Thursday, January 19, 2006

The two ends of history - will the twain ever meet?

Some people would love to see all production to be done in assembly lines. Not much of a problem there, unless these well-meaning folk extend their views to people and, to further amusement of consumers, insist that the line be modelled on themselves. It borders on refusing to acknowledge that people who are fundamentally different from their clan can also be perfectly all right.

Consider the situation that the man we know as Mansoor Ali Khan is born in the Sehwag family with working class family background, some distance from the privileges of royalty. And that he aspires to become the first reputed cricketer in his family, as against the son of another Test player. Going by Pataudi's expression of distress at Sehwag's ignorance of cricket history, surely even the suggestion of developing cricket skills by playing matches on the streets would be obscure humour to him until his family pays for a visiting coach from some far-off posh locality. In other words, someone to educate him about the history of Indian cricket. After all, selection in the big teams looming ahead in his career would be as much dependent on a knowledge of cricket history as an ability to bat like a dream...
OR that Dilip Vengsarkar grows up in a little-known suburban area of Delhi with little cricketing background associated for it and smiles sheepishly if anyone nominates him to become the first international cricketer in a million miles. Dreams of making it big notwithstanding, the most shocking thing for him during his under-19 days would still be the idea of commuting for hours by public transport to the Kotla. Why, he would much rather spend those hours reading about the great cricketers who played not less than 25 years before his birth so that he can answer questions about them, just in case he becomes a great player and dares break a record belonging to one or two of them.

Outrageous misplacement of priority? Pitiable furthermore, for India would have missed out on a fine skipper in the first instance and a dependable batsman in the second. Non acceptance of their less-than-ideal background would never have got them where Sehwag is today. And senior cricketers who are aware of the game's history and traditions and yet recognise that "stifling expression of the present by imposing awareness of history" does not feature up there do not become any lesser for it.

The beauty of Virender Sehwag is that day-after-criticism he would probably wake up in the team hotel, read the news of his 'shocking' comment in it and waste no more than a wry smile on it before walking off with a coffin on his shoulder and a new question in his mind: the name of the Indian skipper when he first played for India long back in 1999. He has problems remembering events that far back, an advantage while playing the long innings. Often it helps forgetting that horrendous swish attempted last ball. That, along with a few other not-too-meagre qualities like genius, makes him stand out from 'assembly line' men.

In all probability Sehwag would not think of responding to the ad hominem criticism with "Yeah, nearly as shocking as the two of them having a combined Test strike rate approximating mine, which shows an increased lack of urgency and commitment in cricketers of days gone by..." or a tongue-in-cheek "Some create history, others remember it".

This discussion has no intention to suggest, however, that the knowledge of cricket's past need not be imparted to generationext. To put things in perspective, it would not make anyone happy if a seventy year old Sehwag has to learn from 3D-media that some young Indian blazing the cricket world never knew him. We can certainly dwell deeply upon that pertinent aspect of an expression of alarm from the two ex-captains who inexplicably chose to weave it around a player. Ex-cricketers like them can do themselves proud in going ahead to try and spread awareness of the game's history beyond its conventional nurseries in this country where only a fraction of budding Sehwags are privileged to grow up.

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