Thursday, April 05, 2007

When did it stop being about fun?

I think I've taken my time to get over India's performance at the world cup. (A self-imposed moratorium of two weeks) Yes, it was tough, almost unbelievable to some extent but if you were to just for a second step back and think, it was just a game of cricket. I know its easier to say these things than to actually feel that way, but somehow I think its time to stop taking the game this seriously. Not just us fans, but even the players, the coaches and the board. Not that I mean we shouldnt still be passionate about it, just that a defeat shouldnt really mean a lot. ( neither should a victory) Its about trying to enjoy the game for what it is, about those incredible moments of luck where skill meets resolve and creates heroes or villains for the rest of us.

What made me get out of my denial shell had something to do with our cricketing past. To me full-fledged cricket started with the Tendulkar era,where a mediocre team with brilliant individuals somehow pulled us out of defeat and at other times made us look ordinary. So I took the time to go back to some videos from the 92 world cup ( yes the Ind-Pak game featured in that pile) That team hardly looked like it was going to win the Worldcup, but it was being held in far away Australia, in a different time when the Indian team faced almost empty grounds and all the players looked like they could only do so much. Sachin was still the unheralded genius, Kapil Dev was fading into the sunset. It looked so surreal to see all of them play with some uncorrupted passion somewhere, so the defeats didnt look that painful because we all consoled ourselves by saying they did their best. And yes we all were also young, not yet in the race towards winning the world, and where having Pepsi was a luxory, and corporate mergers were still 'not Indian'. It was about enjoying life, the game and appreciating the team.

I remember being gutted when India lost by one run to Australia in 92, but somehow the reason noone was villified was because even the Ozzies looked mortal. But then we stayed exactly in the same place while the rest of the world took off. Yes, we had our times when we looked menacing, especially in 96 on home turf, but even then we never found the right balance between youth and experience. I was at the Wankhede stadium when we faced Australia and we lost the game by some 20 runs. Our team looked and felt old.

But then we all got out of the stadium, caught our trains and went home. It was a usual Bombay evening. I dont remember anyone burning effigies.It was just a game.

I think part of the reason for our inability to comprehend the loss now is because somehow we started believing that we were better than ourselves.That somehow India had become this great economic power which must also have trickled down to our cricketing genius. I am sure all of us must have received emails about how much player A earns or how much player B pays in his taxes. Since when did economics and Indian sports ever make sense.The reason I say Indian sports is because, all over the world it does. In India however we inflate our abilities to take on the world, when in reality we will only get here in small confident steps. And in cricket especially, it somehow goes unnoticed that more than half the world doesnt even play the sport. We have to at least be good among the 10 countries that do.

But forget for a moment that we care how much anyone makes and that performance has anything to do with economics. Forget that our opinions count for anything. What we are left with are a bunch of players who still look as mortal as any Indian team in history, who have all played the same way as we have expected them to in the past. Its just the fact that the rest of the world has started playing better which hurts our egos.

And when you mix ego with defeat you get burning effigies.

I wonder whether we would ever go back to that era when cricket was just a game, because it looks highly doubtful in the current atmosphere. How much sense Sharad Powar might add to the proceedings is equally unclear ( he would somehow be rueing the fact that he's in that chair).

And with everyone publicly blowing their heads off, I wonder how the kids in India are taking this. When your heroes get dragged through all this chaos, how is that any different from real life? Dont you have heroes to escape reality?

Maybe the answer to that is no kid in India actually considers them to be heroes anymore.

They were and are OUR heroes.

And maybe its time we accepted the fact that they were real.

So lets just have some fun. Pepsi anyone?


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