Crazy little thing called hope

Australia v India - Game 4
during the Victoria Bitter One Day International match between Australia and India at Manuka Oval on January 20, 2016 in Canberra, Australia.

 

If you were a fan you would have watched yesterday’s match till the last over. Why do we watch matches even when each successive dot ball brings with it diminishing hope?

MS Dhoni’s captaincy is being sharply contrasted to that Kohli’s. Even the cameras have already started focusing more on Kohli’s reaction to the happenings on the field rather than Dhoni’s. It seems as though Dhoni has already started to recede into the background, seemingly pushed into the twilight of his career by his vice-captain.

Designated drivers on road trips save us the hassle of thinking about the road and help us enjoy the journey. In yesterday’s match, Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan were the designated drivers who were to take India to the culmination of their journey in a match that they had in their back pockets.

At 270/1, the road seemed clear. No foreseeable traffic jams, no trucks swerving onto the wrong lane. Though it looked like Dhawan was running on reserve after reaching his century, the destination seemed something that could be reached with time to spare.

The first roadblock was that of Dhawan’s wicket. To silence critics and indifferent form with a century isn’t always enough. Sometimes success is measured differently, especially when the match is in the balance. Which is why centuries that don’t win matches aren’t always remembered and serve as live on as statistics, not memories. Once the weight was lifted off is shoulders he seemed to think he could hand over the reins to the ones who were to follow. With 8 wickets in hand, it seemed forgivable.

Imagine you’re on a road trip. There’s a lot of fun, laughter and loud music. All the while, your buddy who is behind the wheel has to keep his eyes on the road until the destination is reached. Everyone else has reached a place that can only be termed as blissful indifference. Open road. Someone else is driving. The wind on your faces. Out of the blue and without warning, your buddy asks someone else to take over. It’s no easy task. you have get out of bliss mode to focus mode and drive. That was what happened to India yesterday. When everyone was cracking jokes, stretching their legs and waiting for the destination to arrive, they were suddenly asked to drive.

The fall of Shikhar Dhawan’s wicket wasn’t met with much indignation. Not when you have the like of Dhoni, Jadeja and Kohli still at the crease. Dhoni the finisher walked into what seemed a walk in the park when compared to the other minefields that he has walked into and come out the knight in shining armor.

There was to be no such repeat performance on this night. Trying to push a ball that had been pitched outside off, he got a feather of an inside edge. The Canberra crowd exploded as the India team had begun imploding.

However much we dismiss the audacity of hope in our daily lives, sport reminds us why we believe in it the first place. That’s why you watch a match even if it’s 34 runs required of the last over. The odds of someone pulling out a Yuvraj Singh again are one in a million. But we believe nonetheless. We don’t just hope, we hope against hope. Hope that a goal is scored in the dying minutes of a game and a match is won. Hope that a wicket is taken in the final over, or a four smashed, a six hit, a penalty saved, a car engine malfunctions. Something, anything that keeps hope alive.

Virat Kohli became the fastest to reach 7,000 ODI runs and Shikhar Dhawan the fastest to reach 3,000 runs, both of which were shadowed by a team that it seems has forgotten to win or believes that it isn’t good enough to win. With Kohli still in the crease and striking the ball well, hope was alive but not really well.

39th over – 278/3

Virat Kohli decided to drive and then spooned a sitter to mid off. What was he thinking? The wheels of hope had started to come off. In walked the last recognized batsman Sir Jadeja. India had gone from drivers to passengers to having their wheels punctured in a span of 3 overs. Gurukeerat Singh had in front of him an opportunity that presents itself rarely. The match was neither won nor lost. If he could only steady the car and steer it away from the many roadblocks that had suddenly shown up. After striking a 4 off Lyon, he seemed to have understood that he could in the late David Bowie’s words ‘be a hero just for one day’. In the commentary box, VVS Laxman got excited and prematurely pronounced him as the next possible hero for India. Everybody around Gurukeerat seemd to see the opportunity that lay ahead in front of him. Everybody except Gurukeerat Singh.

He top edged the very next ball going for an audacious shot. Tonight wasn’t the night he chose to live up to David Bowie’s words. Or VVS Laxman’s premature hopes.

Ajinkya Rahane would have been thanking his stars at the start of India’s chase. After splitting the webbing of his right hand while fielding and getting 4 stitches for his efforts, it didn’t seem like his services would be required. He could heal in peace.

If someone had switched off the TV when Kohli and Dhawan were at the crease, headed for a meeting and then checked the 9 pm news, would have wondered if there was a mistake in the feed that they were receiving. From 274/1 to 291/5 in 4 overs? India lost the match?

If none of the batsmen expected to bat, then one cannot blame Ajinkya Rahane’s short and uneventful stay at the crease. Try holding a phone when in your hand when the webbing has cracked. Then imagine holding a bat. Rahane tried to edge one to the third man off Richardson, probably unaware that Steven Smith was waiting in the slips for him to do exactly that. Six down. 55 runs required off 48 balls.

Rishi Dhawan and Ravindra Jadeja played sensibly for an over and raise hopes again.

Where is Dhoni when you really need him?

Instead of saving for a rainy day, the team has run out savings. Dhawan struck a magnificent four off Richardson and it seemed like the chase is back on track. He then decided he was invincible and a couple of balls later, holed out to David Warner standing in the sweeper region. There is a time to steer, a time to brake and a time to accelerate. On this night, the commands get mixed up.

With ‘Sir’ Ravindra Jadeja at the crease, the last vestige of hope is still flickering. At the other end Bhuvaneshwar Kumar edges one to the keeper who drops it. There are many things you can do with a second chance and all he had to do was rotate the strike and give Jadeja more balls to face. Richardson was too good for Kumar, inviting him to drive and making him miss. It wasn’t long before he succumbed.

46th over. 38 from 24 required with 2 wickets in hand.

By now the urge the switch off the television set is immense. Some momentarily feign indifference and walk away, only to return an over later. Hope makes you do funny things.

Umesh Yadav looked like someone who was playing video games and then being forced to do his homework. A tailender flinging his bat at everything when a chase is on the line is one cricket’s most demoralising sights. It shows that the fight is up and the end is near. Yadav seemed hell bent on getting out and he came close in the 47th over when he’s dropped by Richardson. Like a kid who just wants to finish his homework and go back to playing his video game, he again attempted a slog two balls later and found George Bailey at point. His homework was complete.

Why do you still watch the match when there are 33 runs to get off 12 balls and one wicket left? The chance that someone will strike 4 sixes in an over and then take singles? What calculations could you possibly have in your mind to keep hope alive? That’s what hope is finally – a calculation.

49th over.

Dot. Wide. A couple. Boundary! Dot. Dot. Dot.

You still thought India could win?

The misery was over in the second ball of the 50th over when Ishant Sharma edges one to the keeper.

In 14 overs, India went from cruise mode to slowing down to crashing and had to be towed off at the end of what seemed a joyride in the beginning.

Pity hope couldn’t steer them to their destination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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