A one Act play (Present day. A typical English pub. The sole bartender smiles meaningfully as Excuse, Anger, Pride, Reason and Hope enter and occupy barstools.)
Pride A lager, two stouts and two ales. And keep them coming.
Excuse I suppose it was inevitable.
Anger You mean lorded over at Lords, tied up in knots at Nottingham, hammered at Birmingham and rounded up at the Oval? Not to mention taunted at Taunton and...
Excuse Don’t be mean. What about the injuries? Pujara was a non-starter, Sachin’s viral fever prevented him from rescuing us at Lord’s, Sehwag was available midway through the series and we now know he still isn’t fit, Gauti’s fitness remains fitful... (takes a deep breath and continues) Yuvraj and Harbhajan’s injuries dug us a deeper grave. After that, Praveen’s indisposition brought us the rudderless RP. And don’t forget the biggest blow of all – losing Zaheer in the first session of the first day of the first Test. We lost the series right there.
Hope (Nodding, raising a mug) In that first hour, Zaheer showed us how different it could have been. And then, I waited for Sehwag to arrive and deliver.
Anger He delivered a King Pair. Aren’t you happy?
Hope (Ignoring the quip) I kept thinking we’ll see an upturn in our fortunes. We’re used to losing the first Test in almost every series. We need time to acclimatise, get our bearings. So, in the second Test, when Dravid and Yuvraj were batting, for one glorious session, I thought we had put the worst behind us. Even after we collapsed, I felt upbeat. Our fearless wizard – Laxman – usually comes alive in the latter half of the series. You know, second innings, back against the wall, needing a gazillion runs on a difficult pitch, that’s his forte. I kept looking up at him. And at our youngsters.
Pride (Snorting) Our youngsters are used to pyjama cricket and, worse, dressing gown cricket. Can we expect them to play the gentleman’s game? Do you know what bothers me? (Pauses for effect) That we kept hanging on to the #1 billing by our fingernails. Despite claiming the mace, we travelled to South Africa as underdogs. Ditto with Sri Lanka. Did we dominate ever? No. We just managed to be a shade better than the other. That in itself was nice, don’t get me wrong. But to fall in this manner... one moment, we’re sipping champagne and the next, we’re on intravenous drips.
(Business, sitting on a farther barstool, intrudes.)
Business Guess what this shift did to me? Back home, nobody felt the need to see the last three days of any of the matches. For all I know, cookery shows garnered better TRPs than the live telecast! Thanks to our cricketers, people are pretending to be interested in some middle-class revolution. You folks yap and yap about your loss. But end of the day, only my loss matters. If we don’t have a roaring IPL 5, I’ll have to reconsider sponsoring cricket. (Flings a few notes on the counter and leaves)
Excuse (Shouting at Business’ departing back.) Your stupid IPL is the main reason we’re in this state. Jeez, what a loser!
Anger Our frontline spinner, now there’s a real loser. 143.5 runs per wicket. Even in the best of times, he looks constipated till he picks his first wicket? Why? Because the gent can’t carry his confidence from one game to the next. Like he suffers from a selective dementia.
Reason There’s no doubt we’re in the middle of an Indian conversation.
Anger What the hell...
Excuse Hush! My phlegmatic cousin doesn’t speak often. Why is this an Indian conversation?
Reason Because we haven’t yet mentioned the other team. Having lamented the rout, let’s talk about the finest exposition of Test cricket in recent memory. About unsure bats left clueless by young swing masters and one wily spinner. About fearless batting and the hungriest batting line-up of all times. The only improvement this team can make is to introduce a fifth bowler – that dying slot in international cricket – because a team without a discernible tail does not need a specialist batsman at number 6. That’s it.
It’s not often that 10 out of 11 members of a top team perform at, or close to, their peaks. Years from now, when their skills have waned, people will remember this series as their crowning glory. 0-4 is a fitting tribute to a team knocking on the doors of greatness. Let’s accept that and repair to the drawing board.
Pride We’ve become so used to rooting for weak English teams in the Ashes, I suppose envying an English team will take time.
Anger I hope the Pommies thrash the Ozzies more soundly, although that hardly seems possible.
Hope Meanwhile, there’s much to look forward to. A million Indian teens would have watched Dravid and realised the value of character. They would also be encouraged by the fact that there’s plenty of unoccupied space at the top.
Excuse All the same, it’s annoying that we didn’t have much rain this English summer. (The bartender brings more lager, stout and ale. Again, he smiles meaningfully)
Bartender Drink up. This round’s on me!
Eshwar Sundaresan is a Bangalore-based writer, freelance journalist, ideator and entrepreneur. His works are Googlable.
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