Saturday, November 05, 2005

Always the bridesmaid

(I wrote this piece a week before the India-Sri Lanka series started)

Team sports traditionally have had a little bit of place for everyone. There will remain individuals who rise above the team; there will be the over achieving “superstar”, there will be the niche specialist, and then there will always be “bridesmaids”, players who are a part of all the action, always there, but rarely center stage.

Indian cricket, with all its hysterical following, hasn’t been the exception either. In every team there have always been individuals who were essential for the team’s smooth functioning, but who always remained in the shadow. Pataudi and Jaisimha were stars, and even Farookh Engineer had his following, as Bapu Nadkarni trudged in to bowl quietly (returning with remarkable figures like 35-28-7-1). When Bedi, Chandrasekhar, Venkat and Prasanna mesmerized batsmen with their guile, Eknath Solkar quietly continued to take stunning catches, standing three feet away from the feet of those very batsmen.

1983 almost became the year of the bridesmaid. True, the Indian team had Gavaskar and Kapil Dev, but it really belonged to those who crave for that one moment under the spotlight. Balwinder Sandhu, Roger Binny and Madan Lal trotted in to bowl faster than they ran, while Mohinder Amarnath stunned batsmen by running in faster than he bowled, and all of them picked up bagfuls of wickets. Yashpal Sharma and Sandeep Patil enjoyed every moment of their few days of fame. And then, months after the cup was lifted, they drifted back in to their lives of honest obscurity (even Mohinder Amarnath did, even though he was a fine batsman).

Then something started happening. Perhaps it was the more prominent role media started playing in Indian cricket. The bridesmaid started becoming rare, and (dare I say it), less essential. The teams of the ‘80’s seemed to only be comprised of individual stars. Shastri, Kapil, Gavaskar, Vengsarkar, Sidhu, Prabhakar, Azar, even More, they all seemed to grow in to larger than life personalities, and the team became centered around them. Clearly, a team with too many centers wasn’t going to perform too well, so though their personal records swelled, while the team drifted in to obscurity. There were some patches of bridesmaid excellence though, with Srikkanth (who is remembered more for his erratic batting, but was an excellent team-player), Maninder Singh, or Chetan Sharma (who unfortunately is remembered only for gifting Miandad with a “six-ball” in that last over at Sharjah). Somehow, they held the team together.

In Azar’s time, the transformation in to a team of under-achieving superstars was complete. Every player had a king-sized ego, or a king-sized personality. It was perhaps the sorriest time in Indian cricket. There was one bright spot though. One player remained the faithful bridesmaid though, performing beyond expectations. Robin Singh, that amiable Trinidadian who made Chennai his permanent home, was called in to the Indian team when he was in his early thirties, and gave it every little bit of effort he had. Time and again, he would walk out when India were batting terribly, with six wickets down, and start a rescue act with Ajay Jadeja (who’s fame perhaps got into his head). Every time the ball was tossed to him, he’d run in to bowl his military medium pace uncomplainingly. When younger players like Kumble, Srinath or Ganguly would make a mess of the simplest fielding efforts, and leave the field with spotless uniforms, there would be Robin Singh, with frayed elbows as early as the fifth over of the game, throwing his aged body to stop every ball from passing. While his colleagues would make millions endorsing everything from credit cards and soft drinks to cars and motorcycles, all he ever got to endorse was “Bigfun” chewing gum. But his indomitable spirit would remind us that cricket always had room for the big-hearted, who played for the team.

The Indian team of the 21st century though is the team of the super-star, who sometimes does perform in a team unit. That was a transformation Ganguly (of 4 years ago) brought about. Superstars performed to potential, but played for a team, and that produced results. But the strain of keeping a team of superstars together has begun to show. Now every one of the eleven players is a bonafide superstar. Players like Kaif or Yuvraj Singh (who average just barely in the thirties) have played over one hundred ODI’s each, with barely a test record, and would have been bridesmaids fifteen years ago. But they are not. The media goes in to a frenzy even when they play. Kaif, after a few promising innings was compared to that incomparable finisher, Michael Bevan (with nearly seven-thousand runs at an average of over fifty). Yuvraj endorses just about any thing that can be endorsed. Harbajan Singh continues to flatter only to deceive. Ajit Agarkar might make it in to the bridesmaid category, but he started off towards superstardom (rushing to fifty quick wickets in ODIs), but squandered that start by continuing to perform erratically. Parthiv Patel, in his few moments of mediocrity, hogged his share of interview columns.

People forget that bridesmaids are essential for a smooth wedding. They hold it together, gluing the little bits. They act as bridges. They divert some of the attention. They take care of little things. They keep smiling, and lift spirits.

Perhaps the Indian team could do with more bridesmaids today. Yet perhaps all is not lost. Rahul Dravid has been the quintessential bridesmaid, though he might well be the best test batsman India has ever produced. He’s finally become a bride…….perhaps he can recreate a team ethic and make the wedding proceedings work smoothly.

27 comments:

Vikram A. said...

Sunil,

Excellent stuff. Robin Singh was also one of my favorites. Truly an underappreciated cricketer. I also think VVS Laxman was a very good bridesmaid for many years. He played some incredible knocks for India in both ODIs and test matches, and never received the accolades of some of India's other players. Aakash Chopra also comes to mind. Solid opening test batsman who was never appreciated enough.

Greg Chappell seems to be building a team of semi-bridesmaids today - Suresh Raina, Venugopal Rao, JP Yadav, Gautam Gambhir (on the test side of things), Murali Kartik. Let's hope the strong play in this Sri Lanka series continues on future tours.

Vikram

GREATBONG said...

I would perhaps not agree with Mohd Amarnath being called a bridesmaid. Nor was his place in the sun a brief sizzle during the Prudential World Cup. He had played Imran Khan with great authority in the tour of 82 and then, against the most fearsome attack in the history of the game, dominated against the West Indians. No ducking, no weaving----only hooking and pulling. He was acknowledged as the best player of fast bowling by none other than Marshall....in all he was much more than a bridesmaid.

In addition to the players you mentioned, Kirti Azad was a bridesmaid who contributed in ONLY one match---a titanic one handed heroic effort against Pakistan at Nehru Stadium in a day and night match where he played some amazing shots in a lost cause and won a great victory for us.

A valid point you make is that now everyone is a superstar----not so long ago Kanitkar swung one Saqlain delivery for four in a final against Pakistan (winning runs) and started advertising for some suiting company.

Finally in my opinion Kaif is an extremely mediocre batsman who is hyped to the skies. Would not say that for Yuvraj...he is erratic but his talent is obvious.

Sunil said...

Vikram....i think VVS is a superb team player.....and though he might never find a place in the ODI side....there are a few great test innings left in him yet. And all the best to the present team.

Arnab.....by my definition.....Amarnath is definitely a bridesmaid, just like Dravid is (or was, for many many years). He might have been the best batsman in the team....but was never a star. He went about his work, quietly, and did his best for the team.

Kaif....i think is more capable than he looks......he's got the dogged determination, and (i suspect) an excellent work ethic. See how far that has taken dravid. He was a no no in ODIs 5 years ago. IMO, he's one of the best ODI batsmen around, and a superb finisher now. Kaif might prove to be the same. But yes, Yuvi is very talented, and i hope he fulfils his potential.

Qalandar said...

Although I disagree that Dravid is the best test batsman India has ever produced, this is a great post Sunil.

A similar movement may be detected in our films as well. Once upon a time we had character actors; now even those roles are filled by stars making guest appearances, cameos, and what not. The result is often a disbalanced film, with too many distractions. The cricketing equivalent of this: the recent World XI; or perhaps the exciting but infinitely combustible Pakistani team for a few years after 1992. Both of these were replete with big names, and in the case of the latter several individual great performances as well, but neither team lived up to billing.

In this context I think Tendulkar and Dravid are exceptions: certainly both are superstars and make huge amounts of money endorsing everything under the sun, but both appear to have the temperament one typically associates with (to use your wonderfully evocative term) bridesmaids...

PS-- Cricinfo.com has a good piece on the biggest bridesmaid on the Englishn team today, Ashley Giles...

My first time on your blog-- good stuff!

Qalandar said...

Yeah, bring back Akash Chopra!!! Personally, I think performances in ODIs on typically flat pitches are deceptive-- I have more faith in Chopra than Gambhir outside the sub-continent...

Sunil said...

Qalandar.......wrt Dravid...to me a batsman's real test is his overseas record. Dravid averages almost 65 abroad (the highest for any batsman with over 5000 test runs, in the past 25 years). He's the only batsman to score a century IN all test playing nations. S Rajesh at cricinfo had a statistical analysis of contribution of a batsman when the team won/or drew a test, vs when it lost. It compared Dravid, Sachin, Lara, Hayden, Kallis, Vaughan, Fleming, Ponting and 2-3 others. Dravid scored impressively there as well....

so..it's just my opinion...based on statistics. But yes, coming back to the point, Sachin and Dravid are really exceptional cricketers.......doing all the duties of bridesmaids, though they (especially Sachin) are much much more.

Wrt Akash Chopra....i know he was dropped for no particular reason, but that doesn't mean we now drop Gautam Gambhir for no particular reason (in fact he's done rather well). I think Gambhir is going to surprise a lot of people....his attitude is fantastic, and he's really hungry to perform. Pity about Chopra though.....but i think he's got a great future as a columnist. He writes articles for Hindustan times (they are NOT ghost written),and writes superbly, with great insights. :-))

With movies....i'm definitely of the opinion that movies deteriorated the moment the superstar (Rajesh khanna, followed by Amitabh) appeared....then subsequent movies were all about the star and not the story.

Qalandar said...

Point taken Sunil-- though I should add that Dravid's overseas record, particularly in Australia, benefits from the absence of McGrath-- the last time he played there featuring a full-strength Ausie attack, he averaged around 15 (in the 1999-2000 tour); and did his record no favors when he played as part of the World XI (though then again, neither did anyone else).
But don't get me wrong, I don't mean this to be a "diss Dravid" comment (in fact the media tendency to cintinually compare Dravid and Sachin -- in recent years, to the detriment of the latter-- a little grating, and in fact symptomatic of precisely the sort of "superstar syndrome" you insightfully critique here), he's one of my two favorite Indian players, and I think he's arguably the best "clutch" batsman of his generation.

Also, I agree that it would be unfair to drop Gambhir for no reason-- I just feel bad that all too often in this star-hungry age, people like Chopra, whose game is not flashy, are overlooked. It doesn't hurt us on home pitches, but it might in England, Australia and SA. Maybe Gambhir is the right guy for the job (I certainly hope he is, and based on what I've seen so far I'm inclined to be impressed...

Nirav said...

Good post!
Robin Singh is the best example that comes to mind... and if you are looking outside the Indian team, there are/were the likes of Chris Harris, Moin Khan, Dharmasena, Carl Hooper (in his early days)
And coming to India, I think Kumble fits the bill as well

Michael Higgins said...

Hi Sunil
I just don't understand the nostalgia people feel for Robin Singh. He had a career batting average of 26 and a career bowling average of 43. Now if that had been the other way around, he would have been awesome. As it was, he should have retired a year before he was dropped.

Another thing I don't understand - Robin Singh being a great a fielder is important but Ajit Agarkar being a great fielder counts for nothing. Why is that?

Sunil said...

Qalandar......Dravid's played four series' against Australia....he did badly in only one. Against Australia in india 2001, he did superbly. And its ridiculous to think that the 2003 australia attack wasn't too good....it had Gillespie (still in excellent form), and bret lee bowling pretty well. This same attack had just months earlier stuck it in to a number of teams.....

Nirav....i think the person who realized his potential to the fullest is Sanath Jayasuriya.....with total commitment, team ethic and a team backing him....he became one of the best players of his generation.

Michael......it's all about the commitment that Robin Singh brought in, not his statistics. That kind of commitment is missing. In addition, if you look at the runs he scored, he's scored pretty highly when india were down at 120-130 odd for 6, but not as much when India were cruzing comfortably. That makes all the difference.

Agarkar is a frontline bowler, not a part time bowler (or...all rounder :-)). His primary job is to take wickets without going for too many. He's very talented.....but too erratic. I hope he's learnt to discipline himself now....

Anshul said...

Sunil,
Nice write-up!
I liked the way you have shown the comparison.

But, here is my point-of-view...
I do agree that we have generated great cricket players in the past 30-40 years but the biggest issue has been consistency and THIS can come only if we play like a team without any egos. It's an irony that we have been relying just on Gavaskars, Tendulkars and Dravids. I started seeing this difference in our current series wherein the Dhonis, Agarkars and Pathans have shown there mettle...Kudos to Greg and Dravid in bringing this school of thought.

Anshul

Sunil said...

Anshul......i think you just agreed with what i tried to say...:-)

Lets see how far Greg and Rahul take the team (of course, there's no saying what the BCCI will do in the mean time..:-))

Qalandar said...

Sunil,
I am not saying the 2003 Aussie attack was crap; what I AM saying is that the 2003 Aussie pitches were more batsmen-friendly than Aussie pitches often are. This is not an attempt at denigrating Dravid's performance there (I suspect one reason those pitches were so batsmen-friendly was because everyone expected India to get a sound thrashing no matter what pitches were prepared)-- I think his role on that tour counts as one of the more stirring in recent memory. I am merely making the point that he has not scored like some other batsmen have when confronted with the conditions in 99-00, which were more testing. Nor did he score in the recent World XI tour. And it is an indisputable fact that the bowling attack that India faced in '99-'00, 2001, and 2004, was stronger than the one it faced in Australia in 2003-- that wasn't a bad attack by any means, but they certainly missed their two big guys. And finally, he had a below-par series against Australia in 2004 in India too.

The moral of the story is not that we do not appreciate Dravid's greatness as a batsman, but that we appreciate the KIND of greatness we are speaking of. Batsmen like Dravid are great at saving matches/teams-- but they typically need productive partnerships to do so. Thus one could surmise that Dravid's failures in these series not coincidentally came when those around him were also not contributing. By contrast, Sachin mysteriously failed in the first 4 tests of the '03 tour, even though those around him were doing well, and performed splendidly in the context of the '99-'00 tour, when barring VVS Laxman's awesome 167 in Sydney, there was nothing except for Sachin to write home about; not better or worse necessarily, just different). It's no coincidence that Dravid's finest moments have typically come in the context of splendid partnerships-- that's just his style of game. But it does mean that one way to neutralize Dravid is to try and upset the foundations that he often is trying to lay in a test match. The 2004 tour was a classic example. Dravid was scoring reasonably, but in the context of nothing partnerships and drastically reduced strike rates, his impact was greatly greatly reduced. Do I think he's great? certainly: but I do not think that merely citing statistics from "foreign pitches" does either Dravid or anyone else justice, one must go deeper. Take one example: wouldn't any batsman have preferred to bat in the first innings in Adelaide in 2003 than in the first innings at Nagpur in 2004? Yet Kaif's scores in the latter count as "domestic" pitches, conjuring up images of featherbed wickets. Similarly, Laxman's and Tendulkar's 50s in the 2nd innings in Bombay on a truly horrid crumbling wicket, and Dravid's 30-odd in the same innings, were to my mind far more valuable and difficult than, say, a "foreign" 100 by an English batsman in Antigua's bowling graveyard (I'm talking about the match where Lara notched 400).

Qalandar said...

Sorry for all the typos guys, was in a rush as I am trying to get back to work.

btw, Sunil you should submit this post to Cricinfo too, it's one of the better pieces of writing on cricket I have read in quite a while.

Sunil said...

Qalandar.....lets not make this a discussion on whether poor Dravid is the best, or one of the best, or just good....and lets just say that our opinions differ on that:-)

It's a little "off topic" from this post...:-)

And thanks.

Qalandar said...

You're right Sunil, 'nuff said!

R.Nandakumar said...

great post; it would do a prem panicker proud!

Srikanth said...

A well-written post! Excellent.

Just like cricket, much of software development is a team activity. A lot of great software teams have had a mixture of ace programmers (the Superstars), decent programmers with great planning/people skills, one with explores and comes up with brilliant ideas, etc. - all under a competent manager. The team manager is accountable for the results, and thus has a major say in recruiting new members. In major companies, the final Hire/No Hire decision is made only after an interview with the manager of the team he would be joining. Probably, in cricket too, the coach should be a party to team selection. This way, he gets to make an ideal team composition that is capable of the best performance.

This way, Superstars who are more of a damper to the team's success will be left out by the coach.

Sunil said...

Nandakumar.....thanks, though that is really generous praise.

Srikanth.....definitely, and a very good point. Somehow, Indians don't seem to make very good team players anywhere (too many "leaders" too few doers).

Ravi said...

I think Robin singh would have had a tremendous impact on Indian cricket if he had been persisted with after the 1989 series.And from what i have heard, he was lightning fast with the ball as well then...

Sunil said...

I don't know what might have been, Ravi, but i do know that his attitude and effort was fantastic, and we can see a little bit of that now in the present team, full of youngsters wanting to learn and perform.

Minal said...

Hey sunil,
Am back after a break and browsing through some of the missed readings.
What a nice post,well said. Robin Singh and Jadeja sure had some gritty partnerships in between.

While we are on the bridesmaid discussion that has to involve Rahul Dravid, I thought I'd send you back to my views on Our Best Man I had penned down a few years back. I'm glad he is finally getting to be the bridegroom since the last couple of years.

Anonymous said...

Cricket Live Matches At Your Desktop
http://cricketlivematches.blogspot.com/


There are thousands of High Quality Channels streaming live cricket from around the world. We are here to show you how to find them. Receive live match links in your mail account. All internation Cricket matches Streams. Note all matches are as per BST.

Special Introductory offer:
Live match links in your mail account at only £1.00 GBP. Free for First Day if you subscribe it now.

1. Free Software:
We will provide you all software you need to get live match at your desktop.

2. Low Cost:
Free for the first day, Receive live match links in your mail account @ £1.00 GBP for each 2 weeks.

3. What's Needed:
Just need is to click on the link, start the software and match is on your desktop.

3. Live Soccer:
Watch live soccer online on your PC no need of buying Sky or Cable?

4. Is It Legal?
We donot stream live Cricket from this server or blog. There are thousands of High Quality Channels streaming live Cricket from around the world. We are here to show you how to find them.

Check it Once

http://cricketlivematches.blogspot.com/

philippine beach said...

companies marketing mineral makeups and also get the best bargains in mineral makeup you can imagine,
find aout how to consolidate your students loans or just how to lower your actual rates.,
looking for breast enlargements? in Rochester,
homeopathy for eczema learn about it.,
Allergies, information about lipitor,
save big with great bargains in mineral makeup,

change edition interviewing motivational people preparing second
,

interviewing motivational people preparing second time
,

interviewing people motivational preparing for a second time
,

black mold exposure
,

black mold exposure symptoms
,

black mold symptoms of exposure
,

free job interview questions
,

free job interview answers
,

interview answers to get a job
,

lookfor hair styles for fine thin hair
,

search hair styles for fine thin hair
,

hair styles for fine thin hair
,

beach resort in the philippines
,

great beach resort in the philippines
,

luxury beach resort in the philippines
,
iron garden gates, here,
iron garden gates,
wrought iron garden gates
, here
,
wrought iron garden gates
,
You: The Owner's Manual: An Insider's Guide to the Body That Will Make You Healthier and Younger
,
eat eating mindless more than think we we why
,


texturizer,
texturizers here,
black hair texturizer,
find aout how care curly hair,
find about how to care curly hair,
care curly hair,
lipitor rash,
lipitor reactions,
new house ventura california,
the house new houston tx,
new house washington dc,
new house pa philadelphia,
san antonio tx house new,
house new pa philadelphia,
new house washington dc,
new house ventura california,
the house new houston tx,
house new san antonio tx,
the house new houston tx, that you are looking for,
new house ventura california, you need to buy,
new house washington dc,
house new pa philadelphia,
new house san antonio tx,

hair surgery transplant
,

air filter allergy
,

refurbished dell laptop computers
,

hair surgery transplant
,

air filter allergy
,

refurbished dell laptop computers
,

hair surgery transplant
,

air filter allergy
,

refurbished dell laptop computers
,

chocolate esophagus heartburn study
,

chocolate esophagus heartburn study
be informed,

digestion healing healthy heartburn natural preventing way
,

digestion healing healthy heartburn natural preventing way
,
sew skirts, 16simple styles you can make!,
sew what skirts 16 simple styles you,
rebates and discounts on sunsetter awnings,
sunsetter awnings discounts and rebates,
discount on sunsetter awnings


truck and bus tires 12r 22.5, get the best price,
tires truck and bus 12r 22.5 best price,
tires truck bus tires12r 22.5 best price,
plush car seat strap covers,
car seat strap covers,plush,
car seat strap, plush covers,
oscoda voip phone systems, the best!,
oscoda voip the phone system,
oscoda voip phone systems,
exterior iron gates,
oriental wrought iron gates,
powder coated iron garden fencing,

eczema said...

black mold exposure,
black mold symptoms of exposure,

wrought iron garden gates,
your nest iron garden gates, here,

hair styles for fine thin hair,
search hair styles for fine thin hair,

night vision binoculars,
buy, night vision binoculars,

lipitor reactions,
lipitor reactions,


luxury beach resort in the philippines,
beach resort in the philippines,

homeopathy for baby eczema.,
homeopathy for eczema learn about it.,

save big with great mineral makeup bargains,
companies marketing mineral makeups,

Anonymous said...

Once I played wow, I did not know how to get strong, someone told me that you must have wow gold. He gave me some World of Warcraft Gold, he said that I could buy wow gold, but I did not have money, then I played it all my spare time. From then on, I got some warcraft gold, if I did not continue to play it, I can sell cheap wow gold to anyone who want.

Anonymous said...

I like a game which needs to use maple mesos, when you do not have mesos, you must borrow cheap mesos from friends, or you buy maplestory mesos. If you get maple story mesos, you can continue this game.