August 31, 2007

Whipping Post

Is watching India play akin to self-flagellation?

Crazy, but nowadays your misery isn’t related to the result alone. Regardless of whether India wins or loses, as long as they turn up, watching them is punishing beyond words, especially in one-day cricket.

For a while now, it’s been too easy to sink your canines into Indian cricket. Point is, you don’t have to. Indian cricket is bleeding badly, and there’s no clot in sight.

India has just gone down 3-1 in the ODI series. But that’s not a cardinal sin. Nor will losing the series 4-3, 5-2 or even 6-1. Why not 7-0 is beyond me, but that equation no longer exists.

With Indian cricket today, the result is inconsequential. To be honest, there should only be one result in one-dayers: defeat. That would only quicken any “process” that can emerge from these failures. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, a much-scorned phrase - a Greg Chappellism to boot; but “The Process” is pulp in Indian cricket. Worse still, it’s been pulp for ages, and India has been winning in spite of that.

Now, India may still pull off an unlikely 4-3 series win over England. For, often when Indian cricket touches rock bottom, it bounces back unexpectedly. India threatened to do so at Old Trafford after a second spineless defeat. Though they scored a measly 212, they had England reeling at 114 for 7. And then true to type, the two babes of English cricket added nearly 100 for the 8th wicket.

But all this pales in comparison to India in the field. In a familiar parody of earlier games, Indian fielders evaded the cricket ball and vice versa. Look, the ball’s gone through him, past him, over him, under him - basically, the ball was beyond him. And he was beyond any kind of effort. If he tried, it might hurt. And he may break. Professional sport can be so tiring sometimes.

The Indian fielders had maxed out. They had nothing more to give. It was incredible that they were standing, bowling; even the occasional clap of hands would have been a strain.

Had it been a very long English summer? Was the ODI series a thankless load after a hard-fought test series win? Does India need specific players for each form of the game?

Taking a look at team compositions, India’s included six new players for the one-day series ( Powar, Chawla, Agarkar, Gambhir, Yuvraj and Munaf Patel.), and England’s fielded five new players (Flintoff, Broad, Bhopara, Mascharenis and Owais Shah). While the English are electric, some of India’s young bunch looks weary, almost on their last legs.

Interestingly, except for Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly, most Indian players are sill in their 20s; and the average age of the Indian and English one-day teams is nearly the same. Which pretty much quashes the new-blood for old-legs argument. If anything, the new lot is just as impotent on the field.

These days, the popular refrain on commentary is that India concedes 20-30 runs in the field, and England saves that many. The mind’s numbed by these constant reminders but there is no escaping them. They continue to haunt you - 20-30 runs, 20-30 runs…

So, when you watch India play this season, it’ll be a remote in one hand, a prayer wheel in the other. And that Allman Brother’s song on your lips – “Sometimes I feel, like I been tied to the whipping post”

Whipping Post
By Allman Brother's Band

I been run down, I been lied to,I don't know why I let that mean woman make me a fool.She took all my money, wrecked my new car.Now she's with one of my goodtime buddies,They're drinkin' in some crosstown bar.Sometimes I feel, sometimes I feel,Like I been tied to the whipping post,Tied to the whipping post,Tied to the whipping post,Good lord, I feel like I'm dyin'.My friends tell me, that I've been such a fool,And I have to stand by and take it baby, all for lovin' you.Drown myself in sorrow, and I look at what you've done.But nothin' seems to change, the bad times and the shame,And I can't run.Sometimes I feel, sometimes I feel,Like I been tied to the whipping postTied to the whipping post,Tied to the whipping post,Good lord, I feel like I'm dyin'.Sometimes I feel, sometimes I feel,Like I been tied to the whipping postTied to the whipping post,Tied to the whipping post,Good lord, I feel like I'm dyin'.

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