The retirements of Anil Kumble and Saurav Ganguly are a lot easier to take for someone working on their final matches than for those just watching. It would have been a crushing feeling to hear about Anil’s decision to quit in Delhi if I were just a spectator. A minute before a tentative Sivaramakrishnan announced it to the world, we got wind of it on the internal communication system. Suddenly, the Test match was just incidental. Unlike Steve Waugh’s retirement in Sydney where the Aussies were left fighting for a draw on the final day, the game itself was just a formality: a just tribute to Kumble’s career where cricket gave way to him for a few overs.
Ganguly’s was a more prepared sort of retirement, topped by a Test win and a memorable moment where he would “captain” for three overs in the end. Working on live TV might flatten any enthusiasm for the sport, but the moment when Ganguly got out first ball in his last innings was shocking. For a moment, the mouse wouldn’t move.
Work more or less sterilizes your supporters instinct. You look forward to 3-day Tests and rained-off One-dayers. You wish the match finishes soon regardless of which team wins. Over-rates are more important than run-rates. For once you don’t wait for the next game to begin. If anything, you wonder how inhuman it is to have only a two-day break between two ODIs.
I would think the biggest test of a player’s impact would depend on him passing this barrier of work-induced indifference. Tendulkar, Kumble, Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman did that. I did wish for Tendulkar’s 40th Test hundred, hoped Dravid would get one in Nagpur and call it a day, felt empty when Ganguly got out on 85, felt nice that I had spoken to Kumble on the eve of his final Test and just watched stunned at some of Laxman’s stroke-play. Krejza’s debut was extremely pleasing even though he was the butt of jokes before the Test as he was found more in newspapers than on the field. Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan’s bowling was breathtaking. I did want Hayden to score a hundred before his team lost but he has scored enough against India anyway.
The ODIs though have been utterly boring. They didn’t pass the test, haven’t yet at least. It wouldn’t have mattered if India had been 0-3 down rather than what it is now. I do wish rains wash out the Bangalore match and officials call it off by 5 pm so that I can go home early. But in Cuttack, I hope Tendulkar gets a century regardless of what happens to the match.
It was imperative that I was involved in the Australian Test series in some way or the other. Premonition perhaps or just want of progress, I witnessed a wonderful rounding off of two careers I have followed quite closely. The England series might see one more and by the next World Cup (surprisingly, still a significant milestone in the cricketing timeline), the biggest one. The euphoria of their respective beginnings are still fresh and their respective exits will be accompanied by the joy of sadness.