A couple of thoughts crossed my mind as the bottles came flying through the dark skies of Cuttack’s Barabati Stadium.
Firstly, does the Duckworth-Lewis system apply when it is raining bottles? Do these bottles actually have to contain water for them to qualify for the rain rule?
The second thought was that Mr. Duckworth was quite appropriately named for such occasions — when bottles start flying, duck for all you’re worth!
Everyone is going in a tizzy, condemning the Cuttack crowd, castigating the actions of the Bottle Brigade and demanding a ban on the Odisha Cricket Association and generally losing their collective shirts.
I mean, come on, see the funny side to it all! After all, there wasn’t much else to look forward to at Cuttack, was there?
Cricket has seen its share of incidents. Almost immediately, frames of stands burning at Eden Gardens were out and splashed all over print, electronic and digital.
Compared to Eden in 1996, this was nothing. That was a World Cup. That was the end of a collective dream where India were supposed to march to Lahore but didn’t.
But back to the present. OK, I will concede, grudgingly, that it wasn’t as funny as I think. It wasn’t nice, but people possibly queued up for hours to get tickets for the match, then queued up twice as long to get into the stadium, pushed around and shouted at by the police and other security agencies. Surely they deserve to see a fight if nothing else.
India has so many claimants for the share of the lucrative pie, like a trip by a frontline team like South Africa, that no one place gets more than two, if they are lucky, matches in a year.
I am sure Cuttack hasn’t seen too many matches in recent past. In fact, the last ODI here was almost exactly a year ago, in November 2014 against Sri Lanka. The last Test here was in 1995!
So to expect the locals to be charitable about such surrenders, like the one a couple witnessed of days ago, would be optimistic at best.
It would also be a good place to figure out why and where things fell apart to prompt such reactions.
It is indeed amazing that India seems to go belly up so frequently in a format that seems to be the lifeblood of cricket in the country for the last six-odd years. Fine, we can always agree to things going south like at Barabati because of two early run-outs, but what about Dharamsala? Surely the bowlers are expected to defend 200 runs in home conditions.
There is an American phrase, “Monday morning quarterback”. Basically, it is every guy with an opinion on how the ball game should have been played over the weekend. We tend to do that too.
But while there are no explanations from those in authority ever, people need explanations. Why is it that players who play T20 throughout the year go haywire when the chips are down?
It is not possible for one Ravichandran Ashwin to decide all things in India’s favour. He has the numbers up against many of the South African top-order, but to expect him to deliver every day is way over the top.
Also, exactly what is Harbhajan Singh doing in a T20 squad? Bhajji, if anything, would be best suited for ODIs. He is not the bowler who can restrict in a T20, nor the spinner who can run through sides in Tests.
He never was a great fielder and if India need him as a batsman, then there is something seriously wrong with the batting.
India’s bowling is suddenly weak. Bhuvaneswar Kumar as lead bowler with Mohit Sharma and Sreenath Arvind as back-up are weak, as was evident in Dharamsala.The T20 challenge is over and the stage is now at the same Eden Gardens, the venue of one India’s most shameful episodes in 1996. The city is in Durga Puja fervour, so the atmosphere will be welcoming, more so since Kolkata will be keen to show that it is a sporting side.
But there will be a feeling of having been short-changed. Would have been nice to come to Eden at 1-1 and fight for the prize of a series win.
Not to despair though. We still have five ODIs after Kolkata and four Tests to go. As far as I am concerned, there should have been five Tests. But that’s just me — always a Test freak.
India will do better in the Tests, more than the ODIs. It is a game of challenges, but also of second chances. Some names will change, the mantle of captaincy will shift from Dhoni to Virat Kohli and he will think outside the box (as opposed to MSD, who doesn’t want to think at all).
So focus on things to come and forget about flying bottles. Things can only look up. They always do after a bad patch.
– Views expressed by the author are personal.