The Heavy Ball

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India are going to win. Always

If you support the team formerly known as No. 1, your best bet is to become an irrational optimist

Sidin Vadukut

Comments: 42 | Text size: A | A
Anil Kumble bowls with a broken jaw and gets Brian Lara, West Indies v India, 4th Test, St John's, 12 May, 2002
Inspiration for those who never lose hope: Anil Kumble chewed up the opposition while missing the use of his mandible © AFP
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Players/Officials: MS Dhoni
Series/Tournaments: India tour of England
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Allow me to be a little self-centred for a moment. Earlier this year, when India were still labouring their way through the early stages of the World Cup, most of my friends on social networks - I don't meet real people anymore. They speak without word limits and usually don't wait for you to finish - were astonished by my optimism.

I was not just expecting India to win all the time. I was not just expecting India to win comfortably every time. I was expecting India to win by hundreds of runs and dozens of wickets, with their players scoring bucketfuls of hat-tricks and centuries in the process.

"Expecting imminent collapse..." was my favourite status update when the opposition came to bat. Later, when Dhoni walloped Sri Lanka into the stands, my optimism seemed spectacularly justified.

Since those heady days the wheels have somewhat come off the Indian cricket juggernaut. Wait. What somewhat? They have fallen off entirely, and the juggernaut is lying by the side of a main road in England, rotting in the rain and rusting in the sun.

Our cricket in England has been awful. Individual performances have been few and mostly inconsequential. Occasionally our fielding was elevated to pedestrian. Our bowling... What bowling? And on the rare occasion we were brave, fortune refused to favour us.

However, I have no doubt we will whip the English in the remaining one-day match. Our bowling will dismantle their batting, and our batting will make their bowlers think: "Aiyyo, unnecessarily became cricketer. Should have listened to daddy and chosen the lesser humiliation of becoming an English national footballer. Or tennis player."

Okay, because you ask, Virat Kohli will take at least one catch that will make him look impervious to the laws of physics. And Munaf Patel will emote. Eventually.

Yup. I'm still madly optimistic. Why? Because is there any other way to support the Indian cricket team? Is there any other way to support anything Indian?

Take the BCCI. From the mid 80s, when I began watching cricket, the Indian team has always performed despite the "best intentions" of the BCCI. As far as I can tell from the analyses of vastly more experienced cricket writers, the BCCI has always been a lumbering, greedy bureaucratic beast that errs on the side of commercial caution.

Now, if I was a rational sports fan, the BCCI would have put me off Indian cricket entirely. For about two decades now people have pointed out the same shortcomings with the board. It has got richer, more influential and, at least financially, more successful. And yet, in 2011, it can still manage to not have a stadium ready in time for a World Cup. I suspect these shortcomings will remain unchanged for the next 20 years. And I am accounting enough time for S Anirudha to play for India, retire and become the chairman of selectors.

Those are just the administrators. Don't even get me started on the IPL team owners, players, sponsors, bookies and the rest of the "well-meaning" cricketing fraternity. Faced with such towering incompetence and malevolence, my options as a fervent supporter are limited. Either I can be a rational, balanced supporter of an irrational, random establishment, and pull my hair out (which would explain some experts). Or I can always expect to lose and be humiliated, which seems an odd way to support a team, but is often a very satisfying one.

I choose a third option: I always expect India to win. No, I don't care if we're following on or have 10 runs to defend in five overs. I am 100% sure we will win. Somehow. Always.

This optimism can be pretty exhausting. Going by Dhoni's record, I am going to be let down approximately 40% of the time. People are going to heap ridicule on me. My heart is going to flutter more than any fan's should. I am going to pay unreasonable amounts for mobile updates. I am going to be the only guy in the Louvre looking at the Mona Lisa and thinking, "Required run-rate of 22.6? Totally doable. Please God..."

But irrational optimism is also remarkably easy. Because now you expect to win irrespective of fourth bowlers, short balls, genuine spinners and IPL fatigue. You don't care. Cricket, or any sport really, is too sublime to be reduced to equations. Who knows what divine courage made Dhoni promote himself up the order in that final? Or what gave Yuvraj that Zen-like calm for six balls? Or who briefly bestowed upon Kapil Dev the absurd ability to run while looking backwards? Or told Anil Kumble that a jaw is a meaningless appendage?

Things look horrible right now. It seems absurd to think this was the same team that was unstoppable till recently. But, for the optimist it is business as usual. For we know that things will eventually improve. Optimists don't worry about how and when (That would make us realists. When BCCI is involved? Ugh).

Join us. It will not be easy, but it will be fulfilling. For after night comes day. And everybody knows daybreak means more to those who stayed up all night waiting for the sun than to those who slept through the darkness.

Stay awake. The day will come. And I have a feeling that Sreesanth will bring it.

Sidin Vadukut is the managing editor of Livemint.com and the author of the novel Dork: The Incredible Adventures of Robin 'Einstein' Varghese. He blogs at Domain Maximus.

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Comments: 42 
Posted by   on (September 14, 2011, 13:08 GMT)

sree needs to be in bowling department in odi ...is munaf not giving away runs , vinay kumar expensive , then comes zak he is out , ishant sharma never bowled well in ODIs , praveen kumar is okay but you need to have a fast gun who's passionate

Posted by TamilIndian on (September 14, 2011, 5:48 GMT)

Great one as always! - Sreesanth will bring it!! Totally doable...

Posted by   on (September 14, 2011, 5:19 GMT)

Hope is one thing we will never give up as indian cricket fans...we r more optimistic.....

Posted by Ronsars on (September 14, 2011, 4:59 GMT)

Great work Sidin Sree will do it for sure...I wonder when that day will come when people understand what Page 2 Articles are and then post their "serious valuable" comments!!!!!!

Posted by HazyClarity on (September 14, 2011, 4:53 GMT)

Priceless. Awesome sense of humor and writing. "Anirudha retiring"; "Aiyyo"; This should not be page2

Posted by abdullahnoor007 on (September 14, 2011, 4:37 GMT)

@bluebillion: Superman is in movies man. India is losing in real life. And you can mark my words here, India's revival won't be easy. I can bet. India is going to lose the home series as well. :-)

Posted by   on (September 14, 2011, 4:04 GMT)

Actually seemed a bit serious there until the last bit about Sreesanth. He's got to be joking...? Or not. He is after all, according to selection, the fastest pace bowler in a country of hundreds of millions of candidates. But in all seriousness, excellent article, especially for those of us with the ridiculous mobile bills. Dawn is coming soon, should reach in about 4 years actually. Just in time for the jolly old World Cup :)

Posted by caught_knott_bowled_old on (September 14, 2011, 1:19 GMT)

This shouldn't be a Page 2 article.

Posted by Nerk on (September 14, 2011, 1:15 GMT)

Great read. Its nice to have optimism on this site for a change. Not like we Aussies. "Aw, why did they pick Marsh, Hodge should be picked. Marsh can't bat. Oh, he made a hundred. Well, I bet he cant do that everytime he bats. Awwww."

Posted by vertical on (September 14, 2011, 0:30 GMT)

i think it should be rust in the rain and rot in the sun :)

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Sidin Vadukut
Sidin Vadukut has been writing extensively about cricket since he started writing this column for ESPNcricinfo. He comes from a family of footballers, who all nurture virulent hate for cricket in general and Basit Ali in particular. Vadukut is the author of the Dork trilogy of office-culture humour novels. By day he is a columnist and editor with business daily Mint. At night, depending on when he gets off work, he goes home or fights crime. His favourite cricketer is Saeed Anwar. By which he means Sachin Tendulkar. Jai Hind.

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Sidin VadukutClose
Sidin Vadukut has been writing extensively about cricket since he started writing this column for ESPNcricinfo. He comes from a family of footballers, who all nurture virulent hate for cricket in general and Basit Ali in particular. Vadukut is the author of the Dork trilogy of office-culture humour novels. By day he is a columnist and editor with business daily Mint. At night, depending on when he gets off work, he goes home or fights crime. His favourite cricketer is Saeed Anwar. By which he means Sachin Tendulkar. Jai Hind.
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