Monday , January 14, 2013 at 12 : 26
Through the whirlwind of your matches and several back-to-back series, you and your boys might recall shooting for a promotional spot of about a minute for a mainstream television channel on cricket. It showed several of your boys, in close up, over the announcement of the (recently concluded) 2012-2013 India-Pakistan cricket series, hosted by India.
The boys all looked rather tough in the ad; the kind of mug-shot all advertisers/promoters like best, where players wear an expression quite like superheroes on their way to steady an impending apocalypse. I suppose the India-Pakistan series was quite akin to one such great event, especially since the Pakistanis haven't really been playing too much cricket; and certainly not with us.
As a result, many were looking forward to this one - viewers, promoters, advertisers, organisers - basically, half the country. The promoters didn't have to really generate interest, since there already was much of it. Yet they chose to, in a most remarkable fashion.
The promotional campaign with you and your boys had a heavy, serious, male voice over the visuals saying something to this effect - "When Pakistan is the adversary... a billion voices say one thing in unison... - inse mat haarna (don't be beat by them)... Aa raha hai Pakistan (well, they're coming)..."
And then, as you wield your bat like Luke Skywalker's laser weapon, the last word is yours, in your inimitable voice,- "AANE DO (Let them come)".
Well, they came, they saw, they...:
Very briefly, though I suspect you don't need to be reminded, but the Pakistani team did quite well. First, it tied the T20 series. They won the first T20 at Bangalore with a couple of balls to spare. True, it was a tight match, even though you personally didn't shine much with one run on the board. Perhaps you weren't really ready. It does take time to warm up to anything.
The second match your boys and you won! You did well too, with 33 off 23 balls. So finally the T20 matches were a tie.
Is that bad for us? Considering we pride ourselves, rather, you pride yourselves as the T20 champions of the world, this resultant tie wasn't so inspiring after all. Certainly not to "Aane Do" levels.
Next, 3 ODIs were lined up. In fairness, you shone in the first one. 113 off 125 balls was a stellar performance, given the fact that you cramp these days quite badly (something to do with fitness levels perhaps?). But as is expected in a team sport, a single man's contribution is often not enough. So, Team India lost the first ODI.
The second one too, we lost, by 85 runs. Once again, you personally held things together and did ok in putting up runs on the board (54 not out), but your opponents won more than comfortably, and with that the series as well.
But, as you do often in moments of great distress, you muster hidden reserve, maturity and alertness to lead us to victory. Both you and your team were good to watch a few days ago, when you played the last and final of three ODIs against Pakistan. Despite biting cold, the bowling was sharp and the fielding was outstanding! You all came together as a team; not a ball was let past, not a moment was lax on the field.
Which brings one to a very basic question - why is it, when your team and you have the ability, the mettle, the facilities and encouragement from a billion people, that you don't perform at optimum level until the waters are above your head?
And talking of heads, why is Ishaan Sharma's hair so long? Is someone keeping count of the possible catches and run-outs he's missed owing to the wind blowing his black shampooed mane into his dark eyes?
Why were you all playing in Delhi in the peak of winter? Doesn't the Board know that other mature cricketing nations do not play in winter because it heightens the chances of serious injury to players? Do you have any say in these decisions?
Why is the team playing so much and sleepwalking its way through matches and series?
And why, oh why, were you all part of a campaign that so blatantly presumed and assumed you would win, given that you haven't found good form in a while, and that Pakistan has been practicing at the nets more than you? Could it be that you didn't have time to think about it, with all the whirling in and out of events, shoots and matches? Or that you were dictated to participate in the ad by the fine print of the terms of all the endorsements, sponsorships and campaigns that you and your boys are often so willingly and happily a part of?
I don't mean to be unfair. You've done well, some time ago. You've had some great and crowning moments in your career. You have your admirers, and indeed, you are captain cool (with perhaps a sole exception when in the series you let your desperation and frustration show in one instance).
That you will last as captain of the team in all formats is in doubt. Yet, when your time comes, whenever it does, you too will have a final word or two to say.
What might you choose to express? Would you consider giving the youngsters advise on the game of cricket, or on the politics of it, or on pressures and compromises of fame and attention, that might bind you to contracts that make you do and say incredulous things like "Aane do"? Or would you choose to ignore it all, since the moolah is made and then it won't really be your business anymore?
In the meanwhile, taking a page from your experience, the workshops I conduct on understanding and managing anger will have an additional element added to its content - assume nothing, stay with humility, cross the bridge when you get to it, count your chickens after they hatch and your victory at the end of the match.