Friday, December 23, 2005

Have fun with the cric-tattoos in your head

Some rare days when you have no work, play or resources at hand you need to invent pastimes. I can suggest one for you. Ever tried to erase a tattoo?

Throw that knife away, for heaven's sake!

Sit down, calm your thoughts and just try to follow instructions. I was referring to the tattoos etched on your mind. Think of a lofted straight drive off a fast bowler without visualising Sachin Tendulkar hitting them off Mike Kasprowicz at Sharjah 1998. Found it tough? Then play on with the stubborn cric-tattoos inside your head.

Recall some batsman you have seen premeditating a cut to the vacant square third man. Your dare this time will be to blank out the opener who was the player of the series in a World Cup with a 7-year career batting average barely kissing 20 (at the time). The ‘vacant’ was needless there, as Jayasuriya generally prefers hitting them into the stands.

Imagine you are at the crease and a fast delivery rises from a good length and comes into your body, leaving you no option but to attempt the Lara stroke. Stop that name from popping up inside you out of nowhere while your front leg starts folding up to execute the shot.

Apparently this last one even has a bit of history attached to the nomenclature. The original and slightly different version was popularised by Kapil Dev as the ‘Nataraja’ pull named after the posture of Shiva (or ‘Nataraja’), the Hindu deity while performing his 'Tandava’ dance. Run an image search on Nataraja and you can see the lifted leg there to be a lot straighter than Lara’s mirror-image version. Only Jaques Kallis today can claim to be faithful to Kapil’s invention while the West Indian went on to patent his own version of the stroke.

Enough of games on resisting thoughts. Now we do it differently.

“While you have your coloured clothing on play the spinners in your ‘V’ and the faster bowlers everywhere else, all out of the park. And do not forget stepping out.” Identify the batsman who is getting the above ‘thought for the day’ permanently etched on the exhibition board of his cricket coaching camp. [Warning: Referring to him as a mere batsman may invite wrath from his selectors.]

You switched on the television and just saw a batsman in whites creaming a 95 mph good length delivery along the ground for an on-driven four. You have an easier identification job now. A telling crouch at the point of delivery promptly eliminates the upright new Indian skipper Rahul Dravid and leaves only his Australian counterpart to haunt you.

Ambling into the local cricket stadium the other Sunday you once left your seat after witnessing a short rising ball being sent lazily and elegantly into the stands in quite an unconventional fashion. C’mon wake up; it was not an English opener playing in Australia and a whole year separates you from a possible repeat trilogy of big Ashes hundreds featuring such strokes in plentiful.

My personal cric-tattoos help me bide time over a lengthy train journey. I have done it for some years now and the good (or bad) news is: these cricketing tattoos are not eternal. Time and loss of memory are often the best erasers. Alternatively it takes a Lara, an Ambrose, a Wasim, a Gilly, a Sanath, an Edgbaston Test, a tied world Cup semi-final or thereabouts. But then they leave their own tattoo on the same slot!

Yuvraj reminded me of this favourite lone-game of mine while sweeping Murali powerfully at Ahmedabad. Guess who patents that slot? Matthew Hayden, unsurprisingly.

Now let us play an advanced game and graduate to assigning cricketing tattoos against common phrases. Ask the only other cricket lover at your office about an instance that defines the essence of ‘what could have been’. I owe you a fortune if you get anything other than ‘Geraint drops Kaspa’ or ‘Klusener hits another boundary off Damien Fleming’. [I actually pinch myself at times to verify one more time that those didn’t happen.]

‘A bad day at office.’ For that one you just cannot beat a loss by 245 runs in an ODI tri-series final on the Sharjah batting beauty. Ask Sourav Ganguly; his team did not even concede 300 to the opposition!

I have got little option but to stop myself from reproducing bowling tattoos in this short space as they are numerous and lengthier in duration. If you ask me to pick one though, I will have a toss-up between Wasim Akram’s double strike in the 1992 World Cup Final and Curtly Ambrose’s unsurvivable beauties to Sachin. Blast me – three centuries of international cricket to pick from and I still had to go back to the same tournament twice!

Every soul with a memory has his set of mental tattoos, cricketing and otherwise. That roughly allows everyone to play this game. It is certain fun involving no props other than the images stamped on your mind by a great player or an unforgettable passage of play or a nail-biting match. Start playing at your next leisure and do not forget the exit sign of my coaching camp: Share your tattoos with the person who taught you the game.

Merry Christmas!

[Cross posted at ]

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