Saturday, November 23, 2013

Indian Cricket's "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen"


This was the single word into which the endless frenzy, glitter, emotions and tributes for the great man culminated into. The words, at the end of an emotional speech, were spoken in high earnest but low frills by the man who has characterized the same qualities throughout his public life. It would have been unfitting if Tendulkar’s last bow was anything but a simple acknowledgement of the love he received and his own gratefulness for the same.

With this Goodbye, what ended was not just a glittering career that saw unprecedented emotions in over two generations of fans, but also an era of Indian Cricket. Contrary to my earlier Tendulkar-centric posts, this one is about the heroes of the era.

The Indian cricket of early 90s was a typical medieval Bollywood saga - a nondescript plot, a following content with mediocrity, an occasional surge and dramatic pitfalls, the largest of them being match fixing scandal. Quite in contrast with today’s racy adrenalin filled moments, aggression bordering on bravado, well-timed heroics and famous victories. What brought about this transformation is, what I like to call, the ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’

League – noun – a collection of people, countries, or groups that combine or form an alliance for a particular purpose, typically mutual protection or cooperation
Extraordinary – adjective – very unusual or remarkable
Gentleman – noun – a chivalrous, courteous, or honorable man

I could go endlessly about the individual brilliance of the quartet pictured above, their magical moments, their rise to become legends in their own right, what all and what not. If one was the master and the most humble servant of the game at the same time, another was the most talismanic leader Indian cricket could have imagined at the time. If one was the man Friday, the ever reliable and ever protective wall, the other was a wizard and the anchor around which India’s attack revolved for a decade.

But what Indian Cricket needed was much more than that. It needed credibility, dedication, belief and mentorship. More than that, it needed Sportsmanship from perfect Gentlemen. This is what made this quartet special. For them, it was always India that mattered… it was always the moment that mattered.

They didn’t just have to win matches, they had to win back a lost faith. They didn’t just have to build a cricket team. They had to build a dream that the team could pursue and achieve. And they had to support each other. Without clashes, without disrespect and without wavering. If there is one thing that set this group apart was the fact that they pulled off all of the above.

They gave Indian Cricket not just momentary glory but also promising future, not just training for the moment but inspiration for times to come. This, truly, was the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

That their era turned the most turbulent phase of Indian Cricket into the most glorious one is no coincidence. It is a result of a decade of dedication.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A December night that shook India

The night of 16th December 2012 was a night similar to any other. But fate had something else in store.

That fateful night told us, in the most blatant and brutal manner, what was needed for us to look up and take notice of a lady’s modesty being compromised. It needed one of them to be driven shamelessly through unresponsive streets while being raped, her private parts shredded by an iron rod amid ‘mar saali’ comments, her intestine being ripped with its pieces found in her stomach, and she then being thrown naked on the street to die in the intense Delhi cold.

And the mayhem didn’t end. The responses raged from outrageous to outright stupid.

“Drunken Lumpens”
“What was she doing with a male at that time of the night in that part of the city?”
“Such things happen to those who deserve them”
“She should have called them Bhaiya and pleaded for mercy”

Ironically, the maker of the last statement is in another rape quagmire, but that is another story. Political and Legislative institutions ran for cover, with the CM, PM and President nowhere to be seen. Supposedly oblivious to all this, the girl herself fought doggedly and died 13 days later. Outside, things got worse. Without a leader and without any organization, India teemed on to streets with only one desire, only one demand. Justice. And it seemed as if nobody know how to handle a set of people who wanted nothing more than justice.

We suddenly realized that we are a nation that not only allows rapes to take place, but also sincerely believes that girls get raped because they ‘ask for it’. The face of country that emerged was terrible, ugly and scary. However, it was a face the nation deserved to see in the mirror. What a pity, a girl had to lose her life, and more, to shake us out of denial and apathy and acknowledge that face.

16th December used to be a proud day in the history of India for 40 long years. In 2012, all this changed forever.

Today, the rusted and supposedly face-lifted institutions have given a limited sense of closure to the horrific face, by proving the accused as guilty beyond doubt. I hope tomorrow brings the only logical end to this saga, by condemning the perpetrators to the harshest punishment permitted by the laws of India.

It has rarely happened in India that her citizens have looked up to the institutions, expecting them to deliver. And they have been let down when a person old enough to rape a girl and batter her privates with a rod was found ‘not old enough to be punished’. I hope the systems do not let us down again.