Thursday, January 01, 2009


The word is used rather generously these days for teams doing well and having a leading light to show for their efforts. In a recent newspaper report MS Dhoni was termed as talismanic for Indian cricket team. I wonder. He has a rather decent team at his disposal which looks likely to do well. True Dhoni has contributed immensely to the development of this team (at least the team for shorter games) but that does not qualify him as 'talismanic', does it?

I will expect a 'talismanic' individual to play a direct role in the success of his team on regular basis, at a far greater frequency than others in his team. Agreed Dhoni has an elevating effect on the Indian team and he has lately done enough to be looked up to in all forms of the game. But the word 'talismanic' has a stronger meaning than just that.

It is not how the teammates see this particular individual but how the world, especially the rivals, views this guy that lends the charm to the talisman. India, at least in Tests, has done reasonably well even at times not too long ago when Dhoni was not justifying his place in the team. Even today, when Dhoni is deservedly praised for his positive role in the team's success it is not meant to imply that Indian fortunes have risen or sunk with Dhoni's performances. Clive Lloyd the captain was not talismanic, Brian Lara the batsman was. Ganguly the captain was not talismanic, Sachin the batsman in 90's and Dravid the batsman in early 2000's was. Ricky Ponting the captain was not talismanic, Ponting the batsman is (more so in the last couple of years when Australia have looked fallible). Mike Brearley the batsman was not talismanic, Brearley the captain perhaps was when in tandem with his weapon Ian Botham.

I regard that last instance of Mike Brearley the captain as a rare exception. In fact, I have not seen him in live action and hence I confess I am not too sure of knowing enough about Brearley's captaincy to back my decision to pick him if one of you challenges me on it. That is exactly the point: it is way too difficult for someone in a managing role (i.e. the captain) to be a talisman. How difficult? Even more difficult than being adjudged Man-of-the-match in a Test match for fielding alone. A talisman needs to work, not inspire.

In Test matches, the closest we have to a talismanic player today is Virender Sehwag. In one dayers and T20's we have none, although Yuvraj and Dhoni the batsman are perenially close to staking a claim. That explains why India are doing so well without depending on one or two individuals.

Webster's revised Unabridged Dictionary explains the word 'talismanic' thus:

Of or pertaining to a talisman; having the properties of a talisman, or preservative against evils by occult influence; magical.

The news of Bangladesh losing by just over 100 runs chasing 521 against Sri Lanka's Murali-Mendis-Vaas in the 4th innings was the news of the day to me. The first thought I had after that was: "How much did Ashraful score?" I have never tried to consciously analyse the contribution of various players to Bangladesh's famous cricketing moments but I have this perception that Ashraful has played a stellar role in an overwhelming majority of them. In other words, I consider Ashraful to be 'talismanic' to the fortunes of Bangladesh cricket team.

Why? I wish I could explain. Is it because Ashraful sparkled in the World cup 2007 victory against South Africa and played a sizzler against Australia at unforgettable Sophia Gardens? But then I also know that he did not do much against the same opposition at the Fatullah in 2006 and nor did he contribute when the Bangla boyz defeated India in World Cup 2007.

It is all in the mind, apparently. I have blogged earlier about how notions and perceptions can be unrelated to the reality. Maybe we WANT to see things in a certain fashion out of respect or contempt for certain individuals. I just see Ashraful as the guy who is pivotal to Bangladesh's success. In that respect, he is a talismanic Bangladeshi to me.

Perhaps that explains why I was satiated to learn that on this instance Ashraful has indeed proved to be 'talismanic' to Bangladesh's good 4th innings show where they could keep the match alive till a fair distance even while attempting a big BIG chase. 2008 was a disappointing year for Bangladesh and, not surprisingly to me, it was personally an even more horrendous year for this very special Bangladesh batsman. Hope the talisman can conjure up his magic in favour of Bangladesh in 2009.

No comments: