The fatal injury of the Indian batsman has induced me to ruminate on the progression of this beautiful game which we call cricket. The word itself means gentlemanliness and the one who carries all the qualities of a gentleman is a cricketer. Some centuries back what started off as a leisurely game of bat and bowl played in the green fields of the countryside in England has travelled a long way. It has evolved into a game which is beyond recognition. The commercialization, big money, lucrative endorsements , introduction of sophisticated technology and above all almost quantum jump in the number of fans and followers all over the world especially in India where it has become a religion. The cricketers are demigods and the kind mass hysteria we routinely and regularly witness has influenced our perception of games and sports. Too many it is unhealthy as they consider the mass appeal of cricket is proving ruinous for the development of other sporting disciplines in the country. But who cares? The cricketing Juggernaut is rolling on and on.

 

Now coming back to the context of my first sentence, injuries to any sportsman or sportswomen is an unavoidable part and parcel of the career. In fact, there is hardly any sports and game which we can conceive which is free from the hazard of injury. When I maintain it , I maintain it in relation to our outdoor games. And cricketers these days have access to all kinds of protective gears. A modern day cricketer looks more like an astronaut or someone from the other planet. Apart from the perfectly normal things like gloves, pads etc., the cricketers today use a variety of gadgets to protect themselves and yet we have injuries on the field. It is happening in spite of the fact that several constraints have been placed on the bowlers in the forms of restrictions on the number of bouncer a pacer can send down in an over and others. The injury Dravid has sustained brings up the central question which is: Are the batsmen of these are losing their lightning reflexes which their predecessors were known to have? I know this question might spark off a furious debate.

 

Before the introduction of helmets as a headgear, there were many Indian batting greats like Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Viswanath, Engineer and many others who effortlessly negotiated the deadly pace of West Indian quickies. Although Gavaskar used a skullcap in the later part of his career. But his scintillating and awe-inspiring batting performances came against the battery of West Indies fast bowlers like Marshall,Garner, Holding, Croft and others without any helmet. It would be worthwhile to remember in this context that a few of these pace bowlers would figure among the alltime great pace bowler. I simply can not resisting the temptation of narrating one particular incident when the late West Indian pace bowler Malcolm Marshall with one his deadly bowl knocked the bat off Gavaskar's hands and in the very next test match Gavaskar conquered him by giving a masterly display of batsmanship.


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