Back in 2011 I remember meeting the great Brian Lara at the Heathrow Airport. We had just arrived for a full-fledged tour of England. I am an introvert but thought this was a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to get some nuggets from the champion batsman. Pleasantries exchanged, I came into my own. I am not sure if two right-handers do like that, but I’ve often noticed that two lefties connect like high-tension wires. A bit like two Indians meeting on the streets of Boston, absolute strangers but bursting at the seams, keen to share a lot. I asked Lara about stance, high backlift, playing spin, and a lot more. But the best advice he gave me went like this, “Gautam, remember one thing, there are more bad days than good in cricket and that will never change.”
Lara’s sage advice
On Saturday, when we were committing hara-kiri in Kolkata against Mumbai Indians, I could almost hear Lara’s words on the stadium public announcement system. I could almost see his face on the Eden giant screen loaded with a smirk.
This was destiny’s cruel way of underlining that Lara observation. We were chasing 174 to win, a magical number that would have given us a place in the top 2.
The past and the present had combined to give us the future. The past said we were two time IPL champions, we knew how to win big ticket games. The present said we were 53 for 2 in 5.5 overs, and needed close to only eight runs an over in the balance 85 balls.
Message not heeded
All we needed was cricketing awareness, calm minds, and above all, pride in wearing the purple jersey. Unfortunately, all these were missing. I was shattered seeing my team-mates committing suicide after suicide.
This was after we sent messages to the batsmen twice that there was no need to accelerate. All we needed was a partnership of about 70-80 runs and that will break the back of Mumbai’s total. Even during the first strategic break, Kallis and Katich both tried to impress upon the batsmen we don’t need to go aerial, just play risk-free cricket.
It becomes incomprehensible for me when I recall that in team meetings before that game we had made it clear we were going in one batsman short and the top 6 need to score the bulk of runs.
This meant that the chase should feature at least one proper batsman till at least 17-18 overs but look what we did. Post match our dressing room resembled a mourning place. I heard some boys were in tears. I sympathised with them, but we had only ourselves to blame.
Repeat of IPL 2016
Anyway, bygones need to be buried and I did that on the flight from Kolkata to Bangalore. Our next opponents, SunRisers Hyderabad, are defending champions for a reason. They are a great deal more than David Warner. Shikhar Dhawan, Rashid Khan and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are some real challengers in their room. Let’s see if Yuvraj makes the cut.
I have a lot of time for the other Afghan, Mohammad Nabi. He’s quite good and has wonderful control in his off-spinners. It is a sudden death for both teams and we had already suffered at the hands of the same team last season.
In a way it is good there is lot of hurt in our dressing room. It can work as a catalyst but it all depends on the individual. You can either use these reverses as strengths or crib and cringe. I know what my team will be doing as none of us can afford another bad day in cricket as Mr Lara pointed out.