would accuse him of doing - but perfecting his swing. In Microsoft's TechVista, Prof. C.N.R. Rao had a lot to say about hard work and deferred gratification. But these are not the stories we tell our youngsters. These are not the heroes we celebrate. We love the Dhoni six, as technically flawed as it may be, we love Sehwag's flaying shots outside the off-stump, and have the standard excuse when they get out to rash shots: "Arre yaar, voh dil se khelta hai", as though that is the Ganga jal that purifies all sin. As ever, form over function. (Note: Even as you read this, please please remember that I am NOT saying that Sehwag or Dhoni didn't work hard. I'm only saying that as a public we don't care about the work ethic that goes into anyone's success. )

I've seen parents who came to a cricket camp I attended as a child, shouting at the coach, asking him to give more turns to their son to bat/bowl. I still recall the howls of protest that went up as the coach asked us to run around the field, to stretch, and to run up and down the pitch. All we wanted to do then was swing the bat, and throw the ball. Everything else was secondary. And there was a not-so-implicit hierarchy: batsmen belonged to the Brahmin class, bowlers were the Kshatriyas, the wicket-keeper was the shudra, and the fielders were the untouchables. Imagine the sort of cricketing ethic we would have learnt here. And no, I'm not blaming the coach - it was the parents, the friends, and the onlookers, who were always more happy when the player hit three or four sixes, as opposed to taking a crucial, match-winning catch.

Appreciation for hard work, appreciation for the people doing the grunt work that keeps the machinery running, appreciation for people who put the team before self - these are not attributes we teach our youngsters. Until these change, we may see occasional successes, never repeatable ones.

[Postscript: I know this may upset some of you - if you are going to flame me, please keep in mind that I'm not claiming that these are the only reasons or even the most important reasons for India's defeat. I'm only saying these are reasons that I did not see mentioned.]


Biby Cletus said...

Nice post, its a really cool blog that you have here, keep up the good work, will be back.

Warm Regards

Biby Cletus - Blog

Stier said...

Nicely put. Yes, even though we claim that cricket is our religion, i feel all the people need is some huge sixes being hit in the game. Reminds me of a comment i heard the other day. "Why did they make Dravid the captain?? He doesn't bat well at all. They should have made Dhoni the captain" Well out of curiosity i did manage to ask the person what he meant by Dravid doesn't bat well. The answer I got - " He doesn't hit as many sixes as Dhoni"

Agreed that the person was sort of cricket illiterate, but i have seen a lot many people cribbing that Dravid doesn't hit as many sixes. A 195 in a test match by Sehwag will be remembered, even though we lost the game, but a gruelling 70 by Dravid ,when we were losing wickets at the other end, to win the game is usually not appreciated.

Regarding the other point, forget fighting for the schools to have a ground, the existing play grounds are being converted into jogging parks. The kids can't play in the ground, coz for the lack of it, and they can't play on the roads, coz the neighbours will start shouting. And then they complain that the kids spend too much time on comp and video games. ( Oh btw, this my favourite topic for a debate. I usually have a debate on this with my mother, whenever i am bored :) )

Stier said...

And looks like i can either write pretty long posts or not write at all :)

kattricker said...

gops, I couldnt have said it better buddy! the domestic cricket is in shambles, there is no concept of an organized pyramid of encouraging leagues and college cricket to flow talent into the national team. maybe in paper there is - but the fact is only the national team has identity. the US soccer team is a good example of the opposite scenario. the problem was not establishing a domestic league structure (MLS) but getting the soccer fever in the players and fans. MLS is trying to recruit european/latin players into the clubs to improve the fans experience of the game... check out their website: MLSnet. and with all that the last world cup understated the importance of a sport-religion, a cult, a fan following which is all there in indian cricket by default. its another thing to beat europeans and latins who have been living and breathing soccer for a million years now using players who thot football was all about catching and running to touchdown! (not that i dont like NFL!)

Gops said...

Thanks guys, and needless to say me agrees with you!

I did check is pretty neat, how it sounds. Let's see - Zee is doing something similar, starting a cricket league that'll include foreign players - hopefully that'll do something to the dumbos in BCCI.