Gautam Gambhir in action against South Africa © Getty Images
Gautam Gambhir in action against South Africa © Getty Images

 

By Vincent Sunder

 

At any level of cricket, a mood is generated for the players in the pavilion when the side is batting. If the going is good, the group relaxes and remains positive. If the going is not so good, there is a sense of trepidation. As the Sachin Tendulkar/Virender Sehwag partnership progressed on a brisk note, cricket fans kept estimating the final score India would end up with at the end of the 50 overs – the figure ranged between 350 to 400.

 

The Indian batsmen to follow the openers would have also been in an upbeat mood, with their sights on posting a mammoth total. Yusuf Pathan’s promotion to No. 4 was also a clear indication of the thinking and intent of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. But wickets fell in a heap thereafter, leaving each new batsman in a state of complete confusion on how to move forward.Cricket is not about mathematically fixed numbers – pun unintended! – but about a game between bat and ball.

 

Collapses, like the one we witnessed in the Indian innings against South Africa, was not the first instance on a cricket field and will not be the last time instance either.  Players will have their ups and downs. That’s perfectly understandable. But what’s not unacceptable is when a player’s selfish intent hurts the team – and, subsequently, the team’s result. Selfish cricketers are not an unknown species. Geoffrey Boycott was summarily dropped from the England Test squad after scoring an unbeaten 246 against India in the 1967 Headingley Test! For slow scoring in a Test match!

 

Imran Khan reacted to the news that Umar Akmal could be feigning injury to enable elder brother Kamran keeping his place in the playing by saying any selfish player must be dropped and referred to his directives to the Pakistan World Cup team in 1992 that anybody putting their personal interest over the team’s interest will not find a game.Gautam Gambhir’s risk-free and defensive innings in Nagpur proved counterproductive to the team as India were in a position to bat South Africa out of the game.

 

His approach was that of a player consolidating his place in the side when the need of the hour was to build on a dream start. Had Gambhir gone for a quick-fire 20 or 30 he would have contributed to a better result since the pressure would have continued on South Africa.  Speaking on TV with Ganguly, Graeme Smith admitted there were moments when he was reminded of the Wanderers game where Australia made 434, and even said he took the ridiculous UDRS in the 14th over (that was turned down) just to get a break and get his team together to talk.

 

It was a game where several errors were made, where several players came up with poor performances. The failure of ability or a poor performance is acceptable and condonable as part of what happens in a game. Personal intent that causes a defeat is a different matter!

 

(Vincent Sunder aspired to play Test cricket, but had to struggle to play ‘gully’ cricket! He managed a league side to title triumph in the KSCA tournaments. He was debarred from umpiring in the gully games after he once appealed vociferously for a caught-behind decision when officiating as an umpire! After two decades in the corporate sector, he became an entrepreneur with the objective of being able to see cricket matches on working days as well.  Vincent gets his ‘high’ from cricket books and cricket videos and discussing cricket)