April 29, 2008

19th Nervous Breakdown.

Go on, abuse Harbhajan Singh.

It’s politically correct.

Call him names. Call him big, bad dirty Hinglish names. Names that would have made Bhajji proud.

Bhajji is no saint. A while back he said Gilchrist was no saint.

Where did that come from? Ok, that was Australia, Sydney, Symonds, monkey, teri ma ki. Is Australia relevant?

From India’s favourite son, beholder of national pride, he is now a human stain. A cricketing untouchable.

And unlike in the Aussie chapter, this time, action was swift. An eleven match IPL ban, and Bhajji’s fifteen minutes of fame were over.

But why did it come to this?

Weren’t the telltale signs always there – in Australia, in the South Africa series, in the dressing room? Of course, what happens in there stays there.

Is Bhajji alone responsible? Was he so potent a power that Sachin Tendulkar, M.S. Dhoni, Lalchand Rajput, Garry Kirsten just let him be.

What about Anil Kumble? What was his take on Bhajji’s theatrics in the last two test series? Or was he neutralised like some of the village elders?

Isn’t Bhajji one of M.S. Dhoni’s ablest lieutenants in both the T20 and one-day games -what was his take all along?

What was our take? What was the media’s take? Did we give a damn, as long as Bhajji was proven not guilty in Australia?

Who else has been undermined in the past? Why did Dravid resign as test captain? Kumble over Bhajji for Dravid; Bhajji over Kumble for Ganguly. Why do we continue to hear talks of favouritism?

And now Bhajji v/s Sreesanth. North v/s South. Welcome to IPL.

And why was Harbhajan Singh made Mumbai Indians’ captain? In the absence of Sachin Tendulkar, did a team called “Indians” demand a provocative Indian player as its first face? While foreign veterans Shaun Pollock and Sanath Jayasuriya were overlooked, Bhajji was at best a popular choice. The selection disregarded his short fuse, flawed people skills, and penchant for pangas.

The same Bhajji who suffers anxiety attacks when he doesn’t strike early. A common refrain when he comes on to bowl: “needs an early wicket”. Or else.

And when that early wicket eludes, watch the shoulders twitch, droop, fall – followed by an uneasy grimace at missfields, another nervous breakdown at a dropped catch. As if the catch dropped was a personal attack on his virility.

Imagine then, what erupts when Sreesanth missfields or drops a catch off Bhajji’s bowling? Lord have mercy.

The irony of Bhajji being his own worst enemy is not lost in this: first, he overestimated his own capabilities and accepted the Mumbai Indians’ captaincy. The first few defeats set the bomb ticking, the last one, ironically against Kings XI Punjab, exploded in his face.

Looking at Bhajji operate, you sense the world is his enemy. Looking at Sreesanth act, you sense he’s the world’s enemy. One perception leads to the other, and finally, the two cricketers persecute themselves, with or without the help of others.

It’s no surprise then that two players, so similar, almost craving for the world’s attention, could not coexist in the same team. And while their craft of pace and spin, is as dissimilar, as North and South, they almost appear to be threatened by the others one-upmanship.

A telling difference between the two, Singh at 27, is a ten year veteran in world cricket, while Sreesanth at 25, made his international debut in 2006.

Yet somehow the two continue to act like squabbling six year olds. “Gimme my bat, that’s my ball…WACK!!”

And if that is the case, reform school cannot be far behind. For, to punish them with match bans and set them lose again will be wrong on both Indian cricket and the two players.

Here’s a rare opportunity for Indian cricket: to make two wrongs right.

Suggested listening:

19th Nervous Breakdown by Rolling Stones
Paper Tiger by Beck


Som said...

You know what? I also dread this. Lalit Modi wanted to create a tournament with city-based loyalty of the volatile Indian cricket fans. I hope IPL does not end up spreading hatred among the fans, creating pseudo North vs South, East vs West, North vs East, South vs West....battles.

Naked Cricket said...

Hi Som,
Bhajji (a sikh playing for Mumbai) took on Sree (a Mallu playing for Punjab). Even if the latent hatred surfaces, it'll be warped. who do you love, who do you hate

Not by intent, but it's good that the players are not all sorted by their catchment area. Had Bhajji, playing for Punjab, slapped Sree, playing for Bangalore, the undertones would've been worse.

Straight Point said...

Looking at Bhajji operate, you sense the world is his enemy. Looking at Sreesanth act, you sense he’s the world’s enemy....

as you fondly say...CRACKER WRITE NC!!

their are contrasting styles yet they are so similar...i think more than the failure of individuals its the failure of system...

who till now let them believe that theirs was the right way to go about it...

Naked Cricket said...

cracker comment abt system failure, sp!

and it's system failure all over the place -no live feeds now! for a change we are cricket hungry.
and as i write that, we go live to the kotla sans audio

Samir Chopra said...

What we really need now is radio DJs in Trivandrum and Jullundhur whipping up the "our boy vs. their boy" frenzy. Blood in the streets!

Naked Cricket said...

blood on the dance floor

Soulberry said...

All said and done Gaurav, fisticuffs is the last straw. Agreed some verbals are as bad as fisticuffs.

One look at Sreesanth at the top of his bowling run-up, back to the batsman, pausing, pumping himself up and then calming us all with his handshow, made me wonder if this boy was ever going to grow up. Not one of that means a thing or is effective for he goes and dishes up trash and spews the same.

That is the biggest clue among all theatrics that he is an underdeveloped personality.

Harbhajan is now his worst enemy...laad-pyaar without accountability has gone to his head.

What will happen post IPL is that the best performers of domestic cricket with the best temperament will play for India...at least in limited overs. That means those who are true professionals for whom swithing from one loyalty to national loyalty is easy.

Ranji too is as serious....has always been...only lesser teams never had the length of tournament and platform to show us all that. Top teams have shown us enough of that.

I have seen, with my own eyes, Sunny bhai lift a bat on one of the spectators at Kotla (he didn't hit him but raised the bat nevertheless with a furious look in his eyes) after he was dismissed for either 0 or 1, 2, 3 or 4 in a Delhi vs Bombay match before the '78 tour of Pakistan (Kapil's debut tour)...or thereabouts. I was taken aback for I was rather close to the action and Sunny was one of our heroes back then. My stance was modelled on his. He even had a word to say to Surinder Amarnath that match....Surinder ( Jimmy and Rajinder's elder brother) ususally took the field with minimum two full bottles of the absolute desi down his gullet.

So this rivalry has always been there.

Naked Cricket said...

sb, good stuff there, esp the sunny stuff and the not-so bright amarnath anecdotes. in our tennis ball games, we had an amarnath too. sledging reached McGrathesque levels.

About Sree -when he won that SAF test in SAF, i felt, here comes trouble for him - now he'll be a staple in ODIs, t20, backyard games. Hell, the test arena was the only place his wired mind could take.

Just like Bhajji's good for odis, t20.
if the selectors stuck to these basics, the twain would never have met.

but there's always ipl, no?

Soulberry said...

Now that's a wonderful idea. And you are right. Sree for tests and Bhajji for limited exposure.

Only problem, who will be India's spinner?

Naked Cricket said...

never know till we don't look.

scorpicity said...

One thing is obvious, these two delinquents are discovering their first strands of puberty at a ripe 28.

Bhaskar Khaund said...

the less said the better ...have found the man insufferable for some time now , not least a couple of months ago in Oz after the ODI victory when he said on tv something like "waise , ek sikh sabhi ke liye kaafi hain" - there's a line between refreshing open candour and disgusting open filth...waise ,i draw a very wide one in general but this one crossed it by a shot...i'd like to see him try a slap on hayden and get some reality thrammed into him....as for sreesanth, he's an bizzare absurdity that the ridiculous borders on :-)insane very insane these two

Naked Cricket said...

harmful harmones
scorpi, as they don't say, it's never too late for an unhappy adolescence.

Naked Cricket said...

ek sick (sic)
Bji, and not bhajji,
the sameness of their bowlin and ballin is appallin. tho y'day Sree took a break from 138 kmph half volleys, and bowled an icbm from test memory. like that delivery, sree doesn't know which way he swings. self control not his song.

Q said...

Great post NC. By far the best I have read on the incident. If you had written it before I would have inluded it in my post that collated all the thoughts on Bhajji. Well done.

Naked Cricket said...

thanks a bunch Q.
in future will preempt such events and write on them before they happen ;)

Q said...

Hahaha, no need for preempting NC, what I meant was had you written this before I did. My post was 2 days before yours :-)

Naked Cricket said...

i was in the q

vmminerva said...

Priceless post, Gaurav!

Naked Cricket said...

Thank you vmminerva.