Is mortality a curse? Or, is it merely an acceptance that all good things must end?
Successful sportspersons always spend the first three-fourths of their careers learning, improving and challenging themselves and eventually growing strength to strength, to be more capable. And, then suddenly for no fault of theirs, sometimes their body gives up on them. Strong reflexes become feeble, keen senses grow dull, that copy book cover drive becomes a thick outside edge, lose a few yards of pace. How awesome would it be if your body does not age and it peaks just like your wisdom with age? Ah, the curse of mortality.
So what makes great people hang on, rather than calling it a day? To challenge themselves and scale another peak? Or is it simply because playing cricket is what they know to do best and the fear of letting go, simply keeps them hanging on. Competition is such an addiction, especially if you have seen the pleasures of being successful. When Tom Brady of the New England Patriots was asked why he still continues playing, his reply was “I do not know what I would do if I stopped playing football”. May be this exactly is what every great cricketer feels, the glass is never full perhaps.
Now that we have three forms of cricket, each one very different from the other in terms of skills, strategies and commercial success, the mortality rates of cricketers, I would suggest will be drastically different across the formats. But it all depends on the future course of events and what changes the game itself goes through. The cricket romantics will always argue about the sanctity and authenticity of Test cricket, the contemporary cricket fans will argue that T20 is what brings in the cash and that is the most important format, and the ODIs, if not anything will find some sympathy from both schools of thought. I personally, am of the opinion that all three formats are important, but what is most important is the proportion in which these are played. The ICC seems to be competing with the UN to be the best proxy global organization. There has never been a better time for the ICC to stand up and show the cricketing world, and stamp their authority as the one who runs the game. Some recent changes in proposing a test championship, better scheduling and scrapping of FTP are just the light at the end of the tunnel.
The cricketing world today has seen diverse events in the past few months with respect to mortality.
Haider, the young wicketkeeper from Pakistan just announced his retirement due to threats to his life and family. Apart from it being shocking, it’s so bizarre that that a cricketer’s career ended even before it began.
There have been calls to axe Rahul Dravid, one of my favorite cricketers. His recent century against the Kiwis was a re-affirmation that he is not finished yet, but unfortunately when the tide is turned against you or you have a certain preconceived image, even success does not guarantee to silence your critics. It’s very unfair that people questioned his strike rate in that particular innings, when he actually had a better strike than everyone except for Sehwag. But to be fair to his critics, Dravid does not look the great player he was; probably it’s the fear of the end coming close or just the curse of mortality. Not everyone will have an exit like the great Steve Waugh, Dravid’s idol, but maybe we should just trust great cricketers to call it a day when they know it’s about time.
Just when we all thought that Younis Khan was done for various reasons, he has come back and proved he has some years left in him. Anil Kumble has taken a step towards cricket administration by contesting the KSCA elections, which I think is quite noble and we are going to be hearing more about him. Sanath Jayasuriya seems to have been a liability in the last few years of his career. Sachin Tendulkar, it looks like is having a drag race with mortality and he is comfortably ahead a few paces for now. The English cricket team has never looked so confident and positive in recent years, but in contrast the Aussies have seen their tag as the great dominant cricket team turn on a dime. Ah, the curse of mortality!
As for cricket itself, we have the test championship being proposed and T20 leagues burgeoning all across the globe. This is an exciting time; it’s probably an end of era, but also a new beginning. Cricket is only second to soccer for team sport that has proliferated across the globe. Add China and the Americas to mix someday, you will have a golden age for cricket.
As for me, for the next few months, I am not thinking of mortality. I am going to be a cricket romantic and I am eagerly looking forward to the “Holy Ashes” and the India-SA test series. I am backing the Poms to win the Ashes! I hope they do not disappoint me, like they always do in soccer! Oh by the way, I will turn a contemporary cricket fan during the ODI World Cup!
Guest Article by Deepak Lakshman.
Deepak’s tryst with cricket began in the streets of Bangalore, as a kindergartener. From then to now, even 8000 miles away from home, playing, watching, discussing and reading about cricket has always been great fun! A self-confessed cricket romantic and addict, he has a new born desire to write about cricket. Drop in here for his occasional cricket musings.