Browse Archives

By Category

By Date

About Amit Varma

Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. He worked in journalism for over a decade, and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007. His bestselling novel, My Friend Sancho, was published in 2009. He is best known for his blog, India Uncut. His current project is a non-fiction book about the lack of personal and economic freedoms in post-Independence India.




Bastiat Prize 2007 Winner

Recent entries

Adityanath’s rise marks the end of a 100-year-old battle

This is the second installment of The Rationalist, my column for the Times of India. There comes a moment in…

The Seen and the Unseen: Episodes 6 to 10

I just realised that I haven’t been mirroring episodes of my weekly podcast, The Seen and the Unseen, on India…

The Return of Pragati

A few days ago, the magazine Pragati relaunched under my editorship. This was the editorial I wrote to mark its…

A Top Edge (and a Brain Fade)

This is the 30th installment of Rhyme and Reason, my weekly set of limericks for the Sunday Times of India…

Embrace the Technology!

This is the 36th installment of Lighthouse, my monthly column for BLink, a supplement of the Hindu Business Line. At…

02 November, 2015

The Shahid Kapoor of Cricket

In a column that begins by asking why Indians don’t dominate cricket, Aakar Patel writes:

[W]e are the Shahid Kapur of cricket though we think we are Shah Rukh Khan.

This is a clever line, and a provocative one, and Aakar loves to provoke. Even his provocative pieces, though, usually contain some insight. In this one, there is none, and the best answer he can offer to the question he asks is one of culture. (“Perhaps [the answer] lies in the idea of ambition and excellence.”) This is vague; it’s also incorrect. I don’t think one can generalise about Indians that we lack ambition or don’t try hard enough to excel, and even if that were true, there would be enough outliers in such a large population for excellence to emerge anyway.

Let me take a shot at an answer. The clue to where our cricket is lacking lies in the composition of our all-time cricket XI. Try and draw one up. You will find yourself conflicted about batting spots (Merchant or Sehwag to open with SMG; Viswanath or Laxman or Kohli at No. 5) and spinning slots (Prasanna or Harbhajan; Chandra or Kumble), but the bewilderment that comes when you consider the fast bowling slots will be of a different kind: not of who you keep out among some excellent options, but who you pick among some mediocre players. Kapil Dev walks in; who partners him. Whoever you pick—Srinath, Zaheer, maybe Amar Singh in desperation and misplaced nostalgia—would not be a contender for the all-time fourth XI of any other major side. Indeed, no other side would have such a huge problem in any department while picking their all-time XI. (Try West Indies, just for fun.)

This is India’s key weakness. To win abroad, we need to take 20 wickets, and we rarely have the fast bowlers to do it. But why don’t we produce enough fast bowlers? Consider what batting and spin bowling require, and what you need for fast bowling. The former two both come down to skill: strength and endurance don’t matter; physical attributes are irrelevant. Fast bowlers, on the other hand, need to have fast-twitch muscles. This is genetic; you either have them or you don’t; and Indians tend not to have them.

This is why we can’t be world beaters in sports that require either strength or endurance. (Even in hockey, we declined when astroturf became ubiquitous and speed became important, and the dribbling game wasn’t enough.) I do have hope for cricket, though, because fast bowling isn’t everything, and we were the No 1 side in Test cricket for a brief while. To use Aakar’s analogy, I don’t think we’re the Shahid Kapoor of cricket: we’re more like Akshay Kumar, or like Govinda in the 90s.

And oh, I don’t hold that nature is everything and nurture doesn’t matter. Culture is important, and is is true that we are not a country with an outdoor sports culture, the kind Australia has. I’m just not sure which way the causation runs.

*

Also read: My old piece, ‘Will Cricket Decline in India?’

And a piece by my friend Girish Shahane, ‘Why India Sucks at Football.’

Posted by Amit Varma in India | Sport

Copyright (C) India Uncut - http://indiauncut.com
All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission. Email: amitblogs@gmail.com
This article is permanently archived at:
http://indiauncut.com/iublog/article/the-shahid-kapoor-of-cricket/

Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.