Both the Prime Minister of India and the Captain of the Indian Test team have the same problem. Both are ultra-aggressive, alpha males who take an extreme position and then don’t know how and when to back off. There’s not a defensive cell in the bodies of either Narendra Modi or Virat Kohli and while most times that’s a good thing, on quite a few occasions, both in cricket and in politics, you need to learn to play the defensive game. Not all situations need to be dealt with an iron hand or by slogging at the ball. Sometimes you need to buckle down and grind out the runs. Sometimes you need to stoop to conquer.
Politics first. Look at the two big protests that have been plaguing the Modi government for the last two months now. Armed forces veterans who have been fighting for One Rank, One Pension and students at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) who have been asking for a better Chairperson. The response of the Modi sarkar to both protests has been the same. No compromise from our side. If you want this problem to go away, then you should just end the protests and accept our terms, no matter how unreasonable those terms maybe.
On Tuesday the Prime Minister’s representative Nripendra Mishra met with the protesting Armed Forces veterans to find a compromise. His pre-requisite was that the vets should call off their strike first. Everything else will follow. Same is the case with the response to the FTII crisis. There have been a few meetings between I&B officials including junior minister Rajyavardhan Rathore and the protesting students. There again, the government’s pre-condition was end the strike first, accept Gajendra Chauhan as our choice and then if there are any other issues, then we can talk about it. That’s not a negotiation. That’s not trying to find a compromise. That’s simply: my way or the highway.
In cricket too, look at the last Test match and how India lost. How can a team that had an almost 200 run lead after the first innings then come back and lose a test match by 70 odd runs? Admitted the Sri Lankans bowled out of their skins, but it was also rank bad batting. And it was bad batting because all our batsmen had pre-decided in their heads that they are not going to let go off their hyper-aggressive approach even if the situation demanded otherwise. They were simply trying to make strokes, hit their way out of the situation instead of grinding themselves in. Which of our batsman can hold one end up for an entire day of a Test match? Which is why you value a Rahul Dravid or a Kumar Sangakkara.
And here’s what makes it worse. After losing the Test, Team Director Ravi Shastri continues to insist that the team will not change its approach. They will continue to be hyper-aggressive. And this coming from a man who was famous for his 7 yard defence!!
Both in cricket and in politics, the ones who succeed are the ones who respond to the situation with flexibility and alacrity. As Kumar Sangakkara retires by the end of this Test match and as the praise continues to pour in, it’s worth asking the question: what made Sanga one of the modern day greats? It wasn’t just that he was classy. He had remarkable adaptability, in Tests, in One-dayers and even in T20s, for which, he was not naturally cut out. As the great man Tendulkar himself said, “Even when he was out of form, Sangakkara scored runs against us.”
Sometimes both in cricket and in politics, you need to take the long view and be accommodative of a different approach. Just like running a government is a five-year affair, not just about quelling the next protest, winning a Test match is about prevailing at the end of five days, not how you play the next ball. Here’s hoping that both Messers Modi and Kohli can play the long game, even if it means a few temporary bruises and setbacks.
PS: In case any of our readers are interested, please check the Youtube link of Kumar Sangakkara delivering the MCC Cowdrey Lecture 2011. He talks about a lot more than just cricket. A true Sri Lankan!!
… by Zakka Jacob ( IBNLIVE)