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My last walk in England

It is the last walk on a sunny afternoon … though it is summer, the chill in the air was still being felt by many. Sweat, hard work, success and failures – all has been a part of my life. All these qualities are there in any human being; I do not consider myself extra-ordinary, even though some of the people do think that I am a class apart from my seniors, peers as well as the juniors across the world. But I do not feel the same – as I only believe that talent is just a beginning, it is the hard work and then giving more than 100% pays. And that is what I have been doing for last 14 years, day in and day out.

This walk is not a happy one .. as probably I will be leaving England in my current active role for the last time. Normally the last walk is always supposed to be full of praises, full of nostalgia, full of memories. When I wake up tomorrow morning, I am sure I will get a fair quota of each of the above three … but what has made the walk a sad one is because at the end of the day, I have faced another defeat … our pride had gone down the drain after so much success in last few months … here was the last chance to regain some pride – but my colleagues and friends could not make that … As always, I have tried my best – got some success but no so much just before I started my last walk.

I wonder what has gone wrong in the last few months – but do not get any answer. I must be exhausted as my mind is not working – this surely has been such a mentally challenge for the last few weeks …

People say that my success is often overshadowed by the success of my great colleague .. maybe so, but I as an individual have never bothered about my success … this is a work I love to do and while working, I give my best … rest, as they say, will be history.

I look around as I walk past my workplace – some people are giving their customary clap, some wishing me good for my future, some cursing the decision-maker for a tough call … but still, I cannot enjoy the walk as I retreat for a lost cause .. a lost cause specially when we were on top of the world even a couple of months ago … don’t know why this disaster has happened – but I am an optimist and hence believe my juniors will rise to the occasion the next time … only difference will be that I will not be there to enjoy the English summer next time with the greens, the strawberries and of course, the red cherry coming at you at a high-speed and lateral movement ….

Well, that’s life … let me take rest, raise my legs on the table, relax back and close my eyes … the day is coming to an end ….

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This must have been what Rahul Dravid was thinking as he walked back to the pavilion after being dismissed in the last innings of the India – England test series at Oval, England, 21st Aug’ 2011

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Why T20 will further revive Test Cricket ?

It is very often apprehended by the orthodox followers of cricket that the popularity of T20 cricket (or rather entertainment) will ultimately kill the traditional game of test cricket, the gentlemen’s game. However, I do feel the opposite here – this will actually enhance the excitement of test cricket making it more popular to the masses that tend to follow test cricket, the techniques of the game rather than the slogs and defensive bowling associated with the limited versions of cricket.

What the one-day internationals and now the T20 version of the game has basically done with respect to the technicalities of cricket are firstly encouraged cricketers to innovate their techniques and take risks and secondly helped players in playing “fearless” cricket. Let me explain the impacts of these two fundamental parameters and how this will actually foster more exciting cricket at the test match levels.

If we analyse the results of test matches pre-one day international days and post – one day international days, we would find a drastic improvement in the percentage of test match results as compared to the number of dull drawn test matches. When I was a young boy, I grew up watching the classical batting of Geoffrey Boycott, Sunil Gavaskar’s of the world. It was copy-book style – no doubt of it and that is what the coaches strive to teach the young guys around the world.

When you play a cover drive on the front foot as a right-handed batsman, the left foot should be as close to the pitch of the ball, heads down, bat close to the pads, body weight being shifted from the right leg to the left leg, bat meeting the ball with a straight face, elbows bent over, straight follow-through, heads still, etc etc etc …. No doubt an excellent vision for people looking for technicalities like me …. You feel so happy to see Sachin Tendulkar playing that drive off a Brett Lee and the ball caressing the ground before thundering onto the signboards.

But what used to happen earlier is that these shots used to come once in an hour – because the earlier 50 minutes was spent by the batsman playing classical forward or backward defensive shots. And that is why we used to have the most aggressive score at lunch as say 53 for no loss against a today’s parameter of say 109 for 1 (and if Sehwag is at the crease, it might be 133 for no loss). So what limited overs cricket has done are actually encouraged people to become more positive and aggressive rather than being defensive in nature. The mental attitude has changed to being more how many runs to get in the first session rather than just play and not get out in the first session.

Further, one-day cricket has influenced people to become more innovative and batsmen take more risks today. Did we ever see Gavaskar or Boycott ever try to play a slash cut over the slips against a bouncer on the offstump ? I don’t remember watching so – but in today’s world, if you bounce it short anything outside the offstump, Sehwag will definitely chase that irrespective of the fact that there are 4 slip fielders and a third man right in the boundary. And this actually encourages the spectators – because it not creates more excitement to the batsman but also encourages the bowlers as they will always fancy a chance to get the batsman out. Hence, risky shots created at one-day internationals have been brought forward to test cricket which enhances public viewership irrespective of the fact whether you are supporting the batting side or the fielding side.

And that is why you will see shots like lofted cover drive over mid-off, wristy flicks off deliveries on or off the offstump, hitting the pace bowlers straight back above the bowlers head, etc more often in test cricket than ever. Complementary, you will also see more batsmen getting out at third-man, mid-off’s, getting bowled while trying to hit over the bowler’s head …

What the aggressive attitude has yielded in more runs in a day and also more wickets falling off the same day … current day’s test matches shows very often a run-rate of 3.5 plus which was never even dreamt of 20 years ago when it was mainly test cricket. Earlier, a day’s play used to score something like 180 for 3 and now you will get 275 for 5. This definitely means more results in test matches rather than dull drawn matches – which brings in more viewership from general public.

This has also led to facts that in the 4th innings of a test match, if a team is asked to chase even 150 runs in a slightly crumbling pitch, the team is likely to collapse with a total of 120. And when it comes to someone holding the innings and playing for a draw, you simply don’t just get that – this is because nobody has the temperament to play such innings … even Sachin Tendulkar cannot play an innings which perhaps Sunil Gavaskar would have played while trying to save a match.

Let me ask a question…. 20 years ago, test crickets used to go to the 5th day of the match and then used to become a dull draw … now, how many test matches even go to the 5th day ? So many test matches are won in the 4th day, even in the 3rd day of the match – forget the 5th day and that too in the last session teams playing and lazing in the ground waiting for a draw !

Next comes “fearless” cricket …. Cricketers are nowdays having so much aggressive mentality that they do not care the reputation of the opponents … that is why even Bangladesh do not think twice to throw some expletives against opponents like Australia if the situation demands ….\This really impacts the way cricket is played and at least mentally, it does not become a lopsided affair with one team bulldozing it’s way through the opponent – and this is exactly what the people want to see in a match.

T20 is a far more aggressive version of cricket and hence it will bring it’s own quota of innovative, risk taking cricket along with total fearless attitude. And hence, this will trigger in more results in test cricket, more runs scored in a day, matches being over in 3 days and so on …

Net-net – I believe that even though the pundits of the game will not like T20 and it’s impact on techniques of batsmen, bowers; this will trigger in more high scoring, more exciting, more result oriented test cricket …. Which will make test cricket more commercially viable and more people will come in to watch the cricket …

Thank you one-day internationals and T20 cricket to make test cricket more exciting to watch !

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