Saturday, 3 January 2015

The New India


It all started with Saurav Ganguly, the in-your face captain, who brought aggression to the team in play and body language and ready to give back whenever they are sledged. This was carried forward under Kumble’s captaincy. After which Dhoni took over. Indians do give back, usually subtly, without being too abusive. Indians are not naturally aggressive.


As a youngster in the mid-seventies, I would go to a small but popular Mangalorean restaurant Lalit in Fort area in Mumbai during lunch-break. The food was good and the price reasonable for the many office-goers. And it was frequented by many famous cricketers employed in Tata Electric and other companies fielding good teams in local competitions. Many of whom played for the Mumbai Ranji team and some of them played for the Indian Test team.

The waiters were friendly with these players who visited there almost daily for lunch. And the India-Australia Test series was on and India was mauled by the Australian fast bowlers Mackenzi and Conally, with aggression and fast bowling, and also had top batsmen like Bill Lawry, Ian Redpath, Bob Cowper and others. When the restaurant waiters jokingly asked them why the top Indian and Mumbai players could not negotiate their bowling and timidly got out at low scores? The players responded – They are big and huge guys running in from 25-30 yards and pounding the red ball at you. Seeing them coming in, half our guts and confidence would go for a toss. Their bouncers literally passed the cherry by our nose and we smelt the leather. This led to the downfall. This was the mindset then. It tells you a lot of the Indian psyche.

‘Some of the past Indian cricket teams would‘ve crumbled with some of the stuff that’s been said. But Virat Kohli is one of those modern-day players who’s a little bull-terrier in his own right,’ Vivian Richards, the former West Indian great said. Don’t mess with me, Virat Kohli told Australia.  Michelle Johnson with whom Kohli had a few exchanges in the on-going series, is also impressed by him. These are the new generation of Indian players who are ready to give back what they get instantly.

It all started with Saurav Ganguly, the in-your-face captain, who brought aggression to the team in play and body language and ready to give back whenever they are sledged. This was carried forward under Kumble’s captaincy. After which Dhoni took over. Indians do give back, usually subtly, without being too abusive. Indians are not naturally aggressive.

Some people and a few ex-cricketers are talking about toning down the aggression. These people have got to understand that this game has changed quite a bit. Regardless of how good you are, you’re going to have guys coming at you. You’re going to have stuff being said. And you can’t be a timid spectator and take it lying down. Some thrive with a little aggression and a little banter is good for the game. Kohli doesn’t wait when it comes to trading words. It’s almost like an instinctive reaction. ‘Prick me and you get it back there and then.’

Another amusing statement I often read from experts and former players is, Indian fast bowlers should sacrifice pace for accuracy. These people should realize, being pace bowlers, speed is their main weapon to intimidate and put the opposition batsmen on the back foot with sheer pace and aggression. A pace bowler has to be aggressive with his pace and action or else he will end up being a medium pace bowler who can be hit around if he has no help from the pitch or seam movement, like it has happened to a few of them.

People should realize these days aggression has become a part of the game. Thankfully, cricket is not a contact sport. So let them be and play their natural game. With the new generation of players, playing competitive cricket often in different formats; and with the advent of IPL, playing with the top cricketers from different countries, they have become bold and fearless and no longer hold them in awe as it happened earlier. For them, there is nothing like superior or inferior, they feel they are as good as them. And many of them are waiting to break-in into the national team.

When the Australians sledge, it is said, they are playing mind games to disrupt the concentration or the confidence of the players, but when the Indians respond in kind, it is reported that they are getting aggressive on the field and over-doing it. The players are playing for their country’s pride. Let them play freely and give it back to the opponent, only to stop them if they cross the line or get personal. One should realize cricket is no longer a gentleman’s game. Now, mind games, sledging, new variety in spin and pace bowling come into play to subdue and win. Earlier Indian players; as Indians are not aggressive by nature were timid and coyly faced constant sledging during their tours to England, Australia and West Indies and other countries. Some of them faced language problem too, so could not retort back. But the present lot, have no such problem, no longer tolerate it and give back in kind.

There is a connection between sports and economic prosperity. Countries like China, as it grew to become an economic power, its sports performance too improved vastly and it can also be seen in the international sports and in Asiad and Olympic games. Similarly with the boost of the Indian economy to third spot in the world, Indian sports performance is improving and sports persons are asserting themselves. They are getting aggressive to perform better and this reflects in cricket too.

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Picture Post:

Cathedral Thiruvalla in Kerala, India
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