Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cricket: The Game

A wonderful cricketing season is now over where we saw Australia start the slide after a peak of decade in test cricket and emergence of England and India as the top test teams, where we saw NZ reach nadir until they finally maanged to beat Pakistan in the ODI - Pakistan, who have looked very Pakistani, if I can say so, in the last year that they played - miraculously brilliant and plain horrid in equal parts.

What a busy the season it was, but I want to comment now how delightful the game is, and how it continues to give us the joy and keep the child in us alive.

Hearing different commentrators, journos and critics talk of technicalities of the game, in terms of pitch, angle of bat, footwork, run-up etc always enlightens a layman like me. But the one word that I am confused hearing and reading often about the game is that it is a team-game.

Is it really a team game?
To me, it always is a battle between two individuals.
Two individuals out there in the sun, fighting it out against each other and more importantly against the demons in their own mind.

The first one is the one who takes the ball in his hands, checks it out for its shape and shine, shines the side as required as he walks to his run up already thinking in his mind the various ways / ploys that he should use to bowl the ball at the other individual, reaches the end of his run up, decides in his mind on the line, length and speed he will use for this ball and starts his run up to get into the rythm required before he lands his foot exactly where required simultaneously turning his arm over, keeping his eyes on the spot where he wants the ball to land and releasing the ball using arm, elbow, wrist and fingers depending upon the type of the bowler he is, but always using his mind irrespective of the bowler he is and then bowls the ball with all his skill, may it be pace or spin or swing or action or sometimes sounds...the ball races to the other end...

The other end, where the other guy is patiently waiting, waiting with a bat firmly in his hand, waiting as he sees the bowler start his run up to the point that he bowls the ball. This batsman, all along has also calculated different ways, speeds and heights the ball will come to him and he has played different strokes to each of them in his mind. He is the one who requires more skill because he has to react. The bowler controls his action and it is upto him to complete it the way he can. But the batsman is not so lucky and he has to react to bowler's action. In a fraction. Fraction of second when the ball hits the ground before jumping on to him and in that fraction he needs to implement one of the plans that he had played in his mind while being patient. While his mind was playing the game, his hands were busy gripping the bat exactly as necessary, his eyes were focussing on the ball in bowler's hand and his feet were readying for the stance. And when the ball hits the ball, he has to think of where on the bat is the ball touching and what angle/force of the shot he should play.

And as he reacts, there is this sudden realization to both batsman and bowler that there are 11 others waiting in the same ground, wearing the same whites, playing in the same match. This contest then is extrapolated to the fielders and the rest of the team.

But essentially, it is a contest between the batsman and the bowler. Two individuals. Every individual playing his game against the other one. It is a one-to-one match, just like in boxing or chess.

And we are mere mortals who soak in the joy given by these immensely talented and gifted individuals, each playing against his own demons and for his own reasons.

Take a bow, gentlemen.

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