(This post also appears on cricketcountry.com)
I write here to praise your opinions, not to bury them.
This is a letter of heartfelt gratitude to you for your immense contribution to the game of cricket as it exists in India.
I am not writing against the scribes and ex-cricketers who put players on pedestals with elaborate eulogies, before throwing them into the dust from whence they sprung with sensationalising epilogues.
I am not here to rant about the gay abandon with which 'fans' bestow the epithet of god on the performers, and then, swifter than an express Jeff Thomson delivery, reduce them to the ashes of burning effigies.
Hence, I am not going to question the logic of asking for the heads of some of the greatest cricketers ever produced by the country after every possible interval.
I choose the word interval here with care, because it is not always failure that triggers these deplorable demands. The man who has 15000 runs in Test cricket and a score of 91 in the last Test innings he played before this match had to face a clamour for forced retirement just two days prior to engineering an Indian win.
For the benefit of the critics, I will steer clear of any topic which might somehow creep into the foreign realms of rationality and logic.
Hence there will be no mathematical challenge of analysing the sequence 19, 13, 13, 13, 9, 9, 9, 11, 15, 11, 17, 13, 11, 8, 11.
It just happens that these are number of Tests taken by Sachin Tendulkar to reach each of his thousand runs. Apart from the initial 19 and the tennis elbow-affected 17, each of the numbers signifies a great batsman at the very height of his powers. It therefore implies that Tendulkar's career has been a never-ending peak. However, we have done away with mathematical arguments, and hence I will not question the sanity of asking for his retirement to enable Indian Premier League (IPL) superstars come into the team.
Given the consistent accumulation denoted by the above figures, it would also take Nijinsky-like skills and devious genius to subtly sidestep matches in which the team was either in crisis or ended up winning, yet I will not challenge the criticism that he does not win matches and cannot play under pressure.
Neither am I here to speak about VVS Laxman's achievements. I won't raise questions about the peculiarity of putting him on trial in every innings that he plays, of having his head on the chopping block to accommodate the latest one match wonder, even as he keeps on winning matches, tallies more than 8000 runs at an average of 47.
Even Rahul Dravid of nearly 13,000 runs, who is fresh from those three remarkable hundreds in an otherwise disastrous tour of England, has been hounded for a long, long period – with advice and abuse urging him to hang up his boots. But, I know critics are entitled to such privileges of peculiar pique.
I am not going to ask who would have taken India to victory on the Kotla minefield if Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman had not fired when they did in the Test match.
Neither am I going to ask for a plausible reason for criticising a wicketkeeper batsman who makes runs at an average of 38 in Tests and 50 in ODIs, and does a more than decent job behind the stumps. We are a country which has hardly ever produced wicketkeepers averaging more than 25 with the bat, let alone doubling up as a captain who has won India two World Cups and taking the team to the pinnacle of Test cricket – but these are irrelevant and uncomfortable trifles which of necessity must be erased from the famed ephemeral public memory.
With mathematical subjects out of the way, I have also decided to do away with the humanities– language and ethics.
Cricket is an English sport that has been made well and truly Indian by the 'passion' for the game that exists in the country. I will assume that same happens to the English language when the game is discussed on the numerous cricket congested internet highways.
Cricket matches are sometimes perhaps fixed by bookies, but seldom are they fixed to the bedsteads with screws and clamps. Hence the Indian team may lose matches once in a while, but they simply do not 'loose' them.
Also, Mahendra Singh Dhoni would probably be pulled up quite severely by the match referee if he 'stamped' batsmen. You see, cricketers are neither letters nor shoes, hence they are always more likely to be stumped.
However, I will not dwell on such quaint linguistic aberrations in the criticism of Indian cricket either.
And of course, I am not about to question the ethics of raising unwholesome, underachieving hindquarters to pee on the several decades of sweat and blood produced by the accepted greats of the game.
I know such behaviour is the birthright of the critic of Indian cricket with a long, illustrious tradition to live up to.
"Even if it is snowing in the Himalayas, it is Gavaskar's fault"
Sunil Gavaskar not only had to bear criticism of the most destructive kind during his playing days, but also had to deal with orange peels and rotten tomatoes thrown at his wife by 'passionate cricket lovers'. He went to the extent of boycotting a 'sports loving' venue and uttering these immortal words which sum up the lot of any cricketing great of our strange nation, "Even if it is snowing in the Himalayas, it is Gavaskar's fault."
I am not going to bring economics or sociology into the discussion either. Hence we will not try to analyse how tests are graced by cricket loving 'fans' in their throngs of tens and twenties, and the IPL matches in their tens of thousands. This continues to happen even as critics shake their collective heads to agree that T20 is destroying the game, but we will not wonder why.
As I have mentioned at the outset, this is not meant to be criticism of the critics but a letter of heartfelt gratitude.
I am well and truly indebted to the critics for the phenomenal cricket I have been enjoying in the recent years.
For someone like Sachin Tendulkar, who has 30,000 international runs and 99 centuries to his credit, there remain few heights to scale. He has ventured into lands that were not known to be in existence. He has conquered peaks which had not been sketched by even the most foresighted cricketing cartographer.
For a Dravid and Laxman, there are enough existing laurels on which to rest their heads comfortably, to spend a lifetime in luxurious slumber, reliving moments of glorious nostalgia in sweetest of dreams.
A whiff of the vitriol that simmers in the psyche and outpourings of these critics may or may not spur these masters of the modern game into new triumphant accomplishments. I wonder if the knowledge that there still remain doubters, that there still exist the unconvinced, affects them in any way. They must have seen way too many of them to understand that these critics constitute the necessary dimensional downside that completes the all-round brilliance of their achievements.
However, for a cricket lover like me, the contribution of the critics is enormous. I live for moments when a Tendulkar classic, a Dravid epic or a Laxman gem rubs the noses of these 'cricket adherents’ in the dirt.
I do know that these dregs of the cricketing society will rise again and erase every inconvenient memory. Soon we will hear them and their opinions once again, calling for the heads of those national treasures any other cricketing nation would kill to have among their ranks.
But, for a while the wagging tongues are silenced by willow wizardry, bedazzled into speechlessness by the lasting lustre of continuing greatness, till they are resurrected by the celebrated shortness of memory.
Thus, even if I have seen all these masters at the height of their glory, even if to me they have proved themselves a thousand times over, I still hanker for their success in the same way I did decades back, to enjoy the heady wine of vintage batsmanship, to bask in the lasting glory of the golden days of Indian middle-order – as also to enjoy those unique moments of bliss as the critics are made to slither away temporarily, chewing on their pitiably pathetic pronouncements.
So, once again, thank you dear critics for keeping my enthusiasm alive and kicking.