It’s a bit of a stretch | india | Hindustan Times
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It’s a bit of a stretch

It’s wrong to link a nation’s attitude to war with the nature of its people and its sporting achievements, says Pradeep Magazine.

india Updated: Sep 27, 2009 22:05 IST

A four-page dossier that is not just meant to improve the Indian cricket team’s performance but also make them better human beings has generated a lot of debate, praise and even derision for all the wrong reasons. Messrs Gary Kirsten and Paddy Upton, the two South Africans responsible for coaching and providing psychological inputs to Team India, have circulated a document to the players which touches upon various aspects of team development, some very routine, some supposedly very bold and even revolutionary in nature.

It refers to India’s history and gives reasons why we are a docile nation that has always been reactive in nature. It urges the team to be proactive and adopt strike-first methods to win matches, especially outside India.

This is something that should please our right-wing politicians and their followers. The document does not stop there — it gives us examples from the 1971 war, saying how Indians reacted only after cities in northern India were bombed by Pakistan, and then links it with statistical data of how poorly we have done overseas in cricket by never attacking any team. This incursion into the past needs a serious debate; had any Indian coach said this, he would’ve already been reprimanded, if not sacked.

But the portion that has hogged a lot of news space and generated a lot of mirth among cricketers from even more ‘aggressive’ and ‘liberated’ countries is that which links fulfilling sexual urges with performance on the field. It talks about how excessive testosterone levels lead to aggressive behaviour and how increased sexual activity leads to rise in testosterone levels. The inference to be drawn here is that since we are docile as a race, sexual activity will lead to the players being more aggressive, and hence to better performers on the cricket field.

How we wish that we had known of these findings when China attacked India in 1962! Our soldiers could have been sufficiently advised and even provided with partners before sending them to the battle field. Maybe a war that we lost could’ve been won?

But jokes apart, the relationship between sex and performance on the sporting field has been debated endlessly and there has been a lot of research done on the subject over the years. Among the many theories, however, none is as conclusive as Kirsten and Upton (or perhaps only Upton, since Kirsten tried to distance himself from the document on Friday) would like us to believe. Football teams and their coaches have grappled with this problem and have not come to any satisfactory conclusion. It has been left to each individual who, as long as he does not breach the team’s discipline, and the moral and ethical code of the society he lives in, is free to indulge in what he thinks is
good for him.

Sex as a part of training input has, to my knowledge, not been part of any coaching manual, especially in cricket. That is why we could see players from other countries blushing and demurring when told about team India’s new ‘vision’ document. And since many of the Indian team members are married, obviously ‘going solo’ would be a better option for them unless their wives are patriotic enough to forgive them their indulgences for the sake of India’s victory.

That the coaches have good intentions and want India to be aggressive so that they become the best team in the world is not in question here. But to use war terminology to make ‘us’ understand our limitations as a sporting nation is as amusing as it should be shocking.

Going by this logic, the empire on whom the sun never set should have been the best team in the world, something it rarely was. England, who colonised almost half of the world, is a struggling cricket nation and does not have an enviable record even in other sports.

How do we explain the rise of the colonised ‘slaves’ — the West Indies cricket team — which for the better part of eighties was the most outstanding team the history of the game has known, giving lessons to their English ‘masters’ and to the rest of the world?

Australia has never been at war, yet it was the best team in the world for the last decade. The point I’m trying to make is that to link a nation’s attitude to war with the nature of its people and its sporting achievements is fraught with serious danger. Even the best of historians have refrained from passing such judgments.

In any case, is being the aggressor and going to war such a good thing that youngsters should feel proud of it? Should they feel embarrassed that their forefathers never attacked any nation? In fact, if anything we feel proud of the fact that India never had any imperial designs and did not loot and plunder other nations?

Kirsten and Upton are here to coach and train a cricket team — something they are qualified to do. They should refrain from giving us lessons on our history, culture, religion and race.

Pradeep Magazine is the author of Not Quite Cricket