Posts Tagged ‘Richie Benaud’


Goutham Chakravarthi

Australia honours Sehwag with the title of Swami

“The best way to play bowlers is go after them. Intimidate them, shake them up, beat them up. All with a smile. Tell the bowler that you are after his dog, money, future and see him wilt and cry,” said Sehwag to a secretly arranged gathering by his ardent supporter Ian Chappell outside Manuka Oval in Canberra late on Thursday. Ian’s brother Greg, famously known to have pushed Sehwag into moving to Japan to try his luck in becoming a sumo wrestler, was seen scribbling down furiously on his notepad ahead of the next week’s batting clinic for the Australian Test batsmen.

A host of former Australian players and current Test stars had made themselves available on the occasion to pick on the genial Indian’s brains. Sehwag, known to be honest with his talk, was giving a lecture on batting following his disciple David Warner’s request that he address the rest of the domestic bashers in Australia before the BBL and see if Sehwag could inspire them into becoming Test batsmen.

“Footwork is an Australian obsession. Quick, decisive feet movement are associated with greatness in your country. In my country, we associate quick feet movement with dancers. So is fitness and preparation,” said Sehwag and in an impromptu jig sat in a wheelchair and faced the bowling of the young quickie Josh Hazelwood and hit him out of the ground much to the astonishment of the gathering. Sehwag continued to biff the deliveries bowled from a bowling machine for a good 15 minutes and finished with a square driven six that went out of the practicing facility and into the ground where Indians were playing the warm-up match and hit Ishant Sharma on his boot injuring him and forcing him to limp off the field putting him in doubt for the Boxing Day Test.

Unconvinced by Sehwag’s methods, Greg Chappell immediately challenged Sehwag to face the greats of the past in a wheel chair and produced the latest version of ProBatter – ProBatter 2.0 – that not only simulates the bowling action and deliveries and speeds of modern bowlers, but of all those who have played the game – including the French maid Adèle who is claimed to have first invented bowling in 1149 A.D. “Fat boy, smacking Josh Hazelwood is an easy task as is flogging this machine. See if you can flog Ponsford, Old, Larwood, Barnes among others,” challenged Greg Chappell.

“Are they your nannies? Never heard of them,” said Sehwag even as the history-steeped gathering let out a collective gasp. In true Indian style, Sehwag called up his mom to seek her blessings (karlo duniya muththi mein) and set out on a rampage against the wild bearded 19th century Englishmen first.

Adjusting to the various chuckers of the time, Sehwag tore into them. One of them, a certain Lord H.R.E Muleman had his shin battered and ProBatter 2.0 had to be retired hurt for a while before Clarrie Grimmett and Bill O’Rielly were scared away by Sehwag who smote them from wide off the stumps to way over square-leg and from leg-stump to square over the point boundaries. In three minutes, Sehwag reduced the superstars from early 20th century to bowling negative lines for the first time in their real and virtual lives combined. Soon enough Larwood was sent back to the mines, as were Old and Trueman. Sehwag even had to battle the 19th century English round armers and the 1910s Aussie quickies bowling with the then slightly bigger sized cricket ball. The challenge ended when Lilliee was badly hurt on his follow through as a Sehwag straight drive caught him on his mouth even as Bill Lawry called him “you beauty” from among the cheering audience.

By the time Sehwag was done he had not only battered ProBatter 2.0, he had won over the entire Australian gathering who were reported to have been chanting “maar veeru maar…. aur maar” (hit them Viru, beat them up!) as if in a trance. With tears in his eyes, Richie Benaud said he had seen many batsmen in his lifetime, but never anyone who decoded batting like Sehwag. Deeply moved by the sagacious Sehwag’s knowledge of batting, he said, “His simplicity is astounding as his is knowledge of the game. I always thought the patch on his head was just a bald spot. I have now realized that it was the halo of an all knowing superior being. He is god to me. I have just received confirmation from the prime minister’s office that the Australian government will honour Sehwag with the title of a Swami.”

Among raucous applause Sehwag was honoured with the title of a swami by the Australian prime minister Julia Gillard in Canberra on Friday. The title was unanimously chosen by the ProBatter 2.0 bowlers who suffered his wrath the previous day. The gave him the tile of Engala Vittrungasaami (please leave us alone, swami!).


Goutham Chakravarthi

Steve Waugh found greatness when fighting with his back to the wall. He relished a fight and often got the best out of himself when he reduced a battle to that: individual fight with the opposition bowler. He thrived on it and often came out on top. He saved his career with that hundred against England. It gave him another year in the top flight cricket (he averaged 80 plus) and went out with a two month send off against the Indians the following Australian summer.

Now even Chappell and Benaud are calling for his head.

Now Ponting finds himself in a similar corner. Like Waugh, his greatness is not in question. His greatness is in front running and doing it like few others before him. Perhaps only Lara surpassed him among his contemporaries in doing it better.

A man of dazzling feet movement befitting the best of dancers, his gift was also in great shot selection. His ability to reduce the game to a fight and his immense desire to win made him a stand out. Few can claim to have dominated the best attacks of their time like Ponting has. Over the years, invariably, he has fallen, learnt, succeeded and failed like the rest of us. Very few can achieve the maximum of their abilities. Ponting did, and touched greatness. Of that, there is little doubt.

Not many would fault Ponting’s qualities as a batsman, but as a person he divides public opinion: considered short tempered, arrogant, loud mouthed by some, and as responsible, sharp man who understood his shortcomings and overcame them. Captaining Australia isn’t given to just any larrikin. It is a profile that is constantly scrutinized: by the public, media and even the prime minister. Shane Warne would count it among his top regrets not to captain Australia. Ponting did. His public acceptance to drinking problems as a young man and his switch to light beer showed him as man willing to learn and understand his position as an ambassador of his country. Soon, he was to become Australia’s finest batsman since Bradman and also its most successful captain.

Not that he has always been right. For that matter, no one is. He would lose temper on occasions and his ugly side would show up, not least in the Sydney test of 2008 against India. In a fiasco that defied belief, he would end up ruffling a full media contingent that questioned his team’s behavior and integrity. Not that the Indians were innocent in that Test either. That the incident propelled a huge fallout of the Australian team with the rest of the world did shake him up and his teammates to take a deep look at themselves.

Ponting’s attempts over the years of wanting to leave the game in a better shape than when he started playing is genuine. While gamesmanship may not be one of those, he feels strongly about over rates and substitutes. It has landed him in a quandary on a few occasions, especially in India where he has chosen the moral high ground over the push for a Test victory on more than one occasion . It didn’t go down well with many of his countrymen and former cricketers. That his lows as captain and as Test batsman should have come in India might be a personal regret. His successes far outweigh the inevitable failures.

Like with all great players, ability doesn’t last forever. What’s accumulated in the mind of a master batsman like him cannot be discounted for the waning of the physique. But the acceptance of falling from greatness has to come from within. Often, that is the hardest to accept. After all, Viv Richards didn’t wear a helmet just because his reflexes slowed down as he was reaching his end. He dusted it off as a dip in form and not of eroding ability. Some live in denial. Viv’s last three years had no Test hundreds. Kapil Dev’s last few years were a folly and so were Jayasuriya’s last many.

Now, Ponting is in danger of falling in that category. He has been found wanting playing the short ball over the last few seasons, yet he continues to play it. A signature shot, one that will always be associated with him, is suddenly a weakness. Falling over to straight deliveries and ending up in a walk to length deliveries are old problems now back to haunt him. Even stout Ponting supporters like Chappell and Benaud are calling for his head.

Ponting is still a mighty fine batsman. Perhaps he is hoping that there is a second wind for him like there was for Tendulkar and Dravid. Perhaps, being a good batsman is not enough for him. Once dipped and draped in greatness, it must be difficult to accept routine and the ordinary. Perhaps Wanderers will be his secret attempt at redemption; at greatness. A big innings would be most welcome for this struggling batsman and his tattered team. The end seems nearer than ever before, but may be, he can do a Waugh.