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Battering bowlers & butchering predictions

If sport teaches humility and modesty, because a slump inevitably accompanies success, cricket is a crash course in keeping one’s mouth shut, writes Amrit Mathur.

india Updated: Aug 05, 2008 00:18 IST

When we know cricket is fundamentally uncertain, like the weather, why do people still put their front foot out and make bold predictions?

So called experts freely express an opinion, only for cricket to bite back and prove them horribly wrong. If sport teaches humility and modesty, because a slump inevitably accompanies success, cricket is a crash course in keeping one’s mouth shut. Not many, though, show restraint, and the temptation to swing their bat or shoot in the dark is too strong to resist.

Usually, speculation focuses on the behaviour of the pitch, about which all manner of theories do the rounds. And, in what is classic over-analysis, factors ranging from soil/climate/quality of grass, direction of the blades/cloud cover are used to guess the nature of the surface. But despite the complicated explanations, the wicket defeats everyone. Judging young players is another popular activity, and here too there is more miss than hit. If predictions about emerging players were accurate each team would by now have two Bradmans and a few Tendulkars. Many talented players who were expected to arrive got lost in transit, as luggage does at a disorganised airport terminal.

Players not realising their true potential is not a mere supply chain malfunction, it’s more a case of unrealistic expectation created by faulty judgement in the first place. And even if talent is correctly assessed, the excessive hype forgets that a player must have the entire package — ability, focus, hard work and luck — to make it.

While it is understandable that you go wrong on new talent, mistakes about quality players and snide comments about them are inexcusable. Take Sehwag’s case as an example and look at his recent career.

A year back he was out of favour, dropped from the team, slammed for loose technique and careless attitude. Today, he is a hot star, his stats highlight the value he brings to the table: two triple hundreds, five doubles, 50-plus batting average, feared the world over for his strike rate and savagery.

It is astonishing that Sehwag first converted himself from a middle-order batsman to opener, then repackaged his style to make the change from one-dayers to Tests. For someone who is truly a khatron ka khiladi, Sehwag is an amazing success story.

After the dismissal in the previous Test (caught at square-leg, fetching a short ball from outside off ) Geoff Boycott said Sehwag was a talented but brainless cricketer. Now, after Galle, this distasteful remark only establishes that the England opener has no connect with intelligence or decency.

For long, Sunil Gavaskar has voiced a strong opinion against players and other professionals who run India down, specially those who benefit from the commercial opportunities that exist here but still choose to be condescending and patronising. Some of these gents, unemployable at home, have made a career from insulting things that are Indian.

Gavaskar is right about cricket, and the various things that surround the great game. He is spot on when he says we should not pay outsiders to abuse us