Friday, March 24, 2006

A forgotten duel, and anecdotelessness of ex-players

Javagal Srinath. Nasser Hussain. Names that may perhaps induce some cricket lovers from England and India to sift through their memory bank for glimpses of the 1996 series between India and England, the one that launched Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid in Test cricket amongst four other rookies.
None will vote for this series if it were to compete for the ‘greatest ever’ tag. Nevertheless it featured some memorable moments of attritional cricket. Most of it happened in the decisive 1st Test of the series through a duel between Hussain and Srinath. Hussain was on a comeback and showed no inclination to let go of his chance to book a long run in the England side. Srinath approached his peak as a fast bowler.
When the Indian batsmen capitulated in the 1st innings, Srinath guided the total past 200 with a useful lower order 50. More importantly, he followed it up with probing spells in tandem with the impressive Prasad. Most English batsmen struggled against the Indian seamers, particularly Srinath and his mix of inswingers and straight ones.
Hussain came in early and found himself separating Srinath from an English collapse. The gangly Bangalorean saw his chance and greeted Hussain with his full bag of tricks. Ball engaged bat in a fascinating contest till a leg side caught behind decision went against Srinath with the Hussain innings still at a nascent stage.
How fortunes can turn on such little things; thereon Hussain stepped up a level or two while Srinath, bowling admirably right through the 3 matches and beating numerous edges without quite running through the opposition ever, was doomed to take his place in the hierarchy of unluckiest bowlers ever to bowl in a Test series. Hussain encashed his slice of fortune to score a century that won England the match and series. Some Indian players chose not to applaud Hussain’s feat as he raised his bat. He could hardly care less, finishing the three-Test series with 2 Man of the Match awards and sealing a permanent place in the England side.
Rahul Dravid, who made his debut in the following match, has now played his 100th Test. Ten years is a long time in international cricket these days and the above episode from the playing days of two former cricketers must now be deemed part of rusty dusty imagery from days gone by. The mind picks up a duster as the erstwhile combatants join forces in the ongoing India versus England series with the objective of entertaining TV audiences from the commentators’ corner.
Here’s hoping that Hussain and Srinath, and all their ex-player mates seeking a career in live commentary, pick up theirs and divulge their recollections of such experiences to the viewers. Majority of the ex-player commentators including the two protagonists speak too much of what happens in the middle and narrate too little of what we wish we could.
Why is your new act so bereft of memoirs from your old one, dear ex-player? It certainly need not be. You were there when that dressing room prank was played, when that bowler had to be separated from the batsman, that umpire sent it upstairs, that run-out turned the match, that one man took it away from them, that team proved far greater than the sum of its parts, or your co-commentator made his debut. What are these but capital gains from your playing days?
Making use of these 'earnings' with a good sense of timing may need some learning at 'nets', quite like trademark shots and killer deliveries. Do it for the sake of everyone and the game. Relate a rib-tickling incident to help make a sluggish passage of play more bearable. Or quote your brilliant skipper of those days to explain the situation that may develop soon.
We can promise you that all shall love it, even the blokes (very few of them, really) that always groaned when you were summoned to execute your part in a match. The satisfaction of still adding your bit to the game from outside the arena will all be yours, which is not too insignificant.
These anecdotes, rather than some inane redundancies so many of you take pride in dishing out, are hidden aces that you hold over some of your articulate competitors who never played the game at the highest grade. Show them, win some hearts.
[cross posted at Different Strokes]

No comments: