Amritbani: Theories for Everything

New Delhi:

Cricket is intrinsically complex, one guy up against eleven, and he could be dismissed without facing a single ball. Add to this the impact of external factors (weather, clouds, breeze, drizzle, dew, grass, footmarks, light) and you know why it is so difficult.

Because cricket lends itself to subtle nuances and uncertainties there is a great scope for theory, opinion, wild conjecture and measured analysis. To make sense of cricket, to grasp its various aspects, to figure out the profound effect of an improperly fried egg at breakfast on the performance of the player, we need pundits to dispense knowledge.

That cricket has a two hundred year old history, and strong tradition, is another reason for this abundance of theory. And as Indians are fond of statistics a delicious cocktail recipe of gossip, social conversation and intellectual debate is created.

All this surfaced recently when Sehwag announced his ignorance about past Indian players. Experts launched into overdrive to explain this miss, one learned opinion put it down to cricket’s democratisation process which has resulted in the sport shifting out of big metros and the emergence of players from smaller cities. This is a neat theory, but why should we ‘assume’ players from Mumbai or Bangalore know cricket tradition and history? Plus, a troubling fact: Sehwag is from Delhi, which is a small city when compared to Beijing!

Usually, cricket theories are directed towards the nature of the pitch, and when Tests were drawn in Perth and Lahore, the reaction was truly ballistic. Players are also targets with top stars slotted into convenient categories, seen and judged through a set perspective.

Sehwag’s success is attributed to an uncluttered mind, natural gifts and an awesome technique that allows him to stand beside the ball and whack it through the offside. Sehwag’s failures are attributed to his carefree attitude and an awful technique, which prevents him from getting in line! Rahul Dravid is always portrayed as an Indian soldier, a professional who is both a student of the game (unlike Sourav, if you believe Manager Raj Singh’s TV statement!) and a teacher, a role model.

About Sachin Tendulkar there exist so many theories he seems to support an entire industry. Much is said about him, maybe because he says very little himself. When he scores, everyone gushes about his genius. When he fails there is a flood of stories about his fading skills. Indians are masters at manufacturing theories because we love cricket, are devoted to stars. Indian fans are cricket PHDs, who analyse every angle, discover every hidden agenda. Cricket is social glue, a sport and a religion, and a hot conversation tool. If this means creating simple theories about complex cricket issues, how does it matter? Let it be!

Amrit Mathur is the former media manager of BCCI.