“Cricket is a religion in India and Sachin is the God.” This was an interesting statement made by millions of Indian cricket fans when Sachin Tendulkar was at the top of his game. He still remembers when he was not scoring runs, these very ardent and loyal disciples would boo him on the field. This is a story of many of the great Indian cricketers and it really wakes them up to reality.
Cricket is a game of many uncertainties and, as they say, one is only as good as the last inning. This is what makes cricket so challenging and interesting to play and follow. Somehow, the millions of Indian fans and supporters seem to be unaware of the features of the game. One wonders if we Indians are true cricket fans or if we are not mature enough to understand the game at all. Cricket brings emotions of joy and sometimes frustration and disappointment. However, publicly showing feelings of disgust with verbal abuse and through social networks is totally unnecessary.
A few days ago, during an interview with a UK newspaper, former Indian cricket manager Ravi Shastri made a statement that needs to be seriously thought about. He came out strongly stating that there was always a gang of people in India who wanted him to fail. Their failure would naturally lead to the failure of India and that makes one sit and think. Ravi is a tough nut to crack and he cunningly dodged the tracer bullets that came his way. However, not all are made of such harsh material and many crumble and fall into a shell that can lead to mental depression.
This brings us back to the famous crab in the basket story that one associates with India. Pulling down when one is climbing or having risen to success seems to delight many of us Indians.
Virat Kohli, one of the best batsmen in India and in the world, has become a victim of these foul-mouthed millions for his low scores. The pride of India and the poster boy of the cricket world is being severely criticized, scrutinized and his lifestyle questioned due to his recent failures.
The millions of Indian fans should realize that Virat Kohli is a very important person if India wants to win any ICC related tournament. India needs to get Kohli back into his rhythm instead of taking him down further. The Indians have high expectations for him, so one understands the emotional disappointment one feels when he fails. However, this is a time when we must support him and support him until the end. Such aggressive behavior and forceful reactions from the public and press are rarely seen in other cricketing countries when a cricketer goes through a rough patch. The overseas cricket fraternity plays a prominent role in putting a player back in a positive frame of mind instead of putting him through hell.
Rohit Sharma, in the current IPL, has also not been at his best as a captain and as a batsman. One wonders why Kohli is being targeted and targeted and not a word has been said about the failure of Rohit or Kane Williamson and so many others. There appears to be a definite move to ensure Kohli fails mentally. One hopes that he will come out of this dream soon as he is the batting backbone of India.
One has seen such adverse Indian reactions when Sunil Gavaskar floundered for two years after his fabulous debut series against the West Indies, or even when Kapil Dev was inching to become the leading wicket-taker in Test cricket. The irony is that educated cricketers are the ones passing judgment. One, therefore, wonders if Indian cricket lovers really know the game or are just part of the herd mentality that finds amusement in one’s failure. I can remember the day I made my Test debut against England in 1977 in Bangalore. I didn’t manage to get many runs in the first few innings and on my return I was booed and abused by the crowd. Over the course of the match, I set two world fielding records and the same boisterous crowd became my ardent supporters and supporters. I learned my lesson early on how inconsistent the fan following is.
Taking down a fellow Indian is something that we Indians have done in many walks of life. Cricket has been no different. In a Ranji Trophy match between Maharashtra and Saurashtra in 1948/49, Maharashtra’s opening batsman BB Nimbalkar came within nine runs of breaking Don Bradman’s highest individual score of 452 runs. The captain of the Saurashtra side, the Maharaja of Rajkot, conceded the match because he did not want a fellow Indian to achieve world fame. Nimbalkar’s 443 runs is still the highest individual score in India and Don himself wrote to him to say that his stroke would surely have been better than his.
That is why one wonders whether we Indians are truly loyal supporters of Indian cricket or not. The IPL is bringing to light some young Indian cricketers who have become household names from obscurity. They need support in good times and bad, just as Virat Kohli requires now.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former cricketer from India)