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Post Karachi, whose turn it is to go?

All of a sudden the Indian batting is in shreds, the top order is disarranged and there are doubts about some players, writes Amrit Mathur.

india Updated: Feb 06, 2006 02:49 IST

All of a sudden the Indian batting is in shreds, the top order is disarranged and there are doubts about some players. The collapse in Karachi raises a very troubling question - when is it time to go.

In cricket timing is of essence; players must know when to hit and when to block, the captain has to take a call about placing an extra slip or pushing a fielder to the fence. But the toughest decision of them all is for players to know when to quit.

In other fields, like films and politics, the head honchos receive convenient cues about this. In rajniti, people announce a verdict through elections, their will is stamped on ballot papers or captured in EVMs, and this seals the fate of candidates. In films, popular opinion is reflected on the box office, trends of public acceptance/rejection are known every Friday.

In cricket, the scorebook measures performance, the selectors then weigh available evidence to pass a judgement. But usually, much before this happens, players have a gut feel whether their innings is over. The computer in their mind sets off alarms, the inner voice beeps danger signals about imminent doom. The problem arises when warnings are ignored, the system kept silent, and the player is trapped in a denial mode.

Most Indian cricket legends have got the timing of their exits horribly wrong. SMG left with dignity and honour but others departed through the backdoor, accompanied by controversy and, sadly, even a touch of disgrace. Champions delay their departure because they feel another spell of glory awaits them, which is why Agassi searches for a last Grand Slam and a film star for one more smash hit. Faith in one's ability, the confidence and inner strength, made them winners in the first place but, with time running out, strength becomes a weakness. For a star to suddenly confront reality -- that he is done, his skills faded - is not easy.

More so when the benefits of stardom (the cash/ guaranteed contracts/ media attention/ celebrity profile) are enormous. Success is a deadly addiction, it is both cancer and vitamin; the glitter and the glitz of fame does not encourage saintly renunciation or a silent retreat into retirement. The normal response is to hang on, somehow cling to the exalted position.

Last few months, the drama surrounding Sourav Ganguly has led to public demonstrations and debates in Parliament, shifting attention away from real issues. And though the team is bigger than individuals, and the game bigger than all players, in India we continue to be obsessed with celebrity players.

Sourav has been put through the grinder, twisted and turned. So was Zaheer. Now, post Karachi, aur kiski bari?

First Published: Feb 06, 2006 02:49 IST