Last week was very unique. As the weekend neared, all forms of media (print to social) went ballistic with plethora of tributes to Rahul Dravid. An emotional country and an extremely loyal, obedient son - the perfect combination for overflowing sentiment. Suddenly, the ODI at Cardiff had an additional item to look forward to - apart from an elusive Indian win.
It only boosted the 'Friday special' in a series which otherwise followed a predictable 'saans-bahu' saga. The plot of this episode was as drab as any of the other acts over the summer - lose toss, bat first, bat brilliantly, anticipate a win, rain comes, England struggle, rain comes again, wet ball, slipping fielders, another player joins the star studded 'Injured XI team', a bowler short and subsequently, England win comfortably.
The only comic moments coming from some 'Patel Rap' (or crap!! If I may say) - Parthiv continued throwing away good starts and fielded like a school kid; Samit dropped sitters and bowled "hit me" balls; and Munaf waited for every ball to come to him, before he would decide whether or not to bend to pick.
Dravid played, amidst a rousing welcome, scored more than what he had netted in four previous innings and got a sporting handshake from the entire English team. His act resembled that part of the forgotten hero, his 124 runs of no value to the present or to the future. The great artist himself had to come out of the zone and try tuning his game to the modern sledgehammer format (and rightly announced retirement too).
The actor was long gone from the cast; the serial celebrated two golden years without him and TRPs peaked in Mar-Apr 2011. Yet in a sudden rush of panic, the producer (BCCI) felt that the actor should be brought back as the story twisted to one of re-incarnation and a 'Friday special' happened on its own.
You needed the producer to step up, intervene and ask the team to prioritize trying out the youngsters and not get soaked in this drama. On the side, BCCI could have declared any upcoming international game at the Chinnaswamy stadium as Rahul's benefit match. 80000 home fans would have loved making posters for this day (compared to the smaller capacity at Cardiff), the KCSA would have got a chance to shower their accolades, the city may have got decorated on the day, and for all you know, a few NGOs/charity organizations could have benefited from the event.
The great leader in MS Dhoni off course has been consistent in giving great sendoffs - whether handing over Dada the captaincy baton for few overs at the Nagpur test vs Australia, or requesting Anil Kumble to join him in lifting the Border-Gavaskar trophy. So it was likely he would play succumb to this sea of emotion. What was unlikely was that he rest himself despite carrying 'sore palms' - MSD is not one captain to abandon his ship, crew and passengers during tough and stormy times.
Manoj Tiwary first played an ODI in 2008 in Australia. His next ODI was three years later, his third ODI coming three days later and his last ODI coming three months later. It's anyone's guess when his next ODI will come! The last time he came out to bat, there were 15 balls remaining for the innings to end. He played seven of them and scored 11.
I feel worse for him that any elation I got watching Dravid play in the ODIs vs England. I felt bad for Varun Aaron not being given at the least two games to just see what he can offer. I feel worse for him than any joy I got observing Vinay Kumar or Munaf Patel bowl at pace of Anil Kumble's top spinners.
Still, the four ODIs gave us a fair share of how our backup team looks. I recall Greg Chappell, while he was the national team coach, had a process of selecting and grooming only multi-dimensional players. England picked that wisdom, and have ably made a world beating squad where every XI they pick has at least ten world class fielders, nine world class batsmen and six world class bowlers.
Its fair to say Munaf, Parthiv, Vinay don't look the part. Munaf does classify a 'decent' wicket to wicket bowler - but he only bowls and stands - not even bothering to backup and collect a throw for a potential run out; he tells his ankle/feet do that. Vinay and Parthiv cannot even be classified as 'decent' in their prime trades ie bowling and keeping respectively.
I hope on Friday, I saw a farewell match for Dravid, Vinay, Munaf and Parthiv. That will ensure the match I stayed awake till 5:30am to watch, wasn't any soap opera.
- Avijit Patnaik