April 10, 2013

One man's groundbreaking impact on Indian cricket

The valiant contributions of this correspondent have gone unsung for decades. This must change

For far too long cricketers and cricket administrators have been ruthlessly usurping all the credit for the success of their teams and nations.

I refuse to tolerate this nonsense anymore.

Why has Indian cricket become so successful of late? Apparently it is all because of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Rubbish!

Why do the Chennai Super Kings keep winning trophy after trophy? Just give all the credit to Stephen Fleming, it seems. Balderdash!

How did Sachin Tendulkar manage to single-handedly destroy the Australians in Sharjah during that famous Desert Storm tournament? All thanks to his innate talent, meticulous childhood mentorship and suitable cash transactions routed through Singapore, is it? Delhi Daredevils!

In each case what is widely forgotten, overlooked and even wilfully covered up is the pivotal role played in all these accomplishments and many, many more by one crucial protagonist:

Sidin Sunny Vadukut BE, MBA.

Yes. Myself itself.

For centuries, even decades, cricket has been steeped in legends, myths and the most arcane superstitions. Several players are known to indulge in elaborate rituals before and during cricket matches in order to seduce the twin muses of good luck and fair chance. And who doesn't like to seduce twins?

Some of these superstitions are well known. Vinod Kambli, for instance, is known to rub the ball vigorously for several minutes before settling down in front of the TV to watch the next match.

Zaheer Khan, anybody who works in a KFC will tell you, always carries a yellow handkerchief when he goes out to play. For Khan this handkerchief serves as a good luck charm. He also uses it carry small sachets of ketchup and emergency rations of chicken nuggets.

Less well known is Shahid Afridi's strict pre-match routine. Ask insiders and they will tell you how this exciting Pakistani talent likes to prepare for every match by first retiring.

However, much less attention is granted to the dedicated efforts of the audience themselves. Specifically:

Sidin Sunny Vadukut BE, MBA.

Few people in the history of Indian cricket have done more to avoid jinxes, propitiate the bearers of good luck and gladden the gods as much as I, namely me, have.

For instance, during the last over of the inaugural T20 world cup final in 2007, India were teetering on the verge of collapse when I decided to order pizza. Thirty minutes or less later, exactly as the pizza delivery fellow knocked on our door, Sohail Tanvir was bowled by Sreesanth. Instantly it became to clear to me that the pizza delivery fellow's arrival had improved India's chances. Immediately I informed him that he was to stand in that very same position - one foot inside my house and one foot outside - until the final over had been bowled. The poor fellow protested vociferously. I simply refused to pay if he left. So he stayed.

The rest is history.

Less well known is Shahid Afridi's strict pre-match routine. Ask insiders and they will tell you how this exciting Pakistani talent likes to prepare for every match by first retiring

Or who can forget Yuvraj Singh's magical six sixes in one over against Stuart Broad in that same tournament? At this momentous juncture I was watching the match at a sports bar in Mumbai's upmarket Phoenix Mills shopping centre. At the very moment Yuvraj Singh hit the first six, a female blogger friend was squeezing between me and the table to shimmy out and go to the ladies room. Instantly it became clear to me: her position, more or less in my lap, was crucial to Yuvraj Singh's sustained excellence. I requested her to not move till further notice.

The rest is history and sexual tension that we both pretend does not exist to this day.

It reminds me of that classic moment of Indian cricket when Anil Kumble was on the verge of taking all ten wickets in a Test match innings. Kumble had taken the first six wickets, but Saleem Malik and Wasim Akram had laid the foundation for an irritating partnership. But then suddenly Malik pulled at a deceptive Kumble delivery and got bowled.

At that very instant I was in engineering college in Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu. (Trichy is widely regarded as the "Boston without the infrastructure" of South India.) The very nanosecond that Malik Liverpooled the ball, I was in my dorm room, partaking of refreshment from a bottle of McDowell's No. 1 whisky. (Widely regarded as the "battery water without the smooth finish" of Indian spirits.)

The bottle was meant to be shared among a jaunty group of seven or so of us. But clearly this cricketing incident had changed the rules of engagement. Surely I could not let the bottle pass around the circle as long as Kumble stalked the Pakistanis. My sipping had raised Kumble's game. So I continued to sip diligently, accumulating good karma, while Kumble scythed through the enemy like a hot sword through fresh brie.

Soon he had taken all ten and there was much rejoicing and dancing and throwing up and dry cleaning afterwards.

Yet how many times have we celebrated this man's selfless pursuit for Indian cricket? How many times has ESPNcricinfo profiled Sidin Sunny Vadukut and his decades-long service of the game?

Never. And that, my friends, is one of the greatest misfortunes of this sport. That and Alastair Campbell.

Sidin Vadukut is a columnist and editor with Mint, and the author of the Dork trilogy