Catching a cold

2007 Sep 04 by Suresh Menon

The only thing the Indians are catching is a cold in the head.

Followers of orthodox religions believe that birth control is a sin, and they will not touch leather - much like the Indian cricketers in England who drop catches, dive over the ball, give up the chase prematurely, and as Zaheer Khan showed in Leeds, think nothing of conceding a single by kicking the ball away. The only thing the Indians are catching is a cold in the head.

And on top of all that, they are forced to watch the movie Chak De India in the hope that it will inspire them! The Top three - Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly - have played nearly one thousand one-day internationals among them, and now they need to watch a Bollywood movie for encouragement? It’s not funny, it’s pathetic.

Of course, the movie’s PR chaps have got it all worked out. Should India win the series - now a possibility after Headingley - then they can take the credit, maybe even push for appointing Shah Rukh Khan as India’s cricket coach. If they lose, they can put it all down to a typographical error: The players thought it was ‘Chuck De India’ and were thus chucking away catches (and matches) with great alacrity. The Indian Cricket League, meanwhile is demonstrating its own version of Cheque De India, paying large sums to attract former internationals from abroad. I can go on about Chalk De India and Choke De India and Chick De India, but we must get serious now.

Watching Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and Ajit Agarkar display their allergy to leather, it was difficult not to hark back to the Indian tradition of poor fielding. My favourite story is of the late Dilip Sardesai chasing a ball during a math in Adelaide and turning around to see the batsmen cross for their fifth run! With remarkable presence of mind, he then kicked the ball over the boundary. Why were India so bad?

Perhaps it was because of the caste system that existed in cricket. The Brahmins of the cricketing world were the batsmen; the bowlers were the kshatriyas, taking the battle to the opponents. The shudras, at the bottom of the scale, were the fielders. Cricket reflected the ancient classification, with a person’s caste changing according to his occupation.

For the second week running we have tried to look for an explanation. Religion, literature, tradition - we have gone beyond mere fitness and athleticism. What does the fielding coach think? After all, Robin Singh is one of the greatest all round fielders to have played for India. Is it the cold weather? The bumpy grounds (remember at least one match was preceded by a rock concert)? The white balls which are so different from the red ones? Technical shortcomings which he alone is privy to? Well, if we are to believe Robin, it is none of the above.

The real culprits, he is quoted as saying, are the media. “It's partly because of the media that the team is fielding badly. You put so much pressure on them,” he said at a press conference. I can just imagine the scene. “Catch it!” cries the cricket writer, and just out of spite, the fielder drops the ball.