Beyond the Blues

The forgotten drop-outs

What do the words "World Cup 2003" bring to mind?

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra
Not many people remember that VVS Laxman and Gautam Gambhir have not been members of India's World Cup teams  •  AFP

Not many people remember that VVS Laxman and Gautam Gambhir have not been members of India's World Cup teams  •  AFP

What do the words "World Cup 2003" bring to mind? Perhaps Sachin Tendulkar's inimitable knock against Pakistan, Ashish Nehra's superb six-for against England, and may be the unfortunate loss in the finals too. Not many of us, unless we are die-hard VVS Laxman fans, will remember that he so unjustifiably missed the bus to South Africa. Just like Gautam Gambhir for the 2007 World Cup. Of course, there would never be a mention of Laxman and Gambhir when talking these mega events, but for odd posts like these, that are in a mood to pay homage to the "drop-outs", who in all sincerity, deserved a place.
Seeing someone getting dumped by the team is an ugly sight, however justified the exclusion may be. If he happens to be a key player and, more importantly, a popular player amongst his peers, the emotions are almost certain to run high. There will always be a few in the team who would either be not in the position to show their emotions, or simply not care much. Then there'll be few who would voice their opinion, hurt and perhaps anger in muffled voices. They don't have the clout or reputation in the team to be too loud, or run the danger of getting singled out. And finally, there'll be a handful, may be not more than a couple of guys who will be in a position to influence and may also try to exercise that sway, albeit to no avail. The evening would be soiled by the discussions revolving around the merits of the decision and its repercussions.
But what happens the morning after is in complete contrast and shows how trivial a person's presence is in the bigger picture. The day would start with the same nervousness that engulfs the atmosphere on the morning of a match. The only conversation would be the exchange of pleasantries and greetings. It will be business as usual with the focus completely on the match. Nobody, at least that's how it appears, seems to be missing the guy dropped, for whom everyone felt so dearly. And once the match starts, rest assured that he would be a thing of the past, if he wasn't already. The only time he would be remembered again is if the guy who replaced him did poorly or the team missed him in the middle. It's indeed a selfish world and sport is not beyond it. You may be playing a team sport, spending time as a family, but you would rarely be missed when you're gone.
When someone gets dropped at the international level, it at least ignites a debate but domestic players get axed by the dozens in a season and yet go unnoticed. Chetanya Nanda from Delhi was shown the door after just one poor outing against Bengal in the first game of this season's Ranji Trophy.
His absence from the longer format may have raised a few eyebrows within the team because he had been a regular member of Delhi's playing XI for the last few years. He too may have been missed in the first few days, but as cricket does to everyone, it's plausible that he isn't even missed anymore. Such is life.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here