Back in 2011, I remember meeting the great Brian Lara at Heathrow Airport. We had just arrived for a full-fledged tour of England. I am an introvert by nature but thought this was a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to get some nuggets from the champion. Pleasantries exchanged, I came into my own. I’m not sure about right-handers, but I’ve noticed that two lefties connect like high-tension wires.
A bit like two Indians meeting on the streets of Boston, absolute strangers but bursting at seams, keen to share a lot in common. I asked Lara about stance, high backlift, playing spin and more. But the best advise he gave me was, “Gautam, remember one thing, there are more bad days than good in cricket and that will never change.”
On Saturday, when we were committing hara-kiri against Mumbai Indians, I could almost hear Lara’s words on the stadium PA system. I could almost see his face on the giant screen loaded with a smirk. This was destiny’s cruel way of underlining that Lara observation. We were chasing 174 to win, a magical number that would have put us in the top 2. The past and the present both had combined to give us future. The past said were two-time champions, we knew how to win big games.
The present said we were 53/2 in 5.5 overs, needed close to only eight an over in 85 balls. All we needed was cricketing awareness, calm minds and above all, pride in wearing the purple jersey. Unfortunately, all these were missing. I was shattered seeing my teammates committing suicide after suicide.
This was after twice we sent messages to the batsmen that there was no need to accelerate. All we needed was a partnership of about 70-80 runs to break the back of Mumbai’s total. Even during the first strategic break, both Kallis and Katich tried to impress upon batsmen that we don’t need to go aerial, just play risk-free cricket.
It becomes incomprehensible for me when I recall that in team meetings before that Mumbai game, we had made it clear that we were going in with one batsman short and the top 6 needed to score the bulk of runs. This meant that the chase should feature at least one proper batsman till at least 17-18 overs. But look what we did! Post match, our dressing room resembled a mourning place. I heard some boys had tears. While I sympathised with them, we had only ourselves to blame for being in this situation.
Anyways, bygones need to be buried and I did that on flight from Kolkata to Bengaluru. Our next opponents Sun Risers Hyderabad are defending champions for a reason. They are a great deal more than David Warner alone. Shikhar Dhawan, Rashid Khan and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are some real challengers in their room. Let’s see if Yuvraj makes the cut. I have a lot of time for the other Afghan, Mohammad Nabi. He’s quite good and has wonderful control in his off-spinners. It is a sudden death for both teams and we suffered at the hands of the same team last season.
In a way, it is good that there is a lot of hurt and pain in our dressing room. It can work as a catalyst but it all depends on the individual. You can either use these reversals as strengths or crib and cringe. I know what my team will be doing, as none of us can afford another bad day in cricket, as Mr Lara pointed out.
Dinesh Chopra Media