Cricket: A game of destiny and lady luck (Column: Close-in)
There were tears of joy and sorrow, disappointment and happiness at the end of the biggest tournament of cricket – the World Cup. These are emotions that normally emerge when one watches any sporting encounter, especially when it involves a world title.
Cricket won the day on July 14, 2019 in England at Lord's. The final between England and New Zealand, which for most of the match seemed boring, looked like two boxers whose bouts lacked punches and were waiting for the other to blink. The English teams's hero and their brilliant allrounder, Ben Stokes, summed it up beautifully at the end.
Stokes was the bowler who was hit for a six in the last over when the West Indies won the World T20 final in Kolkata in 2016. He had also seen Bangladesh losing against India in an encounter when Mushfiqur Rahim, their batsman, failed to clear the line.
Stokes, a hard-hitting batsman, known to clear the fence at will, batting on 83 runs, did not succumb to his natural instinct. His explanation thereafter seemed to substantiate that he decided to play safe rather than be sorry at the end. This shows how important it is with regards to the mental state of a cricketer at that moment, as the negative thoughts of his previous failure came forth strongly.
England managed to tie the encounter through a ball that Stokes could have hit effortlessly out of the park. Retrospectively, his decision did prove to be successful when England finally got the verdict favouring them in the Super Over through a mindless rule of hitting more boundaries in the match.
Like all things in life, a cricketer needs lady luck on his side. The most popular saying amongst the cricketers is "Khelna hai to khelo, par Aisa hi hoga" (If you want to play, play, but this is how it will happen). Thinking deeply, the words are so appropriate.
A cricketer's life from the first day he holds the bat or the ball till his final adieu revolves around the word "destiny". The phrase "it evens out", because of a bad umpiring decision or "practice makes one more perfect" or the most common one of all — "the more you practice, the less you depend on luck" are all sayings fabricated to make one get over failures. I do not believe in such random reasoning, as cricketers at all levels practice as hard as the other and, at most times, the chances of evening out during one's career, are far and few between.
The New Zealand cricket team is a prime example of lady-luck leaving them when most required. A freak over-throw, bad umpiring decisions and a ridiculous ruling can only be related to their fate and destiny. How else can one describe their defeat?
The easy viewing of cricket through television and the mobile phone and numerous replays are now amplifying the luck factor that goes into the success of a cricketer. Earlier, this never got highlighted the way it is today. Rohit Sharma may have scored 5 centuries in the recent World Cup but if he did not have good fortune to help him, 4 of the innings would have had him back in the pavilion for a single-digit score. In the semi-final, his luck ran out, unfortunately for India, and the technical defects in his batting that one was aware of, became his nemesis once again.
Cricket is full of such stories and the popular cliché — "fortune favours the brave" is how a lucky and blessed cricketer is looked at after his successful performance. The conclusion from such a random statement is that England, whom the gods blessed, were the only brave side in the tournament. Yes, hard work, developing one's skills, hours of practice does culminate into making one better at execution, but this is not unique as every cricketer goes through the same ritual.
In all my years of playing cricket, I have never been able to understand as to why at times I did do so well and as to why at times did I fail. I often wondered why I was selected to play for my country from among hundreds of other aspirants and finally why I was dropped from the Indian team. Chartering a path in cricket, especially with its ups and downs are what makes this game uncertain and thrilling.
Jimmy Neesham's heartbreaking message posted after New Zealand's defeat "kids don't take up sports, take up baking, you will die at 60, fat and happy", truly signifies the frustration and disappointment that a cricketer faces in defeat.
The two best sides of the World Cup tournament, India and Australia, in just 45 minutes of misfortune, never recovered to justify their seedings. Both the sides must be wondering as to what they did wrong to be struck by the wand of defeat. They were the two favourites after the group stage and their coach, support staff and strategies were all that the cricket media, fans and followers were eulogizing about.
One defeat is all that it took to bring them down.
The matured followers that are Australian cricket fans took their defeat as a "stroke of fate". The Indian fans, on the other hand, have gone into an emotional state of madness. Sack the coach and the support staff, change the captain, retire the old and bring in the new are immature and unreasonable demands being flashed across every news medium around the country.
No one has blamed lady-luck and unfulfilled prayers that evaded us when most needed. Most foreigners are amused at the popular Indian saying of, "we are like this only" when things are not going well. However, the game that lives, breathes and revels on uncertainty is never given that excuse by an Indian.
This is what makes cricket a religion in India and maybe like life, Indians need to accept their destiny. Kane Williamson was not only the man of the tournament, which he was so rightly awarded but also the cricketer to marvel at. He was miles ahead, not only as the captain of the losing side on the field but way ahead off the field as well. A great leader, who came out winning even while losing. Well done Kane, let's hope the rest are able to follow.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer)