In the late 1950s, Test cricket was down in the doldrums, public interest was waning and the number of draws was simply suffocating the life out of the game.
This worried the Australian Board and chief of selectors Sir Donald Bradman in particular. So before the start of the series against West Indies in 1961, Bradman asked to address the Australian team.
“He started by saying that the last two Test series in Australia had been very ordinary by way of entertainment and the selectors wanted that changed,” Richie Benaud, who was then skipper, recalled.
“He said the three selectors would be looking in kindly fashion on players who did the right thing by those who paid their money at the turnstiles.
“He added that logically they would be looking in unkindly fashion on those who didn't.”
So later in the series, on December 14 - the fifth and final day of the Gabba Test -Australia needed 233 to win but had collapsed to 6-110 at tea with Benaud and Alan Davidson at the crease. During the break, Bradman joined them and asked the skipper a simple question: ‘What are we going for Richie, a win or a draw?’
Without a moment’s hesitation, Benaud replied, ‘A win of course.’
Bradman looked straight ahead and said dryly, ‘I’m very pleased to hear it.’
Now imagine, the same scenario taking place in Dominica. At tea, India were on 19 for 1 in seven overs. Murali Vijay on 14 and Rahul Dravid on 1 were at the crease and suddenly Bradman walks into the dressing room and asks Dhoni, ‘So skipper, what are we going for, a win or a draw?’
And before Bradman can even expect an answer, the players all get up and walk into the balcony. The answer as we all know now would’ve been ‘a draw.’
But judging by the hundreds of emails that have dropped into my mailbox since the last article, the answer would’ve been different if Virender Sehwag had been sitting in the dressing room.
According to Fletcher and Co, the dismissal of Suresh Raina convinced them that stroke play was difficult on the wicket. But if Sehwag was around, then he would have somehow managed to convince the West Indians that this was a difficult wicket to bowl on. That's his charm; that's his trick.
He would have forced the West Indies skipper Darren Sammy to set fielders on the boundary, he would’ve hit the bowlers through the covers; he would’ve hit them straight over their heads and he would’ve wiped that smile off Sammy’s face.
Even now, Sehwag is perhaps the last remaining boy scout in the Indian team perhaps even world cricket. His joys are simple – nothing more than smashing the ball as hard as possible while humming away his favourite hindi songs. He plays as you or I might in our gully or street or local ground; he plays like we all wish we could.
Try looking around world cricket for batsmen who will try to reach major landmarks with a six or a four and you will find very few. The right-hander reached his triple century (309) against Pakistan with a six and was dismissed on 194 against Australia in Melbourne to mention just two of many matches where he hasn’t been enveloped by fear as he approached a landmark.
That’s the kind of cricket we want to see – it’s exciting and he is clearly always going for a win and no one in the team is ever going to tell him otherwise. If nothing else, he might just convince them to see things from the other perspective which is why this Indian team needs more of Sehwag and less of Fletcher.
It might be argued that it’s still early days for Fletcher and he is still growing into his role but he clearly needs a push in the right direction –whether that push comes from the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the selectors or even Sehwag doesn’t matter. Being the best is a good thing but if it means having to trade away the very things you love, then it shouldn’t count for much.
Most of the Indian players got into cricket because they loved the game. The money, the fame, IPL… everything else came later and that is another reason why it must be more of Sehwag and less of Fletcher.
If India’s hopefuls are looking for an icon, let it be Sehwag and no one else. And then maybe five years down the line, we won’t be discussing why we didn’t even try going for a win. Hopefully, the only discussion then will be how to get there quicker.
Your guide to the latest seat tally, live updates, analysis and list of winners for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on firstpost.com/elections. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates from all 542 constituencies on counting day of the general elections.
Updated Date: Jul 12, 2011 21:58:47 IST