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Thursday, December 22, 2005


In the days of yore, I once had a classmate called Durlabh Deka. His first name caused much mirth as in our boyish minds and his distinctly Mongoloid features did little to mitigate the differences between him and his other schoolmates. He belonged to a town called Naugaon, Assam, a region in the news annually because of the flooding—a fact that his peers never let him forget. He had a prodigious memory for national capitals, he claimed to remember the capitals for all 153 countries that existed in those uncertain times. So conversation on the economic status of Azerbaijan would determinedly veer towards Baku, the rainfall of Angola could never be analysed without mentioning Luanda, and so on..

In those days, we played cricket inevitably with a large pole as the stumps, a rock-solid rock deposit of indeterminate origin and structure as the ball, and a contrived wooden piece of artwork as the bat. The revolting winds of bat dominating ball, sweeping across the world, were yet to affect us schoolboys and saying that batting on those uneven surfaces was precarious and fraught with probable damage to knees, ankles and toes.

Your’re a better man than I, Gunga Din !

Into this playing field stepped Durlabh, willing to cast himself quite willingly into an opener’s role, and first strike at that. While it would be a travesty to say that he coaxed magic out of that unshapely wooden contraption which we unbelievingly called a bat, he was quite effective in brandishing his wand this way and that. He flayed the hapless bowlers to all parts of the ground, he scattered those who dared to get in to field at close-in positions and usually if he stayed in for more than two overs ( We are talking of 8 & 10 over matches ) , the side was off to a smashing good start. And that was the problem—if !

His initial success achieved with an ungainly stance, elliptical backlift and no footwork outlived him and as the season wore on, bowlers got wise and were able to snaffle him in the first over. He self-destructed often enough to give the bowling side enough hope and surprisingly, he held on to his opener’s role by virtue of the fact that there were no volunteers for the slot, and on those days he did fire, he quickly put the game beyond the opponent’s reach. So although he failed more frequently than he succeeded, he continued because he could succeed and that was enough.. Never mind the statistics, he could succeed and that was enough. Never mind the (absence of) technique, he could succeed and that was enough. Never mind the conspicuous absence of planning, he could succeed and that was enough. He could succeed, and so he stayed.

Now, Durlabh unwittingly bears an eerie verisimilitude to a certain corpulent member of the Indian cricket team, who began with a bang but whose u. stance, ell. backlift and no footwork has caught up with him as the result of which he has managed two fifties in his last thirty ODIs and hardly any in his last Tests. He plays with gay abandon and it matters to him not what the team needs. He can only do one thing and he does it mindlessly, shamelessly, and irresponsibly. Yet short of admonition and flak, he has received that ultimate ode to success, the captaincy and has now acquired that ubiquitous sign of success and opulence, a designer pot-belly.

One is clueless as to when, how and where he will fire next, as he is himself, but where others would have given him the sack, India eulogizes him. He deserves to get dropped, but I have a feeling he won’t.


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