GAME PLAN: Brendon McCullum joins the immortals

Jaideep Ghosh


Christchurch: New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum salutes the crowd as he leaves the field for the last time for his team after being dismissed for 25 by Australia’s Josh Hazelwood on the third day of the second international cricket test match at Hagley Park Oval in Christchurch, New Zealand, Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. AP/PTI

When we sit and recount what our lives have witnessed, we will recall our achievements and failures. In sports, we will recall who we saw in action and who we missed.

For the fortunate ones from my generation and ones before and after, we will gloat that we saw Brendon McCullum in flesh and blood.

We have witnessed many players, some of them termed ‘great’, trying to make something out of their retirements, in money and hype. But few have succeeded in making their signing off as sensational as McCullum.

Many would have spent their last moments as a Test player trying to carve out a memorable and lasting effort. They would fail since they would be cramped by the weight of their own expectations.

So it is left for players like McCullum to make a mark, simply because they are beyond figures. He is from the Virender Sehwag school of cricket – see ball, hit ball.

And boy did he, in the second Test with Australia! The fastest-ever Test century. What a way to sign off.

“As a good team man, it would be nice to be remembered,” McCullum said, as he signed off.

“As a guy who played for the right reasons and who, if in doubt, was prepared to take the positive option. Hopefully, the guys that I’ve played with will remember you as a good bloke as well.”

He needn’t worry. He’ll be remembered.

Green tops and other hues: Couple of interesting contests began on Wednesday.

Pune saw Mumbai in yet another Ranji Trophy final, this time with Saurashtra as their rivals, on a track made famous recently, when a rookie Sri Lankan team of fast bowlers cleaned out the much-vaunted Indian batting in a T20 International.

As it turned out, things weren’t much different in the Ranji tie either.


File Photo (PTI)

Dhawal Kulkarni began to look like Brett Lee, as he was virtually unplayable in the early hours. We were faced with a spectre of an entire team folding up well within the first day. But thankfully, Saurashtra managed to survive, though not by much.

In the evening, the action shifted to Bangladesh, with the hosts taking on India in the first match of the Asia Cup.

The ground at Dhaka was a little mystifying. Was there a pitch there? It took a really close look to see that there indeed was one, green as they come and promising to give the Indians quite a welcome.

Remarkable, how things have changed in the team compositions around the sub-continent. Not too long ago, Bangladesh would have gone into any match with four left-arm spinners, trying to strangle the batting into submission.

Sri Lanka too, would have one Muttiah Muralitharan and then a couple of other tweakers. The medium-pacers were limited to two, even one, at times.

Now you have Sri Lanka going in with three fast bowlers, and Bangladesh going one better – an attack normally associated with Australia or such sides.

Bangladesh think they have found a chink in the Indian armour – their inability to deal with seam-up stuff on a green top.

Fair call, since not one Indian side is ever totally at ease on a grassy strip, be it India, India A, or Saurashtra.

But it takes more than a green track to win games. The Bangladesh bowlers began brilliantly, but it takes more than just a couple of early wickets to beat India.

They lost the plot when they dropped Rohit Sharma and then opted for spin, when the fast bowlers were marauding. By the time the pace battery was back in action, Sharma was well and truly set.

On top of that, the young bowlers got a little carried away with the bounce and tried to pepper the Indians with short stuff.


File Photo (PTI)

Further, if you’re going to set the table, you’ve to eat on it as well. Bangladesh had to bat too, and they walked into the wily old Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah.

Essentially, the Bangladeshis had their game plan in place, but it takes real-time execution to make it effective. Equally, those who create such situations should also be able to face the music.

Abject lesson for Bangladesh, but Indians shouldn’t be celebrating too much. Had the bowlers stuck to their jobs and a couple of catches gone their way, it would be India struggling.

The green tinge will always make for interesting watching when India is playing. Sadly, the T20 World Cup at home will all be about slow and low ‘spinning’ tracks. How boring. Effective maybe, but definitely boring.