Friday, January 26, 2007

Conquering Cricket - The Case of Shane and Glen

I have for long wanted to write cricket. I think history can't present me with a perfect opportunity ever.
For Warne will not be walking up to the crease to tweak and twirl the cherry, teaching valuable lessons in orbital motions to space scientists.
Likewise, Glen will no more measure up gently towards the popping line to send 'em down straight with an ever-upright seam, a real-time simulation in parallel physics.
After Sydney, the world, and not just the Aussies, will miss two of the greatest bowlers to have born Down Under. Two simple cricketers with the simplest of actions and the simplest of mission. Bowl them out.
If not for Glen and Warne, Australia could never have dominated the cricketing world for a decade-and-half.
Of course, the batters were always there led by the indomitable Steve, the sulky Taylor, elegant Mark, powerful Ponting, one hell of a Hayden and Gilly, the thunder-bat. There were a few more like the lusty Langer and meditative Martyn in a line up so dominant that redefined the very essence of batting into one of aggression and attack. In fact, 400 runs on day one has become so common with these villainous willows being wielded around across continents.
But batting is not all that counts. Winning lies in wicket taking. And Australia relied primarily on wily Warne's magic to make the cherry turn by more than fifty degrees, even on flat tops, and magnificent Mc Grath's single-minded devotion to a single-line, searching an invisible fourth stump.
Two great bowlers with two contrasting styles, yet yielding the desired result. Victory. A word synonymous with Cricket Australia. Like all, they were also rookies to start with.
I still remember Warne's debut against India in his home turf Melbourne. Ravi Shastri clobbered him around the huge park. The blonde leggie, feeling the big stage for the first time, with the vaseline on his nose, showed that he had a huge heart. The 18-year old's face clearly showed the frustration in failing to nail his first victim. After making a double century, Shastri stroked one gently back to the blonde. Warne was born.
No one watching that match then must have thought that Shane, the blonde, will be the first to reach the 700 wicket mark, unimagined in those days and unbelievable even now. Speedsters like Hadlee, Kapil and Botham all would have settled somewhere around 500.
Even now, any bowler in operation will settle with 500, extremely satisified. Not Warne. And his spin-twin, Mutiah Muralitharan, the one and only offie, whose wish is to have a thousand of 'em in the bag.
Warne firmly believes and has admitted openly that Murali will be the first and perhaps the only one to achieve a thousand in test cricket. I sincerely feel that these two great spinners of all time to come, with a very bad habit of wanting to see the backs of batters, have elevated themselves to a plane higher than even the extra-ordinary. Their's is a league of super-naturals. Reminded of Pistol Pete and Roger the Romancer playing in an entirely different planet of tennis?
Not to be left behind by the spinners, the machine like McGrath has been tirelessly trail-blazing the cause of the faster kind in cricket. Glen is more special than the two spinners. For I feel, No batsman has ever conquered the Pidgeon. Save for the Laxman – Dravid partnership in erstwhile Calcutta for a whole day.
Even the greatest batsmen of our time Sachin and Lara have not had the measure of his line and length even after nearly two decades and after close to fifty thousand runs in cricket. Glen is in a league of his own with discipline as the first and last word.
We will write about Murli when time necessitates. But Warne has been conquered. For he has had trouble in the sub-continent. While he has foxed Pakistanis, a master class in tackling spin, the Windies, the Kiwis, the Africans and not to forget the English, his bunnies, Warne will have nightmares when he lands in the sub-continent of spin.
Indians, save for Rahul the Wall, have somehow retained the psychological advantage against the versatile spinner by beginning to attack right from the word go. Images of Sidhu, Kambli and Jadeja going down the track to nullify the spin are there in our memories. So are Tendulkar's cross-sweeps and pulls, Laxman's wristy flicks and on-drives to Warne's frustration.
Only occasionally, Warne will feel that off-stump pitching it in leg. May be, Warne tried too much to spin in the land of spinners. We will know more about his agonies when he comes commentating sometime later.
The burning desire to take on the best batsmen all around the world and the will to conquer as a part of an invincible team has made the duo legends in international cricket. It is straightaway saddening to think that we will no more be watching the two in action.
Glen will be there till the world cup wanting to sign out in glory. I just had a look at his debut picture. Cricinfo has it from Getty Images. He is not that. He has travelled far but on a very straight road.
But to watch Warne, we will have to go back to the footages. Especially to that ball of the century when Gatting watched it all mutely. And may be, he is still watching it even now with disbelief.
Or may be, take the flight to Hampshire and watch Warne lead and bowl them over after over in those county grounds, radiant in rays of a late summer noon, with a gentle breeze flowing, sipping a very English tea.
May be, Warne wanted to end it all that way. Away from the media, away from his
femme fans and away from his own proud self. A flamboyant spinner's splending
farewell to what they call the game of gentlemen. In innocence and bliss.

Tailpiece: It is not fair to talk about the personal lives of these two great bowlers. I have to here. For there is a lesson for everyone. While Warne's fantasy for love goes on breaking hearts all around, especially of Simone and three children; Glen will always be by the side of Jane, of whom cancer cells are very fond of. A foundation of love.

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Stories From The Soul Town

There lies a magical land. Surrounded by the green ghats to the west, gurgling great rivers on the east, the valley with the very blue sky. A temple town of the tamils. Sitting on the dancing rock on the highland overlooking the valley, the writer procreates the lives of the people of this lesser known south west. Full of strange yet simple souls.