There’s a pretty strong theory about why the production quality of Hindi movies in the 70s and 80s plummeted to an eye-popping low. People found themselves looking at film sets with a painted flap as a window, staircases that swayed to the song and dance routines, and make-up and costumes that a school skit would find embarrassing.
The theory is that the appearance of the superstar — kickstarted by Amitabh Bachchan and supplemented by the likes of Jeetendra — made producers decide that having them in the movies were all that was really required to make a hit film. The bulk of the budget would go into getting the superstar in the movie, and the rest of what would be loose change could go into ‘other things’ in which production quality figured at the bottom of the roster.
We find a similar phenomenon having struck IPL cricket, and nowhere was this more evident than in Monday’s match at the Wankhede Stadium between the Mumbai Indians and the Delhi Daredevils.
What holds true for Manmohan Desai movies holds true for Mumbai Indians’ cricket. Luckily for Manmohan and unluckily for Mumbai, movies depend on subjective taste and therefore the box office, while cricket results depend on the scoreline and nothing else.
So even by his absence — due to an injury sustained to his thumb after being struck by the ball delivered by the dastardly Doug Bollinger in the first match against Chennai Super Kings — His Munificent Excellency Sachin Tendulkar made his presence felt by ensuring that no other batsmen in the team bothered to perform.
At the pre-match net session on Sunday, Tendulkar was carted out by coach Robin Singh and team mentor Shaun Pollock for some batting practice.
The logic, I suppose, was: if you’ve got Sachin in your squad, you don’t keep him in the wardrobe even if he’s contracted the bubonic plague. Which is why I was a bit worried about seeing Sachin Uncle come out to play against the Delhi Daredevils on Monday.
Thankfully, he didn’t.
But like Banquo’s ghost, the spirit of the World’s Greatest Sportsman with the Lata Mangeshkar Voice hung in the air through the don’t-bother-to-take-a-pee-break Mumbai Indians’ innings. Getting bundled out for 92 takes some understanding that the world is all illusion.
Openers Richard Levi and David Jacobs left the stage when the scorecard read 1 and 5 respectively. Perhaps their mums were calling them for supper. With six wickets down for 44, it was clear that the Delhi team was going home with the bushel of mangoes.
Such over-dependence on one star batsman — and that too on a star batsman who’s five months older than the team mentor and is playing some underwhelming cricket these days — is obviously a bummer not only for Mumbai Indians but also for spectators who were made to witness a batting display that in basketballing terms would be akin to watching a bunch of midgets with their hands sawed off play the court.
But such over-dependence there is — which is fatal in a 20-over format where strategising an innings is as worthwhile as reading one’s palm by the sound of a clap.
If this means taking away credit from Virender Sehwag’s (oddly underrated) team, then the truth is that the credit does go to the Mumbai Indians’ management for making their batsmen totally uninterested in connecting bat to ball with any other intention than to leave what ultimately happens to the ball to what Lord Ganapati decides. (I would actually lay a wee bit of the blame at the door of the team’s cheerleaders too for not upping the hormonal levels of their batsmen.)
But to blame Tendulkar for the situation the Mumbai Indians find themselves in is as pointless as to blame Jeetendra for the movie Kasam Khoon Ki.
This kind of thing doesn’t happen in Test or one-day cricket simply because the nature of those beasts is to have ‘back-ups’ in the batting (or bowling) line-up resulting in better ‘production quality’.In a 20-over format game, when a team has someone like Tendulkar in it, it can be easy to forget about the rest of the chaps. As any Mumbai Indian supporters would want to after the Delhi Daredevils’ fast food luncheon outing on Monday.