Monday, January 10, 2011

A combination to savour

Capetown, Jan 2011..All indications point to the end of an era..The Dhoni-Kirsten combo might have played its last game for India in whites..The million dollars that come with the job and the world travel might not be as enticing as taking care of his young family for the affable family man that is Gary Kirsten...For any cricket fanatic, there would be nothing better than Tendulkar-Dravid-Laxman walking into the sunset under MSD-Kirsten in the next year or two...

After the fractious days under Greg Chappell, when the dressing room was literally a war zone, Gary has brought a lot of calmness, common sense and insight to the team now christened "Team India". All this, without being overtly pretentious and condescending..He hasn't talked to the players through the media and that is a lesson in man management that one cannot possibly better. These days, when India loses test matches, sh*t never hits the ceiling..The emphasis is less on blame game and more on how to pull up one's socks..The MSD-Kirsten combo must be credited for this wonderful work ethic..The legendary Anil Kumble under whose helm Kirsten took over as coach, deserves a word of praise too here..

In my growing up years,losing test matches abroad was the norm..Having been statistically inclined, one day to much chagrin I discovered in 2001 (before defeating Zimbabwe at Bulawayo) that India had last won a test match outside the Asian subcontinent in 1986.That to me was not a problem, it was an emergency..
Wright-Ganguly arrested the slide and worked hard to eliminate the "lambs abroad" philosophy..Refreshingly, Kirsten and MSD have taken it a rung higher. Under them winning series has been the objective and not merely winning test matches abroad.

The no.1 ICC test ranking attained in December 2009 was the fillip the team needed. They seem determined to want to hold on to the mantle for dear life. All this has provided for fascinating viewing and has whetted the appetite/creative juices of Indian cricket lovers.

Dada, for all the opinion he polarized, will unanimously be remembered as a successful skipper. He was the pioneer in abolishing nepotism in team selection..That has thankfully continued in the current team setup..Kirsten, with his no-nonsense, no baggage attitude has won hearts..You can see that the players simply adore him and can do anything for Gary.
Sometimes, not having to know the names of different states in the country can be a boon..Indianness is much beyond belonging to Mumbai,Bangalore or Delhi.

This is where Mahendra Singh Dhoni comes in..The "look-at-my-locks" Maahi that burst on the scene in 2004 seems like the current MSD's show-pony twin..He trimmed his tresses when he assumed captaincy full time in 2008, but as time progressed shockingly the demeanor has become saintly..The celebrations are restrained, the achievements are understated and victories are not coronated. The emphasis is on the next game, as it should always be.
MSD has handled sensitive issues like Yuvraj Singh wanting to become captain beautifully...It could easily have divided the team into 2. When asked how there is no team friction, despite him having 6-7 guys who debuted before him, he simply said "I don't behave with them as if I am their captain"...Such a simple thought it seems, but not many would have implemented it as impeccably as he has..You obviously handle modesty and cockiness in different ways, as seen in his superb rapports with Tendulkar and Yuvraj..

The one problem I have seen with us Indians is we don't appreciate the beauty of what we are living in and have a remarkably short memory span..RD Burman's genius was recognized by many after his death..Instead of cribbing about failure to convert 130-6 into a series win at Capetown or that we did not beat NZL hollow at home, let us be effusive when we need to..How many of us, hand-on-heart, would have given India a chance in hell to walk out 1-1, after the shellacking in Centurion??

Things will not be the same when the 3 backbones of this team walk into the sunset..These 3 are not ordinary men..They are referred to as "God", "The Wall" and "911" (emergency number that bails you out of trouble, i.e. VVS)

We should be proud to be inhabitants of what one day will be heralded as the golden generation of Indian cricket.

And somewhere along the line, the self effacing man from Cape Province and the hunk-turned-saint from Jharkand will be having a quiet, fizzy yet non-fussy beer..