Climbing mountains

The latest Aakash Chopra insider column is as readable as its predecessors. What I like, over and above the unique opportunity to see cricket from inside a player’s head, is his ability to peg each successive column to contemporary events and to take us behind the scenes to give context to the events we watch unfold. Here, against the backdrop of large first innings scores in the recent Test series between India and Sri Lanka [and as I write this, the West Indies are mounting a strong reply to a sizable Australian score], Aakash talks of what it is like to be a batsman walking out to confront a monumental score.

When the last wicket falls, or the declaration finally comes, the openers duly take the permission of the batsmen (it’s against protocol to leave the ground before they do) and rush to the dressing room. After all, they get only 10 minutes to get fresh, change into new clothes (at least a dry shirt) and put on their gear. It leaves very little time to gather your thoughts, and that’s why most openers spend a couple of quiet minutes in their seats with their eyes closed just before walking on to the field.

Now the scenes that greet the opening batsmen on the field are quite different from the ones they grew used to after nearly two days of play. There is a crowded slip cordon and most fielders are in attacking positions.

Once bowlers have a cushion of 600 runs, they become more effective, or at least more adventurous. They don’t shy away from experimenting in order to dislodge the batsman, and they don’t worry about the runs conceded in the bargain.

Batsmen on the other hand are advised not to think in terms of runs – those scored by the opposition or how many they need to score themselves to get to safety. If you think about chasing a total of 650, it certainly sounds like a herculean task. Even if you think about 450 to avoid the follow-on, which is slightly less daunting, you’re still starting off on the wrong foot. You can’t be pessimistic right from the outset. A good idea would be to think about stitching together partnerships and batting sessions.

One of the most fascinating cricket conversations I ever had was with Barry Richards. Elsewhere on this blog I’d spoken of the concept of visualizing an ODI game through a differential calculus, which system I worked out on the basis of something the South African legend said during that chat. Another of the topics he touched on was the difficulty of confronting a mammoth score. This is what he said.

Personal note, for regular readers: Heading into a combination of the Christmas/New Year holiday season combined with the need to wind up at Rediff and work out the logistics of moving professional base to Yahoo and home to Bangalore. Blogging apt to be highly sporadic from now till January 11, when I will be fully settled into my new office.

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3 thoughts on “Climbing mountains

  1. Prem – That link to Barry Richards on the ‘Sight Screen’ blog brought back memories of the 2005 Ashes season and the fun time I had following the series as well as commenting on your blog. I had kind of drifted away from following cricket in the 2002/3 period, but your blog rekindled my passion and I am very happy for it! So, thanks a million for all your hard work and happy new year!

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