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Cricket, lovely Cricket, just stay the way you are

Wisden India logo Wisden India 14-02-2017
© AP

Dear Cricket,

Will you be my Valentine? It’s the day to ask that question, isn’t it? It’s been a long courtship, full of dramas, high points, miserable lows, ecstatic climaxes… and the love affair still lasts. Sometimes I want to be done with you and never look you in the face again. Sometimes I think I cannot live without you. We’ve left the seven-year itch far behind us. I know there are many in love with you, but I’ll be perfectly understanding. You know why? Because I’m okay to share.

Without your prompting, I have written loving – some might call them cringingly embarrassing – odes to you and your practitioners.

But there comes a time in every relationship when some non-negotiables must be set down. Yes, I know I began by asking you to be my Valentine and now it sounds a teensy bit as if I’m throwing my weight about. But who said only you had the copyright to ‘glorious uncertainties’? Not so glorious when they’re turned around, eh?

That’s right Cricket, I’m laying down the law, and if you don’t comply, I’m walking out the door.

Item No. 1

I need to be able to bowl the perfect outswinger at 150 kph or above all day long and hit cover-drives that find the fence when an 8-1 field is set, against yorkers, day in and day out. Please don’t give me that nonsense about how it’s too late, how it’s not something that can be taught but only an inborn talent that can be honed, how it requires some rare alignment of genes and planets etc etc. So many years together, and you can’t even do this for me? I have slaved and slaved at speeds – okay calling them ‘speeds’ sounds a bit of a misnomer – of somewhere south of 100 kph to be the shining star in the second division (out of two divisions) for one full month somewhere far back in the mists of time. Short message: I need the glory days back: bigger, better, longer lasting. [Stop reading that last sentence as if it were a tagline for an item that experiences habitual sales surges around Valentine’s Day].

Item No. 2

This is a corollary to Item No. 1. As you’re aware, the ability to bowl a perfect outswinger through the day at high pace does not come alone. It’s a package deal with a mean bouncer, a mesmerising hold of reverse swing, a yorker that can pierce metal armour and the control of a puppet-master. Basically, I need to be Dale Steyn with Wasim Akram’s magic added, and Curtly Ambrose’s deadliness incorporated. Similarly I cannot be playing a cover-drive like the one I want to if I don’t have every shot in the official book, and a whole new book for the shots I will invent. Like AB de Villiers’s shot-making fused with Virat Kohli’s mastery of mind and situation. A dash of Brian Lara flair, Sachin Tendulkar straight-driving and VVS Laxman’s wrists wouldn’t be amiss. I don’t want to sound unreasonable, so I won’t ask for Don Bradman’s batting average. Just give me that other stuff and I’ll find a workaround to get there on my own.

© AP

Item No. 3

Just to show you that it’s not all about ‘me me me’ I want something good for the world at large too. So how about… Umm a reasonable financial model that takes into account country’s contributions without creating drastic imbalances… Errrr or a workable DRS that doesn’t leave anyone wondering why things like impact of the ball, which is not a projection but a straight up line decision, has to be ‘umpire’s call’. Or why team’s should lose reviews on umpire’s call…Or, yes this is a good one, how to ensure a balanced international schedule that still leaves room for marquee clashes and makes enough money and gives some basic opportunities to all and cures cancer and tapes Donald Trump’s mouth permanently shut and…

Okay we’ll come back to this later. I need to be able to work out how to quantify “good faith and equity” scientifically.

Item No. 4

You know, for a sport that’s being played in the 21st century, the way you measure anything other than batting is quite lamentable. You can’t put a number to fielding stats, bowling spells, runs got off edges, runs scored after being given a ‘life’, runs given up by a bowler denied a wicket, runs scored under pressure versus when the match was meandering, wickets got on the cheap or the ones that broke open an innings? And you’ve not done your bit to prevent a third World War by not providing any conclusive answer as to who was better – Tendulkar or Dravid?

I mean, it’s been a century and a half, and even as I write this, there isn’t a single method or system out there to incorporate any deeper stats? Oh there are pretenders, sure, but that’s what all they are right? Pretenders. I need something that actually makes sense and actually measures what isn’t yet measured. You’re not doing the accounts anymore till you sort this out, Cricket.

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So how’s that for some tough talk? What’s that? You pay my bills? Oh… ah, well after a fashion, I guess you do. Yes you could say that I’m quite dependent on you, and you aren’t on me.

What will I live on if I walk out? Hold on a minute… who said anything about walking out? Of course I wasn’t serious. Jeez, can’t you take a joke? See, I’m tearing up Items 1 to 4 right now. Yes ‘jeez’ is an American expression and we don’t use that in Cricket.

Yes of course I’m perfectly happy the way things are. Don’t ever change Cricket. Especially don’t change that part about continuing to pay my bills. I may be having some additional expenses soon. You’re the best.


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