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Vote of Thanks by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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31 January 2012

Vote of Thanks

In the end, it is not so much about the end score than it is about a conclusive end of an era, an era wherein the stars shone bright and the display thereof was dazzling. It had to come an end, one way or another, one time or another. And when the last of the fireworks dies out, and all that is left is the stoic silence in the stillness of the dark, the momentary sadness and disappointment would soon be replaced with a deep sense of gratitude for a job of enthralling so well done. Yes, it could have lasted a little longer, it, could have sparkled a little brighter, and yes, it could have a given a chance for one last hurrah. Even then, the fading out act wouldn't be a moment of merriment. The sorrow and gloom would still be there, but that's only for the affection for a career well served and well entertained. It is only sad that not everyone can ride into the sunset with honor held high. In the modern era of the game, it only happened with Gavaskar, Imran and Steve W. Out of hundreds, just three. The rest slipped away into the shadows, some on their own volition, and some, shown the way. In a career full of ups and down, the one last goal becomes one of choosing the moment to hang up the boots, not records and milestones. And who wouldn't wish for that high moment to bookend a lenghty career well lived? When sports persons eventually become the senior citizenry of their game and retirement awaits them around the corner, do what the Australian crowd does at every entrance and exit of Sachin, no matter the runs against his name that day - just stand up and applaud, and not rue at the last chances that were missed out or slipped away. In short, Thank you Dravid, Thank you VVS.

The one aspect that made an ocean of difference between the two sides was the ability to bowl consistently in the channel. Both teams had similar speeds, similar firepower and similar tricks in the bag. But only one team hurled along the imaginary dotted line a little away from the off stick more number of times and the results rewarded that discipline. Plain and simple. In that Bermuda Triangle in the corridor of uncertainty, many a batman met his ultimate demise, and till date, there was no technique invented counter the innocuous 'just outside the offs stump' delivery. Even for a team studded with marauders who plundered runs all around the globe tormenting every sort of bowler, the David-esque hurl that whizzes by carting a passing glance at the off stump is guaranteed to bring it to its knees. It didn't matter if the bowler had a reputation or not, as long as, as a team, they bowled with a dogged determination to hit the same line ball after ball, and as the results show, it merely took 20 balls hit at similar lines and lengths to hit paydirt. Again, this is not spreading those 20 good balls over a span of 200-250 overs as the Indians did, but tightening up with 70-100 overs to almost double the chances. There no magic balls here, no real unplayable ones that bowlers conjure up from who-knows-where once in a while, this is just coaching level cricket, where the overlords thunder at the minions to keep bowling in the same channel from dawn till dusk, In sticking to the basics, Aussies cashes in on their strong work ethic, and in trying to do too much in every single delivery, Indians provided more opportunities for the opposition to score freely than they created chances for themselves patiently waiting for that 'magic ball' to happen.

When does a simple warning bell become a siren blare indicating the impending doom? Guess, a struggle to tide over a weaker side (WI) on home soil should have peaked some ears, or the total annihilation in England should have given some administrator somewhere some sleepless nights and some serious heartburn. Now there is no escaping from the fact that the rot has turned truly systemic and the only way to stem it and start on the road to recovery quickly is by making the hard decision of excising the infected part and let the system adapt, even if slowly, to the new configuration. Decline or not, the administrators should have taken a decision to mix up the line up with old and new so as to allow the new to blossom under the watchful eyes of the old. That would have meant benching/rotating the players on a periodic basis which could have served the dual purpose of keeping the tired legs fresh for any call of duty and exposing the new brood to the harsh realities of the game. It is indeed mind boggling (and quite characteristic) that for a team suffering from a brittle backbone (middle order), the powers that be waited for last flicker to burn out in one final blaze of glory than plan the retirement of the geriatric greats in a phased out manner. Aging is natural, no matter the talent or the genius, and there is no point finding fault with the slowing down of instincts and reflexes. But the near sightedness of not noticing the bumpy ride up ahead and planning accordingly is what is criminal. Blame not the players, sack the planners.

When the game started looking elsewhere for inspiration in other sports for improving its own technique in, say, fielding, throwing or running, it should have picked up a tip or two in player management too. No other professional sport would bet this beg on a team that is a great has-been without preparing a second line of defense to back up the front line up at the first sign of trouble. Unfortunately, that was meant to be and the results are there to show conforming to the law of nature. Letting go is really hard, both for the players and the planners, but the least that the latter could do is at least give the players a chance for a fond and a fitting farewell. And that means, giving them an advance notice (even if it is behind closed doors), not an unceremonious boot, of the transition plan and let the players choose their moment of exits. If anything, the Australian debacle had served the purpose of making the inevitable choice a bit of easier on the seniors, and the Aussie bowlers have to be thanked for making the decision on behalf of the administrators, What they say is indeed true, every dark cloud has a silver lining.

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