Sunday, 19 September 2010

In praise of Vaithy mama

Vaithy mama is a legendary figure if you were a schoolboy playing cricket in a certain district in the south of India in the 70s. No prizes for guessing that this blogger was one of them. Vaithy mama was the lone selector of the district cricket team and had the power of life and death over earnest schoolboys for whom being dropped from the team was the end of the world.

Vaithy mama's selection criteria were very clear. If you were a batsman, did your bat stay close to the pad; was the bat straight, did the front foot point in the direction of the stroke, did the ball travel all along the ground, did the front shoulder point to mid off, etc etc. Readers unfamiliar with this funny game can translate this as the good old way of playing cricket. Not the current day slam bang variety. To Vaithy mama, it didn't matter if the runs did not come. Did you play correctly ? Many a boy had got slapped for attempting a cross batted shot.

Such is cricket. It's more than a game. It represents a way of life - hence the English expression "ïts not cricket" . A world where fair play reigns paramount; where style matters as much as result; where the word gentleman is truly defined.

And then there's T20 cricket. I have had the unfortunate experience of watching the damn thing on telly  over the last one week. Call it the enthusiasm of the cricket connoisseur (?) who's been starved of the sport in the great wilderness of the Net Nanny's domain. And what do I see ?? Agriculturists marauding as cricketers. Attempted shots over the wicketkeeper's head. Ungainly heaves over wherever with both feet in the air, the bat facing point and the front shoulder facing square leg - picture the sight; akin to watching Govinda shake his ample frame purportedly in dance. And what do the bowlers do ? Bowl donkey drops in the name of "slow bouncers". Pray; a bouncer is supposed to scream at the quivering batsman's nose at 100mph . Not donkey drop. The sight of a so called fast bowler running in and delivering "slower ones" at 25mph all six times in an over is enough to make me gag -exactly what happened yesterday again and again. Ugh. Eeeks.

The sight that nauseated me most was that of Sachin Tendulkar trying to do all this. For those who don't know this lofty gentleman, he is the very embodiment of the classic cricketer. And yet here he is, standing in the midst of agriculturists attempting to heave and slog and looking like a ballerina trying to imitate the pelvic thrusts that goes for Bollywood dance. 

From what I saw two days ago, Vaithy mama would have definitely dropped Tendulkar from the team and cuffed him on the ear !


Sandhya Sriram said...

after watching the IPL like mad and hearing all the controversy post the IPL, i took a call not to watch ICL at all - and am happy, i am not watching it. would you think people would put millions on teams if they arent gonna do these stunts.

But its also a factor of what people want. While all of us would say that movies in the 50s and 60s are the movies in the true spirit of movies in terms of story line and in terms of acting, I am not sure, how many of us would wanna watch "Katrinile varum geetham" in a black and white setting with the herione moving 1 mm through out the song. dont we prefer katrina or priyanka chopra rocking the dance floor?

the only thing which we need to understand that it is entertainment and not game anymore. and vaidy mama's style is now called call classical music for niche audience.

Ravi Rajagopalan said...

Ramesh - let this be an insider "string" post.

First thing that Vaithy Mama would have said is "Modal-la front foot eduthu crease-ukku velila vei".

Second - both Pakshi and I have memories of you uncoiling yourself from behind the stumps to tell Pakshi (in very unparliamentary language) to keep the ball just outside off stump..If you did that today these jokers will back off towards leg and hit the bowler over point...not that it did not happen those days (Sundar please forgive me..)

Third - what passes for "hitting over cow corner" today would have been called "maatu adi" in those days. Net result would have been the same..

Seriously - despite the ravages of T20 and ODIs, cricket redeems itself. I find this "slower" ball innovation really fabulous. As any quickie knows, its the ball rotated in the fingers before delivery that slows the ball down and deceives the batsman. If we can look past the pajamas (I know that sounds vaguely Brian Johnstone-ish) there is something to watch. For about 10 minutes.

Ramesh said...

@Sandhya - Mmm - you have a point. But I'm in the niche; so what else can I do but rail against the indignities !!

@Dada - Abishtu Abishtu - Slow bouncer my foot. Its an abomination !!! The only excuse for such a delivery is if Harry hit a stone on the pitch with his "off spin" !!!!!!

CMK said...

Cricket without any artificial limitations either to the bowler or the batsmen will be real cricket. The ODIs and more so in the case of T20s do as much as they can to take away the bowlers out of the contention. These artificial restrictions take the essence out of the game. No wonder they are called ODIs and T20s and not as cricket.

One Day Internationals and T20s are the equivalent of fast food and snacks. There will always be a market for these. These are diffrent products and cater to different needs though they use the same equipments and the almost the same set of laws of the game. I am not sure you can compare them. The one good thing about the ODIs and T20s are that they have helped the lesser player earn amuch better livelihood but they can never make a lesser player a better one.

Personally, I would watch even a 5 days dull draw of a test match live and come back home and watch it once again on the TV without moving (much to the chagrin of everyone at home) but cannot watch an ODI or a T20 without reaching for the remote every other minute. Never would imaginge watching them live even though I get free tickets.

And about Sachin - like it was said of Ranji - he cannot make a christian or ugly stroke with a cricket bat in his hand. Perish the thought.

Ravi Rajagopalan said...

The sad truth is that the glory days of Indian test cricket are over. From the early 90s, we had a fabulous combination of four great batsmen (Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag), a combative and aggressive captain (Ganguly and now Dhoni), a great spinner (Kumble) and some genuine quicks (Srinath - easily the fastest man in the mid-90s )followed by Zaheer Khan and his supporting acts. This lot who do not know how to build an innings will struggle against the "classical" countries like England who regard the longer game as the epitome of perfection. Its sad to watch the likes of Raina, Vijay, Sharma et al struggle against the short delivery or watch them bamboozled by the late swing on the ball. On the walls of the pub above the indoor school at Lord's is a huge picture of Sunny Gavaskar - he has just cover driven some hapless English quick. Bare-headed, hair tousled, no cap, no abdo guard, no elbow guard, white shirt with sleeve rolled up. Bat in the air in the follow through, leaning into the drive, on his toes but perfectly balanced, eye following the ball, ready for his favourite scoring stroke in the game - the single. He would have played very very late, so no amount of prodigious swing would have fooled him. What a classic. These moments will be missed.

Ramesh said...

@CMK - Great point of view. Thanks for your very informed comment. Alas - Tendulkar is mortal too - he is simply awful in this T20 Champions Cup.

@Dada - What a comment. Wah Wah. But as Sandhya says, you and I are a niche.

Vishal said...

Very nice take, Ramesh!

For niche audience, indeed not a great sight when batters play cross batted shot or bowlers deliver well outside off just to keep batsmen quiet.

But then this is a different product and cater to different group of people as CMK says. Now then it depends on players as to which form of cricket they would like to adapt and choose as career. Given the money and popularity involved with T20, even the mortals like Tendulkars, Kallises and Dravids are forced to adjust their tune which is limited to T20 only. Once you see them play in white uniform at the Waca Cricket Ground, these kind of players can only be seen playing those glorious cover drives or super square cuts and not the likes of Uthappas, Pollards or Klingers. Niche will always find their places for sure and the greats would always adapt to the form of the game! By the way, I am also in niche.

Ramesh said...

@Vishal - You are a test cricket admirer too ?? Wow ! I thought nobody below 40 even looked at test cricket. Btw this guy Pollard is intriguing. India too should only recruit 7ft tall hefty Sardars into the team and tell them to swing for all they are worth !!

Anonymous said...

wen winning is everything..means doesnt matter :)

Deepa said...

Like Sandhya said, you have to look at it as entertainment and not cricket! But since that was not my idea of entertainment, I just look elsewhere.

But I have to admit, I am the ODI generation here. What I am curious about is, did ODIs do as much damage to cricket, as T20s did? I hope not, because if everyone felt as strongly against ODIs and it still managed to create such a huge fan base, then there would be a T20 generation too! Arrgh... the thought itself is making me sick! Please tell me, ODIs weren't as bad. The 50 overs left enough room for batsmen and bowlers to play in style, 20 overs just turns it into something thats played on streets with a rubber ball.

Kiwibloke said...

I loved your characterization of Vaithy. In every third or fourth div league you get to see a Vaithy bowling. Balding, a bit overweight, in his forties, a short run up of no more than 10 paces, military medium pace and after a couple of overs of being hammered by the kid batting and change of ends our mama gets a prodigious swing returning with figures of 5-2-27-4 with 25 of the 27 runs having been conceded in the first 3 overs! (have seen my dad do a Vaithy act returning with a 7 for 36 at the age of 46! (Used to open the bowling for combined universities in his younger days to later became a Vaithy Mama)

Ramesh said...

@gils - Alas, its when the hair turns grey that you realise that winning is not everything !

@Deepa - No ODIs are still fine from the sport's point of view. I accept the entertainment argument, but then such entertainment is anathema to some old foggies like me.

@kiwi - A perfect picture. Bravo.

Ramesh said...

By the way, I am intrigued that nobody rose to my feeble baits re Govinda and the subtleties of Bollywood dance. Is this blog's readership exclusively Kollywood fixated ??

Deepa said...

@Ramesh- Please don't call yourself an old foggie, the "entertainment" that you're cringing at, makes me pull out my hair too... but I don't want to be in the 'old foggie league' just yet. :)

And I did read that Govinda line. But I do like watching him dance in a gay abandon, just like those bowlers hitting aimless 4s and 6s, batting at the end of a tight match! Hence, refrained!

J said...

This seems to be happening to all sports - the need for speed. Look at tennis - it is not that exciting to watch power serve after power serve. Where are the rallies? When enough of the audience loses interest, the game will be forced to evolve again. There may be hope after all :)

I am with Deepa though - the one-days did make the game more watchable for casual followers of the sport.

Sandhya Sriram said...

Given that its the only form of entertainment which exists for "Non Niche" crowd of my types, i dont specifically comment on this ... but am impressed with your bollywood "Flair".

Just imagining how it would look - Ramesh the visionary sitting in (Should i say - forum mall instead of devi kala), watching a typical hindi movie (with all the jhatak and matak), hey i would give my life to see the expression!! :-)

Vishal said...

Oh yes Ramesh... I could watch those nonchalant batsmen leaving the ball outside off ball after ball, session after session and day after day when the bowler is in rhythm. Infact, good bowling brings more joy to me which is hardly seen in shorter formats. Remember Shoaib taking out Dravid and Sachin in consecutive balls at the edens. What a spell of bowling that was!

Well, I would beat my own expectations if I could relate to any Kollywood movies or actors even for a second. Definitely could relate to your bait on bollywood and Govinda. How about the original dance of Miandad at world cup with Kiran More ;)

Anonymous said...

No comments,since i go by Bernard shaw and dont watch cricket.

Ramesh said...

@J - Sure, Games, like everything else evolves, but people like me fixated with the "real Coke"moan about it all the time.

@Sandhya - Lets go to a movie this weekend !

@Vishal - Oh yes, Shoaib Akhtar in full flow against India was a treat to watch

@ambulisamma - Alas, ye know not what ye misses.

Anonymous said...

ramesh, hate to say but I think test crikets days are numbered - crowds are down and the introduction of the fast pace 1 day game and the faster pace T20 have brought fans and advertisers back to the game !!! - the test tradition has held on but..... i wonder where test criket will be in 5 years. Even our great Adelaide oval will undergo a massive upgade to cater for Aussie rule games in the near future - is nothing sacred anymore !!!


Ramesh said...

@Trevor - I'm afraid so. Test cricket's days are surely numbered. Sacrilege to hear that they want to do that to the Adelaide Oval. The Don must be turning in his grave.

Reflections said...

LOL Ramesh u r just too good. I could practically imagine Tendulker and his stance, thanks for the laughs;-D

p.s: umm...u in China or India now????

Ramesh said...

@Reflections - Lovely to see you back. Am safely in India for good; away from the Net Nanny's embrace.

Reflections said...

Oh am not 'back' as such, just thought of u and visited ur page;-).

Ramesh said...

@ Reflections. Aww - Much honoured. But please do "come back" .

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