The past week or so has been rather emotional as we bid goodbye to not just 2012, but also two of my favourite commentators Christopher Martin-Jenkins and Tony Greig. Add to this the retirement of Hussey whose announcement came out of the blue and the treatment he received in Sydney where he is playing his last Test only highlighted the manner in which our own Sachin was hounded out of ODI like some common criminal without so much as a tribute by way of giving him one final game, perhaps in the ongoing series against old foe Pakistan.
The passing away of CMJ evoked nostalgia as my thoughts went back to my school days when we listened to BBC Test Match Special, the likes of which we will never ever get to experience. CMJ was part of the triumvirate that included the legendary John Arlott and Trevor Bailey, and to think that the trio is no more with us does hurt.
CMJ's clipped English along with Arlott's inimitable descriptive prose and Bailey's insightful comments made for gripping listening. Every summer in the days prior to the intrusion of television in our living rooms, we used to switch on our transistors to Short Wave-1 and tune into the BBC's TMS with the kind of reverence that was born out of pure hero worship. In the latter days, during my time in front of the mike, I used to visualize my favourite commentators before starting my own spell.
With CMJ's passing away, a part of my childhood is lost forever and I will have to listen to some scratchy tape on which I had recorded the commentary. I would go as far as to say that CMJ, Arlott and Bailey set a benchmark in cricket commentary and I doubt if we will ever get another set of commentators who will come anywhere close to the TMS lot.
Likewise, Greig was unique though at times he tend to go hyperbolic in his praise or description. For all his faults, Greig, whom I had seen as a player when he brought the England side to India back in 1977 for a five-Test series that will be remembered for the battle of attrition that he advocated with the focus on grinding out runs while eschewing flamboyance. England won the series 3-1 that also will be remembered for the infamous 'vaselin' controversy when left-arm seamer Lever, who took seven wickets in the Delhi Test, was accused of applying cream on the ball to make it swing rather unnaturally.
Whatever, Greig made no bones of his intention and never did he mince words when he was asked about his team's strategy to counter the Indian spinners Chandra, Bedi and Prasanna. He followed the same principle as a commentator and that set him apart from the rest.
In my book, Greig will go down as a catalyst in triggering revolutionary changes in cricket. He joined hands with Kerry Packer in the 1970s to launch the World Series Cricket that ushered in the new era of coloured clothing, day-night games and innovative rules that heavily criticized at that time, but today, you don't even blink at them!
My only fleeting meeting with Greig was in 1996 in Bangalore when I spent a few minutes discussing the World Cup that was being hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Even now I remember his prophetic words: Watch out for Sri Lanka. I like that team and they look highly motivated. I will definitely put my money on Sri Lanka. So it turned out to be as Ranatunga's wild bunch confounded the pundits by winning the Cup.
Quite the best of Greig's commentary was his narration of Sachin's unbelievable onslaught on McGrath and company in Sharjah, an innings many consider as one of the best ever in ODIs. My hair stands on end when I recall Greig breathlessly describing and praising Sachin's magnificent shots that stunned not just the Aussies but also the entire cricketing World. Yes, we will certainly miss Greigy, but thanks mate for those gems that made our afternoons.
I also couldn't help getting a bit emotional watching Hussey being given an ovation at the SCG on his last appearance in an international game. How I wished we had extended a similar gesture to Sachin so that he could have bid adieu to ODIs in a more befitting manner than a staid statement that the BCCI put out. For all his achievements, his own countrymen pushed Sachin over the cliff with ceaseless and strident demands for his retirement. Indeed, it strengthened my belief that we Indians do not know how to treat our champions.
Also watching the Indians capitulate in Kolkata against the rampant Pakistanis, it became clear that our team lacks discipline and commitment that the visitors showed in plenty. The fact that the Indian players arrived in batches in Kolkata, opting to skip a couple of practice sessions clearly reflected their complacency and a devil-may-care attitude that deserves to be condemned in the strongest words.
Some of the seniors in the side like Sehwag and Gambhir are unworthy of their spots while Dhoni has lost what little control he had over the team. May be, Dhoni needs some time off cricket, but I am convinced that the time for change is now. Forget reputations and go by form in team selection. Our cricketers are too well fed and lack the hunger to win. I wonder whether the BCCI cares two hoots so long as its bank account keeps swelling.