The Guru who destroyed our cricket - Sunil Gavaskar Column

2008 Nov 18 by

When Australia were nine wickets down in the second innings at Nagpur, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the skipper of the Indian team, asked Sourav Ganguly to take the reins of the captaincy.

When Australia were nine wickets down in the second innings at Nagpur, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the skipper of the Indian team, asked Sourav Ganguly to take the reins of the captaincy.

Ganguly was playing his last Test match and it was his final day, and by giving him the charge of the team for the final wicket Dhoni was acknowledging the huge role Ganguly had played in taking Indian cricket forward with his captaincy. This gesture as well as the one at the end of the previous Test at Delhi where he carried Anil Kumble on his shoulders along with other players showed Dhoni's respect and regard for the seniors in the team.

The seniors had served Indian cricket with distinction and they needed to be given a warm send off and the skipper did that; and in doing so won even more fans than he already has. In Indian culture, respect for the seniors is ingrained right from a young age, and though it can be taken to an extreme when even teenagers not related to each other are referred to as 'uncle' or 'aunty' it is still something to be admired in an age when being irreverent and having an attitude is the theme of the season. Of course respect does not mean that if the seniors have to be left out of the side it shouldn't be done, but giving them time to do it on their own rather than having them face the ignominy of being omitted after such a long illustrious career and service to the game would be the right thing to do.

The baton has passed to the right hands indeed and in Dhoni India has a captain who will not be cowed down by the reputation of the opposition nor be worried about what his position would be if India does not do well. He did show that he was confident about his own place in the team by opting out of the Test series against Sri Lanka and taking a much needed rest after a real hectic season, and don't forget, as the wicket keeper, he has a lot more of a workload than others. The players who took his place hardly used the chances given and if anything, they have ensured that there is no option but for Dhoni as wicket keeper for the Indian team.

Under Dhoni the team has taken the fight to the opposition but in an acceptable way. They have played an attacking aggressive brand of cricket and have refused to take a backward step even in tough situations. In many respects they have learnt the good aspects of Australian cricket where no game is won or lost till the last ball is bowled and no effort spared while wearing the country's cap. The bowlers have also picked up the Australian way of not making a drama if their teammate misses a catch or misfields and walk back to the bowling mark to bowl the next ball. There is no point in further embarrassing a fielder who is already feeling terrible after missing a catch or misfielding. If anything, any drama makes the fielder feel resentment and might make him ask if bowlers never bowl a bad ball at all.

Hopefully they will never pick the Australian tactic of mental disintegration of the opposition by abuse of the vilest kind though there is some evidence that India too has given back in ample measure in the recent series. 'Sledging' is more effective if it's done with humor and sarcasm for then the player at whom it is directed tends to think about it. Abuse invariably leads to the player getting more determined to show that it doesn't affect him and so it can backfire. There is also the danger of there being a bit of violence since its personal and insulting. That kind of language will invite a physical retort anywhere else so why should it be a surprise if there's a shove on the field. That's pretty much a mild reaction to the abuse the player has received. Unless the umpires are strong and don't look the other way, this will continue since Australian cricket is in denial about its players' language on the field. Sure, it is not tiddlywinks as we are often reminded but was it tiddlywinks when Bradman, Benaud and Simpson were playing? If there was no need felt to use that kind of language then and still win Test matches, why is it felt necessary to do so now?

It would be far more effective to have the kind of sledging that India did where the Aussies were told especially during the Mohali test "guru has destroyed our cricket, now he is doing that to yours" certainly there is no doubt that 'gurus' face in the Australian dressing room was just the incentive the Indians needed to lift their game a notch or two above the usual.

The Australians came with a pretty large supporting staff and here the Australian media is not being counted but they did not feel the need for a 'biomechanist' nor did 'guru' insist on one, as was done with the Indian cricket board. Of course, any designation would have done just to have ones mate around in this 'silly, backward, frustrating' country of ours and the authorities in their awe were only too willing to accommodate and some are still doing it. The Australian board wouldn't, because it knows more about who is a real biomechanist and who is just one in name.

India have begun well with a thumping win in the first One Dayer against England and if they keep it up they will certainly be on the fast track to being the number one team in the world in the other two forms of the game. Don't forget that they are the world champs in the T20 format of the game.