Finely attuned ears began hearing faint rumblings of discord in the cricketing world. The Brotherhood of the Retired was seen furtively scampering off to their favourite pub – The Old Guard – in the dark of the night to discuss a matter of growing importance.
The attendees had all retired from the game, and were somewhat weary of warming the benches in the commentator’s box in dreary test matches that no one bothered to watch. The uber veteran expert opinionators encountered a new grouse. The commentator’s box faced a population explosion problem. Hitherto, opinions, sane or otherwise, were seldom in short supply but experts were. Now, a new batch of Old Guards had taken birth and were jostling for a stake in the commentator’s microphone.
The veteran Old Guards decided to summon the new Old Guards to smooth things out and to explore a peaceable solution. Sachin Tendulkar was invited as a special guest to offer thoughts. Tendulkar exuded stoic silence, as usual, opting to let silence do the communication.
Veteran Old Guard Ravi Shastri was seen hooting at the top of everyone’s voices, in a veiled but hopeless attempt at drawing attention. The shirt-ripper Sourav Ganguly, self-anointed leader of the new Old Guards, furiously waved his Armani signalling Shastri to back off. His boom boxed, Shastri yelped and sat down.
This infuriated Navjot Sidhu, the Senior Wrangler, who was entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring no meeting was ever tainted by the vice of peacefulness. He did his bit, and with his brusque brouhaha, managed to evoke an equal and opposite reaction from Danny Morrison. Danny M huffed, face contorted, mouth and eyes pointing in humanly impossible directions. He made a valiant attempt at beating Sidhu at his own game but the latter countered with a dangerous weapon – the word bomb. Sidhu trembled, words scarily rushed out in rapid succession; Peace made a hasty exit. The veteran Old Guards seemed in charge.
Or so it seemed.
Loath to miss an opporunity at letting someone else walk away with the laurels of instigating a ruckus, Ganguly grabbed the microphone and hinted that the veteran Old Guard ought to move on. Retire. Again. It was time for the new Old Guard and fresh Old Blood to clean up the mess left behind by the veterans, and create a messy legacy of their own. The long dead W. G. Grace, was seen vividly expressing his displeasure (it seemed he wasn’t allowed to bat first, which seemed to irk him the most). The psychoanalyst and accidental Captain Mike Brearley chimed in with a whisper of approval. Shastri had an attack of his customary Feelings and yelled his innards out, as always, for no reason and little provocation. Gavaskar silently lobbied for the commentary box at the Wankhede Stadium to be named after him. Ramiz Raja and Aamir Sohail seemed clueless, as usual.
Kapil Dev, with a rich history of letting tears do the talking at opportune moments, outswung into action. Finding a perfect spot, in line with the lead camera, Kapil cried his gullet inside out. Every little drop of tears was summoned from the recesses of his being and unleashed at the opponents. The veteran Old Guards smiled, even as Kapil wailed himself into enervation. Not to give the veteran Old Guards an inch, Ganguly sent Vinod Kambli to counterattack. Kambli came forth and exploded in a tear bath that seemed to knock the great Kapil off his rails. The latter quickly collected himself and parried with a seductive display of passionate tear making. A sympathy wave enveloped the veteran Old Guards. The new Old Guard seemed worsted.
Ganguly, prudently, shifted track and requested the special guest to speak a few words.
Tendulkar took him quite literally.
As the new grand old Samaritan still adorning whites, many hoped that his statesman demeanour might calm things down. After what seemed like an eternity, the Little Master cleared his throat and out came a stream of words in all their empty glory. Many leaned forward, lest their aging ears failed to pick up words of erudition. Some claimed to have heard the occasional semi-moderate decibel ‘proud’. Tendulkar seemed lost in thoughT.
God then spoke.
He made a fervent and moving plea to the Old Guards, addressing both the new and the old, encouraging them to return to the cricket field. In a single shot, he silenced the warring parties. Even Sidhu and Danny M fell silent.
Tendulkar urged the Brotherhood of the Retired to shed their inhibitions, legacy and historical inertia in favour of a path-breaking step. The Retired ought to make a comeback. To buttress his persuasion, he cited veterans from other sports, his friend Michael Schumacher for instance, as luminaries whose examples ought to be followed. He even invoked the long forgotten memory of Nolan Clarke. Now, a princely 64 years old, and thrilled to have found a mention, Clarke cast his weight behind the Little Master. Fellow forgotten Old Guards John Traicos, Miran Bux and James Southerton, the oldest Test debutant, were unamused at being ignored.
The new Old Guard seemed thrilled. Given his many unsuccessful attempts at continuing in his state of cognitive dissonance with regards to his playing days, Ganguly was seen smiling the widest. Ponting, Srinath, Jayasuriya, Dravid, Kumble, and Shane Warne were all seen warming up, stretching their dormant muscles. Tendulkar’s stature, meanwhile, soared a little more.
The enthusiasm seemed to rub off. Drawing inspiration from the new Old Guards, the veteran Old Guards plotted their comeback.
Everyone was happy.
Tendulkar managed to add another record to his cap.
He never retired.
It is hoped that the cricket devoted post will not put off HaLin’s beloved non-cricketing nation readers. Baseball, unfortunately, bears some resemblance to the glorious sport but any allusion to cricket’s quality is purely a figment of the baseball fan’s imagination. HaLin admires all sports equally, after cricket.