Time for some cheer folks! India has won the third one dayer against Sri Lanka in the series. As I was watching, I was wondering how the batsmen must they feel when they get ‘out’ and walk back to the pavilion.
I’m sure their personal feeling of satisfactory performance largely depends on how long and fruitfully they’ve played their innings. Once the self set target is achieved they generally walk back like a hero regardless of how they were dismissed. Spectators also have no problem with that. But if they loose their wicket before finishing their stipulated job, God save them from Indian spectators’ fury.
Even in that indignity of premature dismissal, in my scheme of things, there’s a gradation of humiliation for the batsmen based, largely, on spectator outrage. It’s a continuum of emotional reactions ranging from just plain sympathetic disappointment through extreme disdain questioning the batsmen’s cricketing skills, trashing them and demanding they be dropped from the team, right up to convicting them for treason. In my personal limited knowledge of cricket, in some measure, it’s based on how they are dismissed.
I think the most heroic way of getting out is ‘run out’. That’s tops on my list. Oh how I love it! The sweat soaked bodies running like maniacs to squeeze in an extra run in the final overs. The determined single minded expression on their faces as they dash with the longest strides possible to throw in their bat inside the crease with an over stretched arm. We sit on the edge of our seats with our tension stiffened bodies tilted forward, hoping to somehow transfer that thrust to speed up the runners enough to push them inside the crease. But despite the summation of our energies and hopes the ball hits the wicket before the batsman throws himself in. Oooh, we all go in a collective slump of disappointment. This is that ultimate heroic act of the batsman which screams “I tried, I tried hard with all I had, I went down fighting, took the bullet on my chest”. It has bravery written all over it.
But hold on, this glory of martyrdom doesn’t come easy. It has to be a clearly visible-to-the-naked-eye, beyond-doubt kind of run out. It’s that moment of dropping dead in action still holding the gun with your finger on the trigger that has the power to move millions into instantaneous mourning and teen aged girls into crushes on cricketers. It did to me. Referring to the third umpire, action replay, blinking message ‘decision pending’ on the digital board, camera frame shifting to the umpire and huddled together fielders, totally juices it out of the punch. It makes it look like one dying on a hospital bed, hooked to machines with blinking lights while everybody is watching and waiting with bated breath. It gives us time to accept and recover from the loss. The blood has dried, that moment of pain has passed. Nah, not the same thing.
Also, to get this coveted gallantry distinction one has to be just short of getting in to the crease. You can’t be a mile away from the crease. That would be seen as a colossal error of judgement. Nah, you don’t even qualify for a citation, much less get the medal. You threw your wicket. Everybody knew there wasn’t an extra run there. How couldn’t you?
And then there’s another run out which makes you look galactically stupid and enrages the spectators no end. It’s when one batsman runs and the other doesn’t. Whoa, are you guys on the same page, in this case crease, or not?! Or when both batsmen run after some hesitation and decide midway to turn back looking crazy confused. That’s an ignoble death. Looks like you got confused and panicked at the sight of advancing tanks.
Next up is getting ‘caught’ at the ropes by an extra tall fielder who jumped real hard to lop up the ball which was surely destined to be a six. A crazy-helluva-lucky-kinda Pollard catch. Well, this is heroic enough. The batsmen standing tall, confidently tracing the trajectory of the ball he has hit satisfactorily hard – another crush-inducing moment – and then the unbelievable catch happens, easily attributable to ‘badluck’. This is like you hurled a grenade on delayed fuse but it, for a strange reason, got deflected back and detonated closer than expected. Bravo. You are a martyr too.
Getting caught behind or otherwise gets one from neutral to mad responses. ‘Gave an easy catch – ‘wicket phenk diya, saale in paise liye honge’. Other catches are ‘ambush’. The bowler gives some covert indication to the fielders, batsman hits as anticipated and is caught by pre-positioned fielders. That’s an ambush. You should’ve seen it, been wiser.
Most humiliating way to go is getting ‘bowled’. Particularly if it’s at the middle stump. It happens too quickly. You completely misjudged, just didn’t see the ball coming, didn’t know where it was going, swung the bat at nothing. Seriously? Swung it even before the ball reached you?! That’s what I do. Don’t expect from you. It’s like holding a gun you didn’t even know how to fire. Must be the toughest walk back from the ground. Head hung down in frustration. And God save you if you were the top order batsman and you got ‘Bowled for duck’. Nightmare for every batsman. Crush crusher situation. Previous crushes may get undone here. Tch tch tch….. ‘Hit wicket’ also falls in the same category. Makes the batsman look stupid. ‘Oh, I just pulled the trigger, didn’t know the barrel was pointed at me’ kind of a situation
Stumped is self-explanatory. The batsman is stumped. So is everyone. ‘Oh, where the hell did this stray bullet came from!’ Mate, you’re down anyway. I would say, a rather funny way to go. It even brings a chuckle. That is, if it doesn’t happen at a crucial stage.
Now comes the most dubious way of getting out. LBW. It totally reflects the culture and ethos of most of the countries cricket is played in. I, and many like me, can never make an LBW out without the computer generated graphics. Most times we have the fielding side going ballistic in making the appeal with wild screams or the dissatisfied batsmen asking for a review of the umpire’s decision. If the services of the digital third umpire are summoned, its fine. Otherwise, we’ve both sides giving menacing looks to each other and doubting the integrity of the umpire. Sometimes tension lingers a bit longer which may or may not culminate into abusive exchange between the batsman and the wicket keeper. All smacks of the power struggle, use of aggression, racism or bias on part of the umpire, allusion to bungling and incompetence, lack of transparency in decision making and dissatisfied consumers to bear the brunt. That’s totally us. It’s more like everyday life than cricket. LBW just doesn’t have the code or honor of the battlefield. It brings us back to our lives and the communities we live in.
Other than this minor grey area of LBW, there is glory and heroism in playing cricket itself. No matter how you are dismissed, there’s honor in just stepping on to the cricket field and playing for your country. Weather you come back with a win or defeat, dead, wounded or alive, there’s still honor and gallant in just going to the battlefield that deserves and commands the love and respect of the public for the fighters. Long live our gladiators, weather on the cricket field or battlefield!
Disclaimer : written only with the intention of providing some comic relief to the people struggling through everyday burdens of life. With pure love and respect for the game and its fans.