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Tour full of negatives! by Srinivas
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When it rains, it pours; when it pours, it floods; when it floods, it overwhelms; and only when it overwhelms is the domination fruitful, complete, and satisfying. For a tour that was positively dubbed DOA (dubbed, Dead On Arrival, or Dead even before stepping on the Australian soil) well before the commencement of the proceedings, the series ended with a lot of negative things that were unexpected and unanticipated that transpired in the month long event for the Indian team, on which the predictions of the arm-chair critics were expected to bear fruition and the results of analysis of the couch potato pundits were but a foregone conclusion. The funeral has already been planned, the coffin was already made up and readied and the pastor was called in and prepared for the last rites - all this before the team has left for the shores down under. For the purpose of clarity, the reasons why the team has to fail and where it failed are listed hereunder; ponder on the following

1. The Indian opening pair which was supposed to fail without any slightest doubt did anything but. The openers did a horrendous job of trying to live up to the great image of Indian opening post Gavaskar era. Aakash Chopra and Virender Sehwag need to flayed for having the temerity to tarnish the records of single digit opening partnerships, the reputation that the first down batsman is literally the opener, and the foregone conclusion that openers would be back in the dressing room even before the draperies and the curtains have been completely drawn off the shades and windows.

2. Dravid's batting was supposed to stick to the norms and be unexciting, dull and plain boring. He was supposed to discharge his sheet anchor role duties with the clockwork precision that he was known for and have all his work go to waste eventually at the end of the day and finally at the end of the series. Even in Waugh's wildest dreams, Dravid was expected to be tame, meek and his docile self, taking the sledging lip from the cordon surrounding him in his usual self-effacing stride, and play into the plan of opposition, like the hamster stuck in that perpetual wheel. He was slated to play the second fiddle and third rung to the other dominating members of the touring party (read Sachin), without finally coming out of the shadows, creating an identity of his own and work his way, one bead of sweat at a time, to the top, top-most. In all, this tour has been a disappointing one for him, for side-stepping from his usual (down)trodden path, and trailblazing a new one. Very un-Dravidian!!

3. Sachin, going by his past records, was supposed to dominate the proceedings, umpires' incompetence and his personal batting demons notwithstanding. That, he would make his centuries, his half-ones, emerge at the top of the batting averages, decimate the bowling attack with utter disdain and uncaring contempt, contribute his bountiful to the usual lost causes, make his acceptance speeches at the awards presentation, collecting his ceremonial man of the match awards wearing a long and sullen face, was what was originally scripted. That, a slump as never before threaten his talent and make him question his technique, a battle that was more mental and played in the gray matter than on the 22 yards laid strip out in the middle, an effort that was as concerted and as spirited in the final test to put to rest his batt(l)ing demons finally, was what that was unexpected, blindsided and un-God like!!

4. The fastest bowler in the squad, in the tweaker variety that is, wasn't expected to do any differently from his previous outings outside the four borders. For the fastest bowler that India has produced in the spinning variety (after Madan Lal), Kumble, with a huge axe to grind and some miserable abroad figures to take care of, was touted to take the lead of the Turbonator spearheading the Indian spin attack, than lead it himself by example. He was already pencilled in for major effort-no avail, large heart-disappointing tournament, great attitude-unrewarding results awards and was expected to win those uncontested. At the end of the series, Kumble not only turned down the awards in style, but pushed forth his nomination in that envied "great abroad bowlers" category. It is quite irritating when people do not stick to plans and have their own plans to improvise and improve!!

5. So what's so 'Special' about picking a 150 kmph ball that was pitched way outside the off stump and directing it to the mid wicket boundary fence? The sweet timing, the supple wrists and the sheer mastery has been demonstrated by his mentor before, for equal if not for greater effect. When he toured with the party in 1999 and failed miserably in the whole tour, forcing his back firmly against the wall, it was the combination of desperation and daredevilry that started his run glut against the Aussies with a knock of 167. And when the Aussies toured India and had India cornered in the Kolkata, he recalled his desperation and daredevilry, the traits that he seem to summon at will, added a lit bit of poise and caution, and seemingly made history. Whenever baggy greens seem to take the field and have his team right by its hair, he has the uncanny knack of turning the tables against them, with those monumental knocks. Why does he have to derive so much inspiration from that stupid Rock of Gibraltar? Why can't he be consistent like the rest of the departing members of his team, in cases of crises, and just fold? Where's his spirit of 'one for all' and 'all for one' ?? So much for being a team player!!!

6. Lastly, for someone who insists on having an unshaven beard throughout the duration of the test match, for a person who does not mind looking unkempt and very un-captain like, for the only member in the team who enjoys wearing the smile the wrong way at any given time - upside down, for a man who does not mind dishing out his choicest filth with great benevolence even to the most senior members of the party at the slightest hint of bumble and fumble, for a captain who is known more for his 'in-your-face' attitude and 'up-yours-too' philosophy, Saurav's role has already been decided as one who is subjugated to Steve's will, sing paeans to the departing hero by handing him over his last white wash series and get filed in the annals as the yet another captain, who crumbled under the iron will of the Waugh's mental, physical and psychological disintegration, outdone, outshone and outperformed, by the clinical consistency of the Aussies. For a person who looks quite odd dancing (specially in that Hero Honda ad with Hritik Roshan), he was to ballet gracefully to the tunes of the opposing captain and perform the most difficult breathtaking maneuvers of the 'chin music' with great élan. Not only did he stink being a miserable actor enacting his role as the emaciated captain of the touring team, a role which earned several former and current captains great adulations, he also proved a terrible dancer of 'chin music'.

When players do not perform in ways they are expected and scripted and things do not go according to plans laid in editorials and op-ed pieces, it is quite natural that things go haywire and results become unexpected and unanticipated. Here is to a series that saw the emergence of an era of a team comprised to terrible actors and bad dancers!

By Srinivas Kanchibhotla

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