Friday, April 29, 2011

Legends Of Cricket !

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to make fun of or disrespect any of the players. Their contributions to cricket have been immense. Please take the post in the right spirit. 

When we talk about the legends of Indian cricket, names like Sachin, Sehwag, Zaheer instantly flash in our minds. No doubt they are great cricketers who have played the game better than their counter-parts, but this article concerns those special ones who were far more talented, skilled and innovative than those mentioned above but never got the due credit or respect they deserved. These were the players who changed cricket from a game to an art. Not only India but the whole cricketing world should be thankful to these masters of the game. This is a small tribute to these unsung heroes or whom I call the living legends of Indian cricket.

Venkatesh Prasad : One of the best fast bowlers of all times. He was the only fast bowler who had a ‘faster one’ instead of a slower one. After playing out Prasad at 120, if the batsman faces someone bowling at 140, he would feel it as 160. This way he helped the team get wickets at the other end by effectively implementing the ‘inter-over change in pace’ theory. Infact this was the prime reason why bowlers like Srinath and Agarkar were considered pretty quick at that time. And the best part was, at that pace also, he dared to ball slower ones- ‘lion hearted’. Sources confirm that once, when he bowled at 130; ‘Discovery Channel’ decided to make a show on him named ‘Crossing Human Limits’. However, the show was never on AIR as some dispute arose between both parties during the making. Apparently Prasad did not like his introduction in the show as a ‘medium-fast’ bowler instead of a fast bowler. He took it as an insult and filed a case against the channel which is still in the court.
He also had an incredible talent of getting smashed all over the park regardless of the pitch and weather conditions. Many experts criticized Indian fast bowlers of bowling well only in seaming conditions and helpful pitches. He proved them wrong by getting thrashed even on the fast and bouncy pitches. Now they had no option but to STFU. He also helped other Indian bowlers to become better and a respectful name in the cricketing world. When Srinath and Kumble started their career, they were quite mediocre. But it was so enticing to thrash Prasad, that invariably the strategy of the opposition team was to attack Prasad and see off the other end. No surprise that Kumble dedicated his his 500th wicket to Prasad.
He has contributed immensely not only to the Indian cricket but world wide. He has the legal copyright on slow balls i.e. Prior to bowling slow or attempting a slower-one, the bowler has to take permission from Prasad in written. But for the betterment of the game, he made it open-source which resulted in innovations like ‘knuckle ball’ or ‘ back of the hand slower ball’. Also it was his slowness only that induced the possibility of playing a reverse sweep or a scoop on fast bowlers.

Robin Singh : The ‘on-side god’. To say he was a predominantly an on-side player is an understatement. He showed the cricketing world what real dominance is; by hitting every ball to the on-side irrespective of the line of the delivery- it was he who decided where the ball was going, not the bowler. Infact, sources confirm that Robin was the guy who advocated for the ‘max 5 fielders on the on-side rule’ and went on a hunger strike until ICC succumbed to the pressure and accepted it. There was no facebook at that time, thats why we never knew about that incident.
The story of how he became a one-dimensional (rather say one-directional) player is quite an emotional one. For this we have to go back to his childhood days when he started playing cricket in his colony. On the off-side of their pitch, there was a house of one of the typical ‘khadoos uncles’ who never returned the ball when it landed in their compound (+ 2 slaps as bonus). So the rule was- batsman gets out when he hits the bowl there. The childhood memories kept haunting Robin Singh and was afraid to play in the off side throughout his cricketing career.
He was also a very hard working bowler and always gave his 110% to the game. Thats why after bowling only a couples of balls, he looked out of breath and completely de-energized as if he had just completed a marathon. Instead of soft drinks or fruit juice, oxygen cylinders and Glucon-D were sent for him during the breaks. Infact after watching his condition only, Sachin realized how much this game can take out of you. So he started drinking ‘boost’ since that time, a big reason why he is still playing at the age of 38.

Romesh Powar : Arguably the best off spinner in the world. Most spinners use their fingers or wrists to turn the ball but he is the only one who uses his ‘family-pack abs’ to do so. He is one of the fittest players around and has got an excellent ‘spherical-shaped’ body. Infact he rolls down instead of diving in the field to utilize the fact that- “Rolling is faster than Sliding”; just shows if you combine skill with science, you can take the game to an altogether different level. Rumors are that after watching Powar only, the great Murlitharan decided to be an offie – “if he can ball off-spinners with a completely deformed body, I have only a defective hand”.
If you think you will LMAO just watching him ball, then hold on. The best part comes when he wears those weird colored ‘plastic sunglasses’. This completes the comedy package and batsmen have no option but admire this hilarious-blunder of nature instead concentrating on their batting. Statistics confirm this as only half of his LBW dismissals are recorded as ‘Leg before wicket’ and rest as ‘Laughed before wicket’. A true genius, no wonder Murli has a photo of Powar in his living room.

Navjot Singh Siddhu : The Indian Jonty Rhodes, man who completely changed the attitude of Indians towards fielding and a big reason for the improved show Indians put in the field now a days. His ground fielding was so pathetic (the only player who had the ability to mis-field the same ball in 3 different ways), that rest of players started considering themselves descent and confidence grew inside them. It reflected in the field. He also showed that fielding can be a lot of fun (atleast for those watching him). Infact using his fielding clips in laughter therapy sessions is quite common now a days.
Also, he considered diving and sliding against his principles. Fair enough- you cant loose your dignity or self-respect just to stop a ball from going to the boundary, after all its just a game. Siddhu continued his services towards Indian cricket even after his retirement (as a commentator). He irritates so much while talking that people forget about the dissimal show of players on the field and the focus of their anger shifts on to Siddhu. This has made it possible for players to play their natural game without any pressure. The level of irritation doubles when he mixes his laughter with his talking; a deadly combo. Siddhu was also a significant factor in the Indian WC victory. Siddhu had announced that he would go topless in front of the team if they don’t win the tournament. So it was the fear of ‘topless Siddhu’ rather than the motivation of ‘nude Poonam Pandey’ that did the trick.
Siddhu is a ‘charismatic’ person off the field too. He was nominated for the 2010 ‘Noble Peace Prize’ for his work on ‘kashmir Issue’ between India and Pak. India had offered Pakistan to have Kashmir if they take Siddhu with it. Pakistan immediately replied that they have no interest in Kashmir and the issue was resolved. Such is his effect that WHO has put him into the list of 10 most hazardous living beings and even launched an ‘anti-Siddhu’ vaccine. Many people have even offered huge amounts to him just to shut-up, but he rejected them saying that ‘talking bullshit’ is his passion; he doesn’t do it for money. His effect is not confined to our planet only; there are rumors about his super-loud laughter that aliens have also heard it and even replied back with their own version of Siddhu. Not a confirm news though, research is still going on.

Ravindra Jadeja : The best all-rounder India has ever produced. He changed the definition of an all-rounder from ‘who can both bat and bowl’ to ‘who can neither bat nor ball’. His sheer presence can uplift the moral of the opposition even if its a minnow team. Infact, Ireland coach has revealed that Jadeja was the main reason behind their wonderful show in the world cup. Irish felt that “if a player like Jadeja is the part of a top team, there is every reason to believe we have got some world-class players and a descent team”. This brought self-belief and confidence in them and ended up doing well in the WC. Such is his effect that, Yuvraj even sued a news channel when they compared him with Jadeja on some show.
Along with all these, Jadeja also has an incredible talent of being in the team without doing anything. It actually became a national issue when he was constantly played despite performing ‘anti-brilliantly’ in both departments of the game. Finally when Anna Hazzare went on a hunger strike and questions were raised in the parliament, he was dropped. But they were not able to keep him away for long; he changed his name to ‘Piyush Chawala’ and got into the WC squad. He has emerged as a glimmer of hope for all those who don’t know how to play but still want to make it to the Indian cricket team. A true super-talent – no wonder he is called the future of Indian cricket.

Abey Kuruvilla : Indian reply to the dreaded West Indian fast bowlers- only in terms of look, not in bowling skills. Had got such a charming face that his name rhyming with ‘Gorilla’ doesn’t seem to be a mere coincidence. Statistics also confirms that 70% of his dismissals were falsely given by umpire because they were too sacred to say no to his appeals. But bowling was a side business, there were 2 more important reasons to keep him in the team. The first was to control the notorious section of the crowd and stop them from doing any mischief like throwing things in the filed etc. Whenever there was some complain from a certain section of the crowd, he was immediately positioned there. Nobody dared to do anything in his presence.
The second reason was even more important. Once there was a strong lobby against cricket about children watching the match till late night which in turn hindering their physical as well as their academic growth. The movement was so strong that banning cricket in the country was not out of cards. But when Kuruvilla arrived, everything changed. It is said that once a child sees Kuruvilla at night (even on the TV), he never dares to watch the game again. Even the mothers changed their pet dialogue of making their child sleep from “So ja beta nahi to Gabbar aa jayega!” to “So ja beta nahi to Kuruvilla aa jayega!”
Kuruvilla was a class act with the bat. Throughout his career there was a stiff competition between his wickets and runs; and most of the times wickets were ahead. A interesting fact about his batting was that irrespective of the bowler bowling an in-swinger or an out-swinger, the ball always moved away from Kuruvilla. Whether it was afraid of him or was too ashamed to be hit by Kuruvilaa is still a matter of debate. Reports are that ‘MRF Pace Foundation’ has hired him for 2 years as to help its bowler develop out-swingers. Like his batting, his fielding was also world class; but as its discussion in public is a punishable act under Indian law, I won’t discuss it here.

Sreesanth : Angry young man of Indian cricket. His behaviour is so weird on the field that sometimes you think that he got in the team through some ‘mentally-challenged’ quota. Kerala is land of coconuts; apparently a big one fell on Sreesanth when he was 12 resulting in a permanent loss of self-control. Sreesanth realized the importance of aggression in today’s cricketing world in the very beginning of his career. Being an expert on it, he took the responsibility to induce the ‘aggressive-instinct’ in his team-mates also. His efforts showed some positive results straight away when Harbhajan slapped him. Sreesanth was so happy that he started crying (tears of joy); and why not – his hard work had paid off.
Nevertheless he is a wonderful bowler who adds a lot of variety to the attack….how??…can sing, can dance, can give stares to the batsmen,can abuse them; what more you want from a bowler! And the best part is that he is amazingly consistent with his noobness. Irrespective of weather he beats a batsman, gets thrashed for a boundary, bowls a wasted bouncer, balls wide outside leg….he will always say something and give those ‘how-dare-you’ looks to the batsman. Even Dhoni has accepted that it is very difficult to control Sreesanth. This just shows that if you are passionate about your job (in his case- sledging, staring and abusing without any reason) then even a WC winner captain cannot stop you.

Rahul Dravid : One of the most devastating batsman around. What Prasad was to bowling, Dravid is to batting. As a child he wasn’t allowed to go out and play, so he spent most of his initial cricketing days playing on his terrace with a ’1 tip 1 hand’ rule. This reflects in his batting even today when he is not able to hit ariel shots despite trying desperately for it. Only batsman who is seen working singles even in the highlights. He can leave the ball in more no. of ways than any one else in the world and even holds the record for the maximum no. of deliveries left.
Dravid has always been criticized for his slow batting- making the game dull and boring but what people don’t realize that Dravid is the reason why Indian batsman are doing so well lately. To counter the strike-rate of Dravid, selectors had to bring some real dashers in the team. This way people like Sehwag and Yuvraj got in and are doing wonders for India. Even Sachin batting so aggresively in the late 90s corresponds to the same reason. Moreover, imagine a fast bowler running in hard from a long run-up – giving his everything in the delivery – bowling it at 150- and then Dravid lefts it and remains in the same pose for 5 seconds. The bowler is shattered and suffers some mental trauma which makes it easy for the batsman at the other end.
Dravid has contributed a lot to the world cricket also. Infact he was the driving force behind the evolution of 20-20 cricket. The story is that once many bowlers complained to ICC about the mental trauma they suffered while bowling to Dravid. ‘Human Rights’ people also joined in arguing that it is inhuman to make someone watch Dravid bat for 50 overs. ICC came with the idea of shorter version of the game. But few protested it saying that this format will be very harsh on the bowlers and their confidence will be teared apart after being thrashed all over the park; they wont be the same anymore. Here, Venkatesh Prasad came to the rescue with the argument that “I went for 8-9 per over for most part of my career, but have you ever seen any signs of disappointment or tension on my face. You just have to make it a habit and all will be fine after that”. The point was accepted and T20 evolved.

Md. Azharuddin : One of the best captains that ever lead India. Always had his thinking-cap (collar in his case) on and took some extra-ordinary and historical decisions during his regime; best one being batting second in the 96 WC semis on Eden-garden which was known to turn significantly in the second innings. Many people criticized his decision but in my opinion it was a master-stroke. Indians are excellent players of spin and the turning track will entice the lankans to bowl spinners. Moreover when the ball turns, there is no confusion where to play it but when it doesn’t turn, the batsman is always in a dilemma whether to play it in the on-side or off….Still not sure how that sound strategy backfired!
Such was his dedication towards the game that he even did a crash course on some ‘weird-accent-english’. It helped him win most of the tosses because the referee never understood what he had called. Many people consider Dhoni as a good captain because he remains calm and cool in every situation. But this is actually a drawback because when the opposition see him this way, they become tense and start focusing on the game with more intensity. On the other hand, Azhar had always a ‘confused cum fukd-up’ look on his face regardless of the situation which lead other sides to misread the situation and be complacent.
India has produced some wonderful and great cricketers over the years but none greater than those mentioned above. Each of them were a match winner on their day (although for the opposition) and have proved it countless no. of times. If any one deserves ‘Bharat-Ratna’ its them. Great ambassadors of the game, completely revolutionized it and made it the game it is – Hats Off !!!

Amit Ranjan for DieHard Cricket Fans

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