Sunday, October 10, 2010

A tale of 3 captains

The rarest of rare post- I seldom blog about cricket [ These days , I am sure people would point out that I seldom blog at all ] , but something that I saw for a while and I have been wanting to write about it.

It's really simple. It's about 3 captains that I have experienced in Indian cricket, and in some ways , how their attitudes have spoken about 3 different teams, 3 different attitudes and 3 different feelings that I have experienced as a fan.

It all started when I read this article which referred to the time for which cricket started for a lot of us. For me, it started around the time Tendulkar first came in. I remember a news bulletin in which Azharuddin was made the new captain. I was too young to realize that there was a little bit of politics in the move, but nevertheless, Azhar was a great cricket player (of course, sidelined by his part in scandals) , and under him India won several great accolades, the most memorable ones for me being a great test series win in India against England (3-0 including 2 innnings victories) and a win in the Hero Cup. Then came Ganguly, pocketing a great win in England in the Natwest series, and years later he was replaced by another captain - MS Dhoni.

I have excluded temporary captains like Jadeja, Raina, and (maybe surprisingly ) Sachin Tendulkar. The reason is , that for the tremendous respect I have always had for Sachin as a batsman, player, human being - I think he was never comfortable in his short reign as captain- and more importantly, his 'captaincy' in itself did not match his greatness at all.Anil Kumble too was made a leader very late, and anyways, his captaincy was only for Tests while MS Dhoni led the one-day side.

So brings us to the 3 again- Azhar, Ganguly and Dhoni. It's a change that has been over time, but now it seems true.

It was the 1992 world cup game against Australia. India were chasing - a field they considered themselves terribly bad in. We were close, very close agonizingly close. Kiran More came in and punched 2 boundaries. But then at the brink of victory, we lost. Lost by one run. Painstaking. But, I remember this match distinctly- watching it with Mom, Dad who had seen many matches earlier- and the verdict was clear before the match- India can't win a close one like this. They had lost by one run in 1987, and most likely will face the same fortune. And they did.

Fast forward to 2002. A final at Lord's . India chasing a mammoth 326 and 146 for 5, as Mohd Kaif and Yuvraj Singh guide them to an amazing run-chase. The famous Ganguly shirt incident. But more than the attitude, it was a match that instilled in the generation of fans- that India could win a nervous chase. That they could put their act together in a time of crisis.

2007. The T20 final. The new captain-cool, MS Dhoni keeps terribly cool as Sharma bowls a wide in the first ball of an all-important over. And as Pakistan Mis-ba 5 runs , India become the champions, and more importantly, it establishes the confidence of this Indian team in a tight situation.

2010. The commentators are talking about Ricky Ponting finally getting to a win in India. (yeah right). But an injured VVS Laxman and an amazing Ishant Sharma have other ideas, as they take India to their first ever one-wicket win and that too against Australia. It was sweet revenge for most of us especially because it was against Ricky Ponting ( at least for me). The important thing here was that right till the end, there was this confidence, this instinct that in such a close situation, India could still win. and they did...

As greatbong put it rightly in his farwell to Ganguly

"If there is one enduring legacy of Dada, it is that he taught an almost perennially defeatist Indian cricket team “to believe” (For those who have sat through wimpy, gutless Indian performances through the 80s will appreciate even more the truth of this statement). "

We have learnt to win . Or should I say, we have started believing that we can win. And that according to me is the most important transition from the days of Azhar to the days of Dhoni.

Let's hope it stays on.