“Cricket sets traps, flatters players and calls them kings when they are barely princes.” — Peter Roebuck
India are the undisputed kings of world cricket!
Don’t pay heed to the cynics who believe that India plays most of its matches on ‘doctored’, home tracks. Haven’t they heard what experts from Down Under and from Ol ‘Blighty say about matches on ‘dustbowls’ making the game more interesting? Let us, for the moment, discount the fact that these ‘experts’ also spend their precious time commentating during the ‘cash-rich’ IPL matches!
In the recent Test series, for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy between the two best teams in the world — at least by ICC rankings — India managed to beat the Australians 2-1 in a hard-fought series. That the fights took place on and off the field is another matter.
Some Indian pundits had predicted a ‘white-wash’ that, in hindsight, turned out to be hogwash. There was no consensus on which was the better team till the third evening of the fourth and final Test played in the thin air of Dharamsala. That evening, the Aussies looked in a hurry to go home and played some atrocious shots that won’t be found in the CA coaching book. And they paid dearly for those indiscretions.
What has made India numero uno in world cricket? Aggression. It's as simple as that.
Aggression is the new watchword in Indian cricket. Most teams in the past year or so, it seems, have lost their matches in the dressing room, terrified by India’s belligerence. Look what happened to young Matt Renshaw. A great talent and someone who had adjusted well to alien conditions, he had to rush to the cloakroom in the Pune Test match when the Indian close-in fielders got under his skin. That’s what aggression does to the best.
The open hostility between players of the two teams also led to ‘brainfades’ — from both sides — and a few other reckless acts that made the series more interesting. Grist to the mill! The four-letter word that Steve Smith prefixed ‘cheat’ with and the cuss-words mouthed by Virat Kohli through the series are now part of cricketing folklore. That Glenn Maxwell is a good mimic was proved by television replays, but when Kohli mimicked himself, holding his shoulder, at the fall of an Aussie wicket proved that there’s nothing like the original.
The West Indies, South Africa, New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia have all fallen prey to India’s bellicosity, and its home-grown wickets, in the last few months. The home team has won almost 80 percent of its matches. That the champions have won only 17 percent of their matches abroad counts for nothing; what counts is the final standing.
Having won acclaim and fortune — a lot of the latter — Team India can’t afford to let go now. To stay at the pinnacle, plans will have to be made to take the pugnacity forward, lest other teams catch up.
One step forward for the Indian think tank, in its new aggressive avatar, will be to appoint an outstanding choreographer. He or she will be a part of 20-odd ‘support staff’ and will work on composing a ‘war dance’ for Team India.
The signature ‘war dance’ to instill fear in the opposition camp, even before the match starts, will separate the champs from the chumps. It will be the responsibility of the team choreographer to train the boys and see that they perform the dance with a lot of aggro and passion.
Those who have watched New Zealand’s All Blacks perform the Maori ‘Haka’ war dance, before a rugby international, will comprehend what the Indian team management should be looking for. It’s a terrifying sight!
For the uninitiated, ‘Haka’ is an ancient war dance performed traditionally during battles. It is the fierce display of a tribe’s pride, strength and unity. The act includes violent foot-stamping, rhythmic body slapping, tongue protrusions and loud chants.
A word of caution, though: eligible choreographers / dance directors will have to adhere strictly to the ‘conflict of interest clause’, especially since sports biopics are the flavour of the season. What’s more, they should not have worked with wives and girlfriends of Team India’s star players.
The Indian team, over the years, has neglected one important aspect of aggression — the crowd. Every cricket fan knows how the hecklers on ‘The Hill’ at the Sydney Cricket Ground and at many other venues in the West Indies and England help the home sides win. It has been left to the Indian skipper, in recent times, to wave his arms — like a conductor — to get the crowd to barrack the opposition. The choreographer could, therefore, also earn his bread-and-butter — after start of play — by getting the crowds dancing and singing through the day’s proceedings.
Another important step in remaining at the top will be the appointment of an influential public relations officer — especially with political experience — in the support staff. The PROs primary job will be to get the domestic media to support Team India (understandably a tough task). In addition, he or she will work out plans to ‘buy off’ foreign writers and commentators.
A legendary cricketer, in his column, had mentioned the fact that the Australian media and the cricketers from Down Under were fighting a united battle against India. Such circumstances call for ‘buying’ of journalists and mediapersons. India has thousands of experts, working in the political realm, who can overturn an electoral mandate in a few hours; journalists are just ‘small fry’!
An important addition to the champion squad could be a language expert; someone who has mastered English (including Australian and South African slang), Hindi and a few of the regional languages. It’s important that India’s players do not get embroiled in controversies like ‘Monkeygate’, where ‘Maaki’ was interpreted as ‘Monkey’! (Let’s for the moment mark down the fact that ‘Maaki’ could also be a potential cuss-word).
The linguist will also coin interesting and funny ‘sledges’ that could be made use of on the field of play. Humour could, perhaps, lighten things up in the centre and keep the umpires entertained too. What’s more, funny ‘sledges’ will help break the batsman’s concentration. A win-win situation?
Besides garnering tweets and posts in support of team India, a social media expert, if included in the ‘support staff’, could let loose a flurry of counter-trolls at people trolling Kohli or Ashwin. Also, when Kohli says that he was misquoted as stating that he hated all Australians, Twitter and Facebook could perhaps come to his aid, even if no one else does!
Another ‘expert’ who could help India retain the top spot for a long time is a trained sleuth. He/she would keep a close eye on the opponents’ dressing room or dugouts during matches to detect any signals being sent out before DRS referrals. His/her other duties, of course, would be known only to the BCCI, for obvious reasons!
Finally, the Indian team will need to recruit a physio, specialising in shoulder injuries. Shouldering the responsiblity of keeping India on top is an onerous task. Vijay, Rahul and Kohli have strained shoulders. Therefore, somebody will have to shoulder the responsibility of getting their shoulders back in shape quickly, especially when IPL matches are close at hand!
Long live the kings of cricket!
The author is a former fast bowler and coach, a caricaturist, sportswriter and now a mental toughness trainer