This, that and the other. Mostly the other
Just when you thought the world had finally settled down to play some good old-fashioned Test cricket to stadiums packed with seats, controversy has struck the game again.
The India-England tour started spectacularly, with a pulsating first Test at Lord's, the "Previous Home of Cricket", attended by several Indian and English cricketing greats, and Sharad Pawar, the "Current Home of Cricket".
Despite being saddled with adverse factors such as numerous injuries, exhaustion, a cramped schedule, lack of pace-bowling culture, adverse English weather, Matt Prior, the unstable US economy, strengthening Swiss franc, endemic corruption, and N Srinivasan, the Indians managed to put up a valiant fight before succumbing to the relentless onslaught of English commentary.
Expectations were high as both teams moved to Trent Bridge, the "Reserved Parking Space of Cricket", for the second Test. Alas, instead of a rousing festival of cricket, fans got to see a steady stream of controversy.
First, VVS Laxman was accused of trying to trick the infra-red nick-detection technology. Now on the face of it "applying Vaseline to your bat in order to avoid Hot Spot problems" seems like something you or I would do on a Saturday afternoon with the curtains drawn and some Peter Gabriel playing on the CD player. But when you remove the quotes and read it without innuendo, you realise it is tantamount to accusing Laxman of cheating.
Chaos ensued. The white t-shirt of rage came off the torso of Indian restraint and was twirled frantically from the balcony of Indian public opinion.
However, things settled down when it emerged that Laxman had done no such thing. Authorities also clarified that it was, in fact, completely legal to apply several substances on one's cricket bat, including but not limited to Vaseline, extra sambhar, trans-fat-free chunky peanut butter, avial (without Adai), and Spanish omlette (day-night matches only).
And then the great Ian Bell Controversy of 2011 happened.
The details are now already part of cricketing lore. Suffice to say that Indian sportsmanship rescued England from a moment of extreme naïvete.
However, I was amused when Andy Flower later defended what happened during that tea break, when England asked Dhoni to consider calling Bell back. Flower said that if the same thing had happened to Tendulkar in Mumbai, it would have become an "international incident".
What nonsense is this, Flower? What a comparison of ridiculous proportions! Bell is no Mumbai and Tendulkar is not at all comparable to a Trent Bridge.
More bizarrely, is this going to be the new metric when it comes to cricketing decisions? Whenever there is a controversy or a dispute, are concerned parties like players, umpires, referees and sponsors supposed to first think: "What if this happened to Tendulkar at the Wankhede?"
I don't know about you, but for me this seems like a ridiculous standard to use in a team sport that involves many, many countries and several dozens of players. How can everything boil down to one man? So far poor (metaphorically speaking) Tendulkar has only been carrying the expectations of a billion Indians. Now he has to worry about everybody else as well?
Let me show you why this is a problem. Below I give three hypothetical situations where the Tendulkar-Mumbai (T-M) Method could lead to controversy. What would you do in these tricky situations?
1. Laxman, on 99, is batting at Edgbaston, the "Guest Bedroom of Cricket". He plays a straight drive but nicks it to the keeper. The ball bounces off the keeper's glove, onto Laxman's back and back to the keeper who takes the catch. Should the keeper appeal or let it go?
Regular answer: Appeal.
T-M Method: Let it go. Tendulkar would never miss a straight drive. Issue of nicking does not arise.
2. Kevin Pietersen is in an aggressive mood while batting at The Oval, the "Hidden-Closet-with-Videotaping-Equipment-Attached-to-the-Guest Bedroom of Cricket" when he thwacks the ball straight to the man at silly point. The ball instantly kills the fielder, loops into the air, and then falls back to rest on the chest of the dead man. What should the fielding captain do?
Regular answer: Appeal for a catch without too much excitement as a mark of respect to the dead man.
T-M Method: Let it go. Silly point for Tendulkar? Mad or what?
3. It is the World Cup final at Headingley, the "Secret Basement Home Theatre Room of Cricket", and Sri Lanka are playing Australia. Lasith Malinga runs up to bowl. Moments before he lets go of the ball, he slips on something. This drastically changes the direction, velocity and swing of the ball. Michael Clarke is clean-bowled. Should Sri Lanka appeal?
Regular answer: Of course. Irregular bowling is a Sri Lankan tradition.
T-M Method: Invalid question. India have played in every single World Cup final at the Wankhede. This scenario is meaningless.
As you can see, the Tendulkar-Mumbai method is utterly useless in several conditions. Flower should retract his words immediately. This series needs to move on to its inevitable 2-2 conclusion.
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