Message from Hyderabad: Stay humble, don't take cricket for granted | Crickit
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Message from Hyderabad: Stay humble, don't take cricket for granted

ByAmrit Mathur
Jan 30, 2024 06:20 PM IST

As a cricket-crazy country we are guilty of hyping up our cricket and wildly praising our players, writes Amrit Mathur.

The shock defeat in Hyderabad sends out many messages, the loudest is to cut the noise and maintain balance while spinning narratives around Indian cricket.

England's Ben Foakes appeals for the wicket of India's skipper Rohit Sharma (ANI) PREMIUM
England's Ben Foakes appeals for the wicket of India's skipper Rohit Sharma (ANI)

As a cricket crazed country we are all guilty of hyping up our cricket and wildly praising our cricketers, and in doing so indirectly disrespecting teams we play against. This tendency peaks against Pakistan when toxic marketing promotions, especially the poisonous promos aired on television, lower cricket to disgraceful depths.

Discovering excessive merit in Indian cricket is a national pastime and in this world view IPL is the best league, which it is. IPL’s marketing overdrive positions Dhoni as its lifetime ‘big boss’, which is fine considering his contribution and impact. Rohit the ‘hit man’ is also fine but Shreyas Iyer the superstar is a bit rich. Brutally effective in the shorter format but seriously challenged by the short ball. Surely, India has had far better Test players in the middle order.

Hyderabad tells us we are not as good as most of us think. If we were, India wouldn’t have lost to Australia in the WTC final played in neutral England. If IPL made us red hot favourites in white-ball cricket, why did we lose (again) to Australia at home in the ODI World Cup final in Ahmedabad on a pitch customised to suit our strengths?

It’s not that India isn’t good, or that its players don’t perform well. But somehow the conversation on television and social media is getting raised to a pitch where other teams are considered inferior and unworthy.

Before Hyderabad, much fun was made of Bazball and England was expected to be crushed in three days on a spin-friendly track. Which was a fair guess because Ashwin is unplayable in India, and he is supported by an army of destroyers (Jadeja/Axar Patel/Kuldeep Yadav/Chahal/ Rahul Chahar/Washington Sundar/Ravi Bishnoi/Jayant Yadav) all capable of running through a batting line-up that lacks experience except for Root and Stokes.

Compared to India’s riches, England had Leach who won’t give sleepless nights to many, and apart from him one Test Rehan and debutant Hartley. Compared to them, man to man, Saurabh Kumar/Shahbaz Nadeem/Shams Mulani/Sai Kishore/Kumar Kartikeya/KC Cariappa/ Dharmendrasinh Jadeja/Jalaj Saxena/Mayank Markande/Siddharth Desai/Karn Sharma/Tanush Kotian are as good.

Despite these odds, England won. Despite conceding a 190-run lead. Despite making 420 in the first innings, India lost. The message to Indian cricket from Hyderabad is to stay humble, and not take cricket for granted. In any game, two teams compete and victory is never assured, as Australia found out at Brisbane. While India was busy announcing an imminent triumph, England was quietly training in Abu Dhabi sorting its strategy, getting used to warm Indian conditions and trying to make the most from their meagre bowling resources.

Besides the need to remain balanced in defeat and victory, a more subtle message is emerging from Hyderabad. It is time the constant cheerleading about Indian cricket stopped; viewers and readers deserve honest and objective comments on the team and player performances.

We understand the need to support the home team, and one is aware that totally dispassionate comment is difficult because of compelling constraints. Calling a spade a spade is tough in India, but space must be found for constructive criticism, calling out mistakes and pointing out shortcomings.

Perhaps the strongest voice post Hyderabad is that so many of us can be so wrong. That cricket can defeat the purist and the paanwala is well known, especially about wickets. It is easier to predict election results and the box office fate of films than the nature of the pitch. Everyone tries at every opportunity and not everyone gets it right.

Only recently, nobody read the World Cup final right. While the whole world (experts/fans and Rohit Sharma) was unanimous that the team winning the toss would bat, only one person (captain Pat Cummins, the only one who mattered) thought otherwise. Defying conventional wisdom, he went against traffic in a one-way street to put India in.

The Hyderabad shocker is one more instance when cricket caught all experts (legit and self-proclaimed) on the wrong foot. Nobody gave England a chance, most predicted India rolling them over, but once again cricket sprung a surprise.

The final message to fans from Hyderabad is to chill and cancel the fake hype. Don’t expect India to win every time, just enjoy the riveting bat versus ball contest. Admire Ashwin’s carrom ball leg-cutter and the audacity of Ollie Pope, who thinks the reverse sweep is as safe as a forward defensive shot.

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