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Excuses, excuses!
by Suresh Menon
Nov 26, 2007
If victory is the aim, can excuses for not winning be far behind? In over a quarter century of following sports professionally, I’ve seen some of the finest sporting events of our time as well as heard some of the finest excuses from those who didn’t quite make it.

When England were thrashed 3-0 in a cricket Test series in India back in 1992-93, a newspaper said that chairman of selectors Ted Dexter proved that “there is no one quite like the British sportsman for facing disaster by taking refuge in the most monstrous irrelevance.” As England were losing in Kolkata, Dexter said he was commissioning a report into the relative pollution levels in Indian cities. For that was why England lost - pollution in Kolkata.

“The players talk about pollution and how it has affected health and performance,” said Dexter, pointedly holding a hanky to his nose. “They said it is not much fun when you can taste the fog.”

Pollution was followed by prawns. In the next Test, the England players stuffed themselves as if suspecting prawns might be going out of fashion. Skipper Graham Gooch had to pull out of the match while Mike Gatting didn’t sound too good either. By the third Test about the only thing the Englishmen hadn’t blamed was Gooch’s stubble. Someone must have pointed this out, for soon that became part of the litany of excuses too - and smooth cheeks were written into players’ contracts.

With greater media focus on competitions, however, bizarre excuses have been replaced by the politically correct non-statement. You will certainly not hear a tennis player say as a Zambian player did with great maturity and precision after a defeat in a match in the 90s: “ He (his opponent) is a stupid man and a hopeless player. He has a huge nose and is cross-eyed. Girls hate him. He beat me because my jockstrap was too tight and because when he serves he farts, and that made me lose my concentration, for which I am famous throughout Zambia.”

Yet, irrelevance does occasionally break through. India’s world billiards champion Michael Ferreira once told an adoring media after a loss that it happened because his son, a tennis player, was not picked in the Davis Cup team. Sri Lanka blamed their defeat in the 2001 Champions Trophy on their tight clothes, with Sanath Jayasuriya clarifying thus: “We had to add extensions to the trousers and the shirts looked more like tight-fitting women's blouses.” One presumes it was the blouses which were tight-fitting, not the women.

Just when we thought that political correctness might have ruined colourful excuses forever, Pakistan cricket captain Shoaib Malik comes to the rescue. Pakistan lost the Delhi Test, he says, because the lack of sunshine did them in. For a captain who has lost the one-day series and now the opening Test, Shoaib has shown a remarkable, almost lovable tendency to spread the blame away from himself and his team, and a charming resistance to giving his rivals credit for playing better.

If only Pakistan had scored more runs, taken more wickets and held all their catches while saving all the boundaries, who knows, the Delhi Test might have ended differently.

More Views by Suresh Menon
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