Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Aged, rare scotch

Read this post on a Two-tier system for Test Cricket by Prem Panicker, the delightful cricket writer who seems to be back with a bang, with a deluge of excellent posts on Cricket.

A great idea, I thought initially. The game of cricket shall gain much from it-competition will be fierce, with Australia ensuring that they play to half their potential to stay on top and the others sweating it out to avoid being relegated to the demeaning dungeons, otherwise known as Tier-II.

It was not until I saw the constitution of the two tiers that the implications of this dangerous suggestion became clear. With West Indies down in the dumps and going through their worst phase ever, this would mean Lara alternating between butchering (of maybe refusing to, in case he considers it too demeaning) the totally hopeless Bangladeshis and Zimbabweans and the occasionally hopeless Kiwis and playing against the top teams every two years, assuming of course that West Indies is still good enough to win in Tier-II if the Kiwis drop out.

Now, that's unacceptable. As it is, the saddest day in cricket is approaching us at an intimidating pace, with the ageing Lara getting closer in terms of age (although not in form) to hanging his boots. Cricket will never ever be the same, with Lara gone. Watching him bat is like sipping on a peg of the rarest of scotch whiskeys; you roll it over your tongue, refuse to let it go-and yet, when it's gone, you crave for the next sip. And when the peg's over, you realise that such enjoyment is rare- and settle for the lowly Signatures and the Antiquities of the world instead.

What is it about Lara that's so eye-catching? Is it the fact that he's left-handed and is hence prettier to watch by default? Is it because of the long follow through, the swivel, the kingly gait-aspects of his batting that have been much discussed and analysed? I guess it's all of that- and much more. It's probably because he bats the way and plays the sort of innings that cricket lovers dream of. When, on lazy afternoons, I dream of the ideal innings in that ideal cricket match-the cricket match that will never be played and shall forever remain a daydream, I can't help wondering how close that ideal knock is to a few of Lara's own.

We all have our own ideas on how cricket should be played-and our heroes are formed on those ideas. Which is why Steve Waugh is a hero for so many-and Lara for many others.

My friend Rajk writes, in an excellent E-mail written after Lara's first innings hundred in the second test against Pakistan , that pretty much sums it up:

That's 4 first innngs 100s for Lara in 5 tests. You know what I really like about this patch? I like all the instances where he scored a 100, but I love to notice the one Test he didn't. In case you've forgotten, here's the scorecard. South Africa 588 for 6 dec (Kallis 147, Prince 131, Smith 126, de Villiers 114) and 127 for 1 (Smith 50*, Dippenaar 56*) drew with West Indies 747 (Gayle 317, Sarwan 127, Chanderpaul 127, Bravo 107) What about Lara? He scratched around for 4 in 29 balls. Century? What century, when 8 others can score it on a track as benign as that? Can't score a 100 if the team doesn't need it. I don't think he'll be bothered about missing 5 100s in 5 Tests at all. I'll never ever agree that SRT couldn't play the big innings when it mattered, but I'll always maintain that Lara could always play it when it did, and didn't care to play it when it didn't. Amazing player!

The test came agonisingly close to that ideal match-but missed out by a whisker. Why? Because Lara couldn't craft a hundred- fighting quality bowling, tough conditions and the law of averages, in the second innings-a masterly 145 to help his team achieve what I still think was an achievable target.

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Blogger shakester said...

ah, good thoughts on lara there. and nice about the aged scotch. Unfortunately I did not see a single ball of his recent escapades. What a pity.

Re: the 2 tier system, it is all a bit muddled right now. A second tier cannot include the likes of the Windies and Kiwis- cricket is too small a sport too have such luxuries. The clamour for a second rung is mostly to accommodate the likes of Zim and Bangladesh, and that too I believe, cannot be implemented till there is something worthwhile for them to be demoted to.

9:47 AM  

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