Cricket Lessons

I am not a big fan of sports. And I consider myself to be a very frugal guy. I generally do not like to spend money on anything unless it is an investment that will pay for itself many times over. The last time I agreed to watch a game at a stadium was when the Tigers played the White Sox at the newly refurbished Comerica Park in Downtown Dertoit, and my company picked up the tab for the box seat and served us free dinner. During the game Ė in between innings Ė I strolled to the gift shop and bought a baseball, for five bucks, as a memento for my two year old son. It is only one of the many balls that he plays with and clearly the most expensive one, as all his other balls were bought in a garage sale for less than a dollar! Later, I regretted having spent so much on a stupid baseball even though the Tigers went on to play in the World Series.

So how did I lose all sense of self-restraint and splurge more than two hundred bucks on the World Cup Cricket series? Those guys at DISH network are laughing their head off with my money and it burns me just thinking about it. How could I possibly do it? How could I bet so much on the probable, but highly unlikely, event that India would win the World Cup? Can someone explain it to me because my wife is demanding for an answer and I donít have one.

Well, I checked already. DISH has a no return policy on the telecast of World Cup matches. If there is any consolation in this rather bleak episode, it is the fact that there are many other suckers like me who have squandered a small fortune on this con job and are trying to make up for their loss by watching New Zealand beat Ireland. I am sure about this because there is no reason why a web portal on Indian matrimony would advertise during the drinks break on this rather boring game. Canít imagine that very many Kiwis or Irish would have any use for an Indian matrimony website. When you are on the losing side, it often feels like the whole world is out to get you. And in another ad during the same game, Citibank wanted me to use their NRI checking account to transfer money to India! Címon, I am not that dumb. I must confess that I wanted to hurt somebody when I learned that my money was gone for good. In that sense I feel that the people who got true satisfaction from their urge to take revenge were the ones who ransacked Dhoniís house at Ranchi. Them and the mob in Pune that threw stones and broke the windows in Zahir Khanís restaurant. I would have paid money to be a part of any one of those two gangs and would not have had any regrets, either. Critics have said that all kinds of riffraff call themselves cricket fans only to behave like hooligans when the results go against their expectations. But take it from me, when you lose a good sum of money betting on the wrong team, it doesnít take much for a normal guy to turn into a hooligan.

Lately, I have come to accept my loss but feel that I cannot let this event pass without offering some (unsolicited) advice to the players, BCCI and Indian cricket fans. I do understand that hearing the sound of glass shattering at the ZK would have been immensely more gratifying, but, the last time I checked, the flight ticket to Pune from Detroit was north of $1400. My wife will kill me if she gets to know that I was even entertaining the idea.

So here are my Top Ten Lessons for the players, BCCI and Indian Cricket Fans.

Lesson #1: A winning team is easy to spot on the field. They have a strategy to win the game and play as per their plan. Hope and luck are not part of the strategy!

Take a cursory look at the Australian team when they are playing the game. Their captain is a leader who inspires confidence amongst his players. He leads by example. Their batsmen are reliable, their bowlers are intelligent and their fielders are aggressive. They have everything that Indians do not have and would wish for.

Lesson #2: In a team sport, individual performances are meaningless unless the team actually wins the game.

Indian media and commentators keep referring to the ďstrong Indian batting line up on paper.Ē All it means is that a select few players have scored a lot of centuries but you canít rely on them to win a match for you. I am willing to bet that if all the individual statistics were to be recalculated based only on the games that India has won, we would see an entirely different picture.

Lesson #3: To win, a team should move to a position of power. And a team cannot predictably move to a position of power when they are prone to recurring setbacks.

Without fail, India would lose two wickets before they had fifty on the board. This put tremendous pressure on the middle order batsmen to preserve the wickets, and, as a result, getting large totals became impossible. In almost all the matches this was the routine for the Indian team. With Australia, on the other hand, Hayden and Gilchrist always had a strong start and the team was able to put large scores on the board. Against South Africa, Australia put a really large total with a steep required run rate (377 in 50 overs), which forced the opponents to make mistakes and lose the game.

Lesson #4: When the conditions are right, exploit the opponentís weakness. Force setbacks for the opponents!

When a new batsman comes in, the field placing has to be such that he feels a lot of pressure to get started. On couple of different occasions Dravid brought in a slip only after the new batsman had an outside edge that would have been caught had there been a slip.

Between the 20th and the 40th over is when the fate of the match is decided. The bowlers who bowl in these overs should have the intelligence to pick up wickets and should work closely with their captain to have a good field. We seldom saw this when the Indian team was playing.

Lesson #5: Make sure you have watched the last ten games of the opposing team before you bowl the first ball.

This is especially true for the World Cup games. I am sure India would not have suffered such a humiliating defeat had they paid attention to the strengths and weaknesses of the players in the Bangladeshi team. And the Indian team needs to have mandatory sessions to watch all the games that Australia plays.

Lessons for BCCI

Lesson #6: This is a team sport, so break down all factions. Make sure there is true unity in the team. Replace/fire those who do not play along.

As I started to read the columns on cricket and watch the games more closely, it came as a revelation for me: Indians are truly divided on the field! Apparently there are all kinds of factions in the team. Seniors vs. juniors. Pro-Dravid camp vs. a pro-Ganguly camp. Pro-Chappell camp and an anti-Chappell camp. Rumor has it that when Ganguly was asked to accelerate the run rate, he ignored the orders of his coach and played along to achieve his own personal milestone. You have got to be kidding me! How can such a team win any game?

Lesson #7: Donít elect politicians to be in this body.

All they create is politics. I would recommend that retired CEOs, Human Resource personnel from successful multinational companies and retired Army officers be considered for membership in this body. What the team needs is a true leader to inspire (CEO), realistic metrics to reward for performance and punish for failure (HR Personnel) and a healthy dose of discipline and professionalism (Army officers).

Lessons for Indian Cricket Fans

Lesson #8: Donít just sit there and watch TV for eight hours.

Do something else as you are watching the game. All the game requires is a cursory glance every ten minutes or so. I quickly learned that reading the newspaper, doing laundry and surfing the Internet are all good options when you are watching the game. A small nap in the couch, as you are watching the game is also well worth it. Make sure that the volume on the remote is muted, as the commentators and spectators have a knack for creating unnecessary drama, even when there is not much happening. You can always watch a replay at the end of the over or during the highlights in the evening. And donít ever make the mistake of calling in sick at work to watch a match at home on a weekday. It is going be just another useful Ďsick dayí wasted unnecessarily. I lost two myself in this past World Cup.

Lesson #9: Donít fall for the media hype. They are out there to steal your money and time.

All these sports columnists and cricket reporters are a bunch of losers. Gavaskar started writing all kinds of nonsense about Australia and created a feel as though the Indian team had the ability to beat Australia. He was just baiting us to be drawn into a rivalry that did not exist. Australian team is far superior to any other team in the world cup and deserve to win. End of story. Read the newspaper the following day to confirm the obvious. Donít pay money and hope for a miracle.

Lesson #10: Be prepared for the next set of ten lessons.

I have the feeling that despite this dismal performance by the Indian team, we will be sucked into watching their wretched games all over again. I distinctly remember having stayed up all night to watch India lose to Sri Lanka and Australia in the previous World Cup matches. But that did not stop me from watching the games this time. So, if I were a betting man, I would bet that I will be having another set of ten lessons in 2011!

April 2007

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