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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Cricket the nostalgia that was

Cricket - the nostalgia that was ….
I was just given the above title and asked to write.
The beauty of the English language is that it is so tensile and pliable and its words and phrases derive different strengths and subtleties in different contexts that sometimes the carapace of connotations covers the real denotation far below.  
So, at times particular forms of the words –i.e. spelling- which seem to indicate even a specific tense in chronological time does not necessarily confine itself to that but goes on to convey a collective feeling.
Here the term ‘was’ does not indicate something that is no more there nor something that has lost its luster and life any less but it conveys the constant nostalgia that the followers of the game continue to have.
When anything causes nostalgia it indicates a very deep rooted relationship that has permeated one’s subconscious level and rests well ensconced there.
Nostalgic feeling as a revisit in memory or in imagination or in reality with a mix of both regional flavors and relationships [i.e. when we relate with interest and involvement] mostly refreshes the whole being.
The essence of nostalgia is when the recapitulation of feelings strikes the same resonance in our hearts as they did when we watched them.
The greatness of sports is that for every nation there is/are some sports which evoke this relationship spontaneously as a collective psychological manifestation with heights of crazy following that makes every person cutting across all differences to prioritize the sports page of a new paper that make us often wonder why have not the news papers made the popular sporting events of respective countries as the front page and as the main headlines.
Every nation or region gets glued to or has a fancy for particular sports and can go crazy forgetting everything else.

Sometimes, certain sporting events unite people without any inhibition and also almost take them to a state of meditative intensity and involvement which is both relaxing and refreshing for everyone.

The human beings in the subcontinent as a species has collectively not only accepted but also fell in love and excelled in certain things that the colonial rulers had brought along, chief among them are the English Language and the game of Cricket.

These things the human race in the subcontinent did so because it felt their necessity, utility, beauty , charm, certain rational justifications too based on some inherent psychological universal tendencies as well as specific characteristics:-

Universal tendencies emanating out of joy of competition deploying various skill sets and gambling every tactics to win and

The specific characteristics of Indian psyche for emphasis on individual improvisation over harmony [the manodharma in music] and tendency to use anarchy to its advantage- be it getting recommendation letter for school admission, driving past red light in signals, or opting for special queues in temples.

If we are able to see the connectivity the game of cricket fits into many of these categories.
Sir Neville Cardus puts it aptly, “The laws of cricket tell of the English love of compromise between a particular freedom and a general orderliness, or legality.”

He also famously calls it as a game of ‘glorious uncertainities’.

Uncertainty factors are too many; surprisingly including the ground size and it is perhaps one of its many surprise elements which make it more interesting.
We all need to live with certain universal facts like fortune is fluctuating; fluke is fickle in any walk of life; form is temporary; failures are inevitable.
Anything that has an in built provision beyond prescribed rules [either comprehensive or curtailing or confining] to allow scope for the extremes of aesthetic exuberance as well the liberty for errant emotions and evolutions, is much preferred, more adopted and most appreciated by the majority of human beings because such a thing allows the manifestations and expressions of myriads of human thoughts, aspirations, imaginations, emotions, feelings, psychological states and reactions.

The underlining factor is the recognition of boundless variety as an aspect of life and nature.

It becomes more exciting and interesting when more elements of uncertainties and unpredictable factors get in to feed to human instincts of suspense and /or surprise leading to multiple changing kaleidoscopic colorful patterns.  

This applies in almost all domains of life.

For example it was precisely for this reason that language scores over art and music as a medium of communication.

Though sometimes music appeals better and deeper to the soul but gets curtailed by the range of the voice/pitch or the permutation combinations of the sounds that the instrument can produce and art strikes an immediate and instinctive chord in human beings but gets curtailed by the size of the canvass and shades of paints.

When we discuss any game, for example football, tennis, basket ball ,hockey, baseball  no one can change the size of the playing arena nor can anyone change the number of coins in a chess board or a carom board, but when it comes to cricket there are grounds where the length of the field on square is under 60 ft and there are some where it is more than 85 ft, this coupled with many other variants like the pitch conditions, climatic conditions like windy , rainy and so on make the game of cricket in all its formats as glorious, as popular, as pliant, as appealing , as inclusive, as open to change and therefore as expanding as the English language itself.
Again to quotes Sir Neville Cardus, “We remember not the scores and the results in after years; it is the men who remain in our minds, in our imagination.”
When a sporting event touches the pulse of the nation through the hearts of its supporters no wonder that every other aspect of life is pushed to the background, so it is senseless to mourn that other sports do not get similar treatments or fan following. No logical or ideological extrapolation can make any sense here and in a way resorting to such extrapolation by itself is illogical as the love for the sport is driven by immense subjective and personal passion above anything else.

As no critic of English literature can afford to miss reading or quoting from Harold Bloom who sums up very briefly, "Literary criticism, as I attempt to practice it”, in The Anatomy of Influence, "is in the first place literary, that is to say, personal and passionate."

In matters of taste, trends, traditions let us not look of socialistic justifications nor even attempt to sully them with such ideologies nor try to rationalize human behavior. After victory of the favorite team the whole nation gets into a joyous riot mode.
      While most avid followers of the game for more than a decade, would be well aware of the history, mystery and the mighty legends of yore of the game.

  I would like to intentionally confine even the nostalgia to a period of maximum 50 years for two reasons one as the recapitulation of feelings must strike the same resonance in our hearts as when we watched them. Therefore, it would be difficult for people even in their 60s to connect fully with the great natural genius of Gary Sobers or Len Hutton and two due to space constraints.

  For want of space I am also confining to highlighting aspects of batting, probably the more difficult art of bowling deserves a separate column.

 And finally the in this column I would also like to highlight the exploits of one of the most complete batsman of the recent past.

 Fortunately the internet offers us accessibility to some great displays of batting, bowling and fielding of the remote past.

     Cricket unites all Indian more than anything else on earth including the concern for their own life.
      So, everyone gets involved with varying degrees of attention, time devoted and importance in some way or other.

     It is the biggest sports cum entertainment industry of the nation with a few lakh individuals participating      actively, benefiting and making their livelihood and a few million others passively, passionately and indirectly savoring it.

     Raw talent and genius prop up on the national scene but unless they are methodically groomed with certain bench marks and well set goals then in the long run all the raw talent will go unutilized or underutilized as it happens to many potential great players in Pakistan and Caribbean Islands. The West Indian teams of 70s faded along with retirement of its extraordinarily talented players due to lack methodical grooming, the Pakistan of early 90s vanished the same way, the Australian team of late 90s to 2000 went the same way, though they have bounced back every now and then, the Indian teams of last decade need not go the same way as Indians can and must bounce back like the Aussies.
      We need to hatch ability out of potentiality and make it deliver optimum utility through methodical training, encouragement and care.

While statistics  favors the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara; brilliance and brutal attacking and taking the game away from opposition favors the likes of Vivian Richards, Virendra Shewag; technical perfection favors the likes of Sunil  Gavaskar, Geoffrey Boycott ; dogged perseverance, solid defense and ability to stay on to save the game favors the likes Rahul Dravid, Steve Waugh; artistic wrist work favors the like of the great Gary Sobers, V.V.S. Lakshman; turning the game with multiple tricks in batting favors the likes of  Javid Miandad,
Michael Bevan; taking  aggression as the mode under any condition favors the likes of Adam Gilchrist, Clive
Lloyd; brutal power hitting favors the likes of Collis King, Gordon Greenidge ; deft flicks favors the likes of David Gower, Kallicharan;  making the bowling side clueless and forcing them to  adopt drastic measures favors the likes of the great Don Bradman;  flamboyance favors all-rounders who were also natural batsmen like
Kapil Dev, Ian Botham; new stroke introduction favors the likes of  the helicopter shot specialist Mahenra
Singh Dhoni, Scoop shot specialist Dilshan, upper cut Shewag; sheer elegance favors the likes of Rohan
Kanhai, Kallicharan ; On drive  specialization favors the likes of Greg Chappell, Mark Waugh, Dilip
Vengsarkar; off side shots favor the likes of Sourav Ganguli; hook shot specialization favors the likes of Roy Fredricks; pull shot favors the likes of  Ricky Ponting; square cut favors the likes of G.R. Vishwanath , David boon ; sweep shots favors the likes of  Alan Knot;  reverse sweep [being a new stroke] favors the likes of AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxwell ; walking down the wicket and attempting wild hits terrorizing the bowlers favors the likes of Krishnamachary Srikanth, Matthew Hayden and so on.
There is one batsman who has certain extraordinary brilliance that sets him apart and aloft from the rest? He retired a few years back.
Artist of cricket with his

Jumping Jabs,
Audacious lofted shots,
Yummy late cuts,
Adroit placements,
Whacking the loose balls coupled with
Running between the wickets,
Deft drives
Elegant flicks,
Nudges nicely sliced
Elegance personified batting bits farewell to test cricket.

In his retirement from test cricket we miss one of the greatest cricketers of all times, especially this  Most
Expert in
Last minute
Adjustments to

Approach even
Wisely flick
Around the legs to
Run them just beyond the
Extensively stretched gloves of the wicket keeper and
Nonchalantly plays
Elegantly and most importantly naturally with both hands with the same power, flamboyance, flexibility etc

What is so special about his batting that he must be ranked as one of the greatest unique and rare genius of the art of batting   is his natural flexibility, firmness, finesse, flamboyance and a spontaneous ability to swiftly shift all these qualities from his right hand to left hand and vice versa along with quick reflex combined with a fluency to change naturally the required push and pull of his legs like the train engines, all the while balancing his body like a ballet dancer and keeping his head straight and with all this his ability to appropriately change gears, adopt to different formats, never getting struck on a single mode of playing, nor super imposing or overshadowing other batsmen to make the team to depend too much on him nor clamoring to emerge ever as the super hero of Srilankan cricket, nor attempting to show unwanted bravado even when on a song. There is always a serenity and touch of tender nicety about his batting befitting his name ‘ Mahela as mentioned in the link below []. Incidentally the word Mahela in Arabic I am given to understand through Google means tenderness and/or marrow. He represented the marrow of natural artistic batting.

He has been aptly very often compared to the Kelani river  of Srilanka in terms the multiple value and utility that he has provided to the Sri Lankan team , incidentally for those who may not know the kelani river  supplies major amount of the water used in many parts of Srilanka, used for other purposes like transportation, fishing, sewage disposal, sand mining , hydroelectricity etc
Sir Neville Cardus, “Like the British constitution, cricket was not made: it has 'grown'”
I would like to add that it continues to grow with greater glory, glamour, garnering interest in more regions of the globe, gearing up to the changing dynamics of spectator expectations and metamorphosing into multiple formats, giving more entertainment and generating better revenues.

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