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De-mystifying Indian Cricket’s Myths

Harpal Singh Bedi

MYTH-BUSTING: Indian Cricket Behind the Headlines

By Gulu Ezekiel

Price: Rs 295 

Rupa Publications 

There is a myth that Cricket in India  gained popularity after winning the 1983 World Cup as the victory  was directly  beamed to the drawing rooms of  millions of people back home and they felt elated and proud watching Kapil Dev and his men lording at Lords – venue of many a humiliating defeats in the past.  

This is not correct. Cricket has been immensely popular sport in the Sub-continent since 1930s mostly patronized by the Rajas and Nawabs and to some extent by the Britishers.   

After Independence Hockey was declared the National game and it did bring laurels to the country winning three Olympic-gold (!948,52,56) but surprisingly Cricket held its own among the masses despite Indian team’s dismal and often pathetic showing. 

It was indeed ironic to see more books and write up on Indian Cricket players and the team after every disastrous performance while very few if any books at that time came out glorifying Hockey or Football. We have books on and about the former cricketers who wrote about their exploits in domestic circuit and talked emotionally about the defeats they suffered at International level. 

Intriguingly every defeat against West Indies, England, Australia and even Pakistan brought more crowd to the stadiums. Instead of thinning support base, craze for cricket kept growing. 

Every defeat was laced with some myths and few and far victories in that era became a sort of folklore.  

“Cricket around the World is built on myths and Indian cricket is no different. These myths have been repeated ad nauseam over the years till they have come to be accepted as fact”, opines Gulu Ezekiel. 

To demolish these myths and de-glamourize some of the cricketing folklores, Gulu Ezekiel ambarked on a tough, unpopular and arduous journey and the result is the 232-page  book MYTH-BUSTING – Indian Cricket Behind The Headlines

Gulu is a veteran sports journalist but he Lives cricket. This is his 14th book and the second that I am reviewing. 

Reviewing a book written by a friend is a very tough job and on top of it if it is specifically related to cricket because 90 percent chances are that the writer and reviewer both have witnessed so much in common.  

I know Gulu for over two decades and having lavishly praised his previous co-authored book  Speed Merchant, I was apprehensive about this one. But the forward written by Anil Kumble made my job easier     

Kumble sums up the book nicely” Gulu’s attempt to demystify some of these myths of Indian cricket is unique and commendable. His desire to sift fact from fiction and the painstaking research that has clearly gone into the process is evident. Underneath the facts, stories and anecdotes, lies the desire to get rid of some of these existing myths and rumours, in order to   purify this beautiful game.”   

Myth Busting has several startling facts which so far have been camouflaged and one of them is about Ranji.

Ranji Trophy is now a part of Indian cricket’s folklore. The   hallowed tournament named after Shri Sir Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji, Maharaja Jamsahab of Nawanagar aka Ranji has showcased domestic talent which took the sport in the country to its pinnacle.

In a chapter “Ranji.the legend and the myth” the author quotes first secretary of BCCI Anthony de Mello: “Ranji did absolutely nothing for Indian Sports and Sportsmen” 

In de Mello’s own words: “We approached Ranji with a request that Duleep (Sinhji) be encouraged to bring his cricket talents to the aid of India. To all our requests for aid, encouragement and advice, Ranji, gave but one answer; Duleep and I are English cricketers” 

To this Gulu writes, ‘India’s embracing of the legend and the man, even though he played his major cricket in England and had a hardened disdain for all things connected to Indian cricket, is not unique”.  

There are several myths which have been accepted because they are harmless and amusing. One of them being a imaginary quote attributed to Australian captain “mate you have just dropped the world cup” after his rival dropped a catch in that tournament. 

In India, Salim Durrani, the handsome allrounder was nicknamed the Sixer man who hit a Six whenever the crowd demanded or asked for it. This myth has been punctured by Guu pointing out that though the tall Pathan was a rare talent he hit only 15 sixes in 50 innings.  

Most of the cricket fans lament that because of a strike in BBC they could not watch Kapil Dev’s historic 175 against Zimbabwe in 1983 World Cup.  

Gulu effectively demolishes this myth proving that two other matches on that day Involving England/Pakistan and Australia/west Indies had live telecast. If there was a strike how come these two matches were shown?  

The author also has an answer, because India/Zimbabwe match was not a priority event for the BBC and both the teams were considered rank outsiders. After India’s stunning performance, this canard of strike was spread which became a myth and later accepted as a fact. 

There is detailed chapter on the Tied test titled “Chepauk’s Many Myths”. It is about the test match between India and Australia in 1986 played in what was then Madras.  

The author details the test proceedings with quotes from the players, media persons and umpires that are contradictory. He comes to the conclusion that the tied test after all was not that tied. But as it has been officially recignised as tied test number two, he ends it with a quote from opener K.Srikkanth: “Hay guys, forget the win, we have become part of history”. 

Gulu also challenges another myth that Bishan Bedi virtually surrendered the Test against West Indies by declaring when the team had lost five wickets for 97 at Sabina Park, Jamaica. He shows that there was nothing the skipper could do as other five players were injured and unfit to bat and the story that Indian captain declared in protest is false.         

MYTH-BUSTING is simply unputdownable. – Harpal Singh Bedi

The book is full of reality checks. It also contradicts Farokh Engineer’s assertion of scoring fastest test century from just 47 balls. The dashing wicket keeper batsman has also claimed that he had hit three boundaries off the first three balls he faced on his debut but that claim has also been proved wrong. 

“Engineer is not the first and certainly not the last among many famous sportspersons to embellish his own deeds with colourful stories that have entered cricket folklore and are accepted as gospel truth” (Page198) 

The book also covers Engineer’s sullen reaction after Abid Ali hit the winning run in that historic Oval test in 1971. The Wicketkeeper was on the other end on 28. He  had scored 59 in the first innings.  “Abid rushed out, got a top edge and voila, we were home and Abid was a hero, never mind how he got the run”.

Except that it was not a top edge, it was a square cut to the boundary and the video footage is freely available (page 206).   

There are several other intriguing myths perpetuated for decades – like “Mankading” which have been de-mystified by Gulu. The book also vividly recalls Indian cricket’s Grand Slam moments from June 1983 to March 1985. Details Kapil Dev’s era Before and After. Younger generations aggressiveness epitomized by Virat Kohli etc.

As Anil Kumble writes “The true hero of this book is Gulu” and he is absolutely correct.   

Myth – Busting is not any other cricket book. It is a well documented thesis that’s very absorbing funny and hilarious some time and and as it’s jacket proclaims it is a cricket connoisseur’s delight. 

2nd jab of Covid vaccine: Light at the end of the tunnel

Tapan Misra

Today, on the last day of March, I got the second shot of Covid vaccine. Made in India. Unbelievable.

Just a year back, in the fourth week of March, last year, we started taking Covid seriously or should I say, so seriously that we became panicky. We did not know the nature of invisible enemy. We did not know the nature of ailments, did not know what are the treatments. We started to learn what is lockdown. How to cover our faces with masks. How to use sanitizers. Worst part was, we started avoiding known people, even blood relations, as pariah.

But our country rose to the occasion. We learnt through trials and tribulations. We built medical facilities, expertise, industries to produce equipment, all supporting items like masks, sanitizers, ventilators. We discovered and produced our own vaccines.

Countless people lost jobs. Economy got devastated. Still the images of faceless labourers, their families, little children, trudging along highways, railway lines are etched in my mind. Looked like reenactment of haunting description of Chinese famine by Pearl S Buck. But Government showed the presence of hearts. Thousands of trains started crisscrossing the country, transporting jobless migrant labourers to their homes. Thank God. Free rations kept lives fed all across India, saving crores of marginal, helpless population.

Schools, colleges were shut. I thought end of enlightment has dawned. Soon, even toddlers started attending classes through mobiles, pads, lap tops. Suddenly people have started working from home. Coat and tie on top of dhoti or lungi or shorts have become formal attire. All the laughter and warmth of personal proximity are replaced by dry computer screens, converting three dimensional human beings to two dimensional images, tucked at an obscure corner of mobile or laptop screen.

So many people lost jobs. When around 600 contract workers were fired from Space Application Centre (SAC), my heart cried. Powers that be decided to remove them. So many of them just married, took loan from banks to buy flats or motor cycles. So many of them used to write to me. But I was out of power. Helpless witness to heartless reality.

So many of my known faces, acquaintances, relatives, school classmates, neighbours were devoured by this invisible enemy. I feel lucky to sail through this difficult time.

Despite the fresh surge in Covid cases in many States, one is confident that the vaccination campaign will deliver results and also by sticking to the prescribed norms and following the Covid guidelines, we are going to come out of the nightmare. Keeping fingers crossed. I realised that the best part of bad times is that they do not last long.

Tapan Misra, is a distinguished scientist, who has earlier headed India’s Space Application Centre (SAC) and was also Advisor in the Department of Space, Government of India.

Temples of Tamil Nadu – Tragic recent history

Ram Ramkumar

Tamil Nadu is known as the Land of Temples. Nearly 33,000 ancient temples, many over a 1000 years old, are found scattered all over the State. As per Tamil Nadu Hindu Endowments Board, there are 38615 temples.

Since 1967, Godless Dravidianism and lumpen ‘rationalism’ have pillaged and plundered these magnificent monuments.  Usurped their lands, their water tanks, and their wealth.

The unlettered vandals neither realise nor respect the fact that the language, literature, poetry, music, and dance of the Tamils, and society itself, are intimately tied to these temples.

As in Uttiramerur, the temples are a priceless source or record of every aspect of the lives and times of not just the deities and the rulers but of common people and how they ordered their lives.

The sorry saga of state control of temples’ affairs began long before 1967, in colonial times. But the Dravidian vulgarians have in all but name visited as much desecration and ruin on Tamil Nadu’s temples as Muslim armies from the northwest a 1000+ years ago.

Only since 2014 have there been the first stirrings of hope to slow, if not reverse, this tragedy.  Subramaniam Swamy and H. Raja, ex MLA and national secretary of the BJP, have led a long, uphill struggle against many odds, and continue to do so.

All Indians, Hindu or not, should get to see some of Tamil Nadu’s magnificent temples. I have traveled all over India, visited beautiful temples everywhere. Tamil Nadu’s temples are among the grandest architecturally, I have no hesitation in saying that.

Ram Ramkumar, the author, is in the US since 1986, now in Seattle. He is a JNU alumnus and works as a consultant at Microsoft. He visits India regularly and follows Indian politics closely. Formerly he was with SBI (Bhopal Circle), RBI Madras, Federal Reserve Board Washington (bank analyst). His father was a 3-term Congress MP from Madras, and a close associate of Kamaraj. 

The new toolkit for your car

We are bringing the spotlight on a piece by Avay Shukla on HSRP ( High Security Registration Plates), the 20 year age limit for cars, FASTag scheme, and Union Minister of Road Transport & Highways and the Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Nitin Gadkari’s “inventive mind” and the goodies he has lined up for your tool kit.

Avay Shukla retired from the Indian Administrative Service in December 2010. A keen environmentalist and trekker, Shukla has published a book on high altitude trekking in the Himachal Himalayas: THE TRAILS LESS TRAVELLED. 

Here is a quote from Avay Shukla’s article, which he has published on his blog:

There are 6.8 million light vehicles older than 20 years, the vast majority fitness compliant; scrapping them overnight will create millions of tonnes of non-biodegradable waste. Where is the policy for their recycling, and where is the infrastructure to handle this mammoth challenge? Middle class people who have saved their last penny to buy an aspirational car and kept it in good condition are suddenly being told that they can no longer drive them. Would it not make more sense to tighten pollution norms rather than impose an unbearable burden on the common man and further ruin the environment ? No, sir, it’s not concern for the environment that is driving this policy but concern for the the favoured one percent of our capitalist HNIs: the scrapping will lead to the sale of at least two million additional LCVs every year- the auto industry is already licking its chops and queuing up at the SBI counters to buy some more electoral bonds.

Click here to read full article by Avay Shukla

POSTSCIPT: Comments on this piece by Avay Shukla are pouring in on social media. We are reproducing the comments by leaders of society from across the globe for a balanced view of points raised by the former IAS officer.

Comment 1

Avay Shukla seems to have no problems with the license permit raj and MRTP when only 2 ancient car models were available with a long wait or a premium, virtually no safety features, driven on pot holed 2 lane roads that were accident prone. I remember visits to the US and Singapore where cars breezed through toll gates with RFIDs akin to fast tag and when it finally comes to the country 3 decades later, he has a problem. He is ok with the high death rates on the old highways but would resist multi-laning just like bank clerks in the 80s opposed computerization. Essentially, he laments the changing of the old order to a modern one where the likes of him are irrelevant. It’s time he joins Pappu’s inner circle.

Comment 2

This article is also full of lies. Also, it hopes to target Gadkari. Take for example the description of trying to get an HSRP or of finding a parking slot. Or of fastags. He also forgets that through the journey from Shimla to Delhi in the 1990s one would always, invariably see, at least one major accident and a few dead bodies on the road. Today the accident is rare and dead bodies rarer.

Comment 3

Like all Avay Shukla’s articles, this one too is interminably long-winded and insufferably ‘clever’. And infused as usual throughout with anti-BJP sanctimony. Mercifully, this blog is free from irrelevant literary references!

Comment 4

A decorated Army officer, Maj General (retd) writes: A very poorly researched paper. He has raised four issues – HSRP, 20 year age limit for cars, tolls for new roads and FasTag, and lack of study on these.

  1. HSRP – in vogue since 2015-16. Done adequate study and now compulsory for all new cars. Old cars given timelines. I got mine within a week. No issues. Wonder what problem he faced? Each district of Delhi has multiple locations for getting the number plates.
  2. All vehicles over 20 years are heavily polluting vehicles, as per the studies done. Is he sure that there is no method to this madness? Commercial vehicles have been given a life of only 15 years. Further, maintaining it is also difficult beyond this time period.
  3. The concept of Toll tax for new roads is common, worldwide. Road tax is meant to maintain existing roads and not make new roads. His comparison of documentation and space for parking is laughable, to say the least. As people prosper, more vehicles hit the roads, need wider roads and parking meters.
  4. FasTag as a concept has been under testing for over a decade. This is a smart way to avoid long queues at tolls. Done world over.
    Seems, Mr Shukla wants India to stay poor – with the ‘Hindu rate of growth’. He was part of the Government machinery, so managed his loan and car so easily then. Did he check with the common man how long you had to wait even for a wristwatch??

Comment 5

The point highlighted, the need for a practical program to safely recycle old vehicles, is a good one. The rest of the article appears to be more intended to discredit the Modi regime, capitalist cronies, etc. I have little knowledge of how easy/difficult fast tags, digital tags, etc., are in practice. But the debunking of Shukla’s spin on those have come from several credible sources. I have read a few articles by him earlier, which read more like INC pamphlets! And I just don’t find him funny either, although he tries very hard. His normal practice is to have irrelevant and out of context quotes from Shakespeare, Hegel, Cicero and the like. This article is free of those, but still manages to be transparently motivated and WAY too long. And, not funny, as usual.