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It?s about theory and more theory

Now that it is essential and fashionable to have a theory about cricket, I too have discovered one. Earlier, everyone speculated about pitches (Turn or no turn? How much bounce?) and discussed what the captain must do after winning the toss.

india Updated: Dec 24, 2003 02:08 IST

Now that it is essential and fashionable to have a theory about cricket, I too have discovered one. Earlier, everyone speculated about pitches (Turn or no turn? How much bounce?) and discussed what the captain must do after winning the toss.

But that was yesterday. Today, discussion is about many new subjects, analysis is exploding and the game is debated to death. Opinion about what should be done is readily available, as is opinion (revised by hindsight) about what should have been done.

Mostly, this growth is TV triggered. Pre and post game shows carry on for hours, in them articulate, intelligent (and attractive) anchors/experts who look closely at every ball, every stroke, every appeal, every groan. Viewers receive daily cricket tuitions, consisting of information, trivia, and comment which is perceptive and profound.

Discussion on the pitch remains a favourite topic, the fascination understandable because the track has an enormous impact on play. But if everything said was believed, we'd know the exact time when the first ball will spin (third ball after tea on day 4, from the pavilion end), just as precisely as scientists predict a lunar eclipse.

A problem arises when ordinary viewers, you and me, pick up these theories and with our fractured understanding spin out some original work.Therefore, there is an angle now not only to the flat seam but the stitches on the red Kookaburra seam. The grains on Dravid's SG (but Britannia stickered) bat, whether wide or close, are studied in the context of his cover drive. There is active interest in the number of grips on Sourav's bats (three, three- and-a- half or four?), the slope at the MCG, the direction of the post-tea breeze at Sydney, the width of grass blades on the main square, the quality of clay in the practice wickets at Hobart ........ the list is endless.

To think that all this is faltu will be a mistake, plenty of what is said is perfectly legitimate. Any information that has a bearing on cricket is valuable, but often only sketchy information and dodgy opinion is presented as definite gyaan.

Stray spectators and TV taught teenagers are not shy of behaving like gurus. Ordinary fans, sitting in the sun, will, without a second thought, detect a flaw in Laxman's technique which Waugh, Buchanan and the computer could not find and all have firm views on what the Indians should do. Fast bowlers must get stronger, said one, by eating meat and building muscle.

It gets too much, says captain Sourav Ganguly. "I have reached a stage where I don't read cricket and don't listen to what others say. If I did all that I would go mad. Everyone thinks he knows more than the Indian captain." In cricket, theories don't work beyond a point because they simply can't. Cricket defeats theories because the sport is not manufactured according to a pattern, it lives on surprises and twists. To reduce it to an exact science, or to try explaining it in such terms, is futile.

First Published: Dec 24, 2003 01:47 IST