Of late there has been an obscene rush in writing the most astringent of articles railing against the Knight Riders, a state of affairs no doubt triggered by their not-so-perfect performances. A leading media outlet even had a piece citing seven reasons why Buchanan should go. Amidst this tidal wave of vicious criticism, let me stand apart from the crowd and give you seven good reasons why the Knight Riders rock.
1. The IPL is a circus. And no circus is complete without a clown. A clown typically performs each of the acts commonly seen in a circus— cycling, jumping through hoops, antics with animals. But they bungle ceaselessly while doing each of them. Similarly the KKR goes through the motions of batting, fielding and bowling but in each of these activities manages to embarrass itself so thoroughly that the audience is left howling with laughter. In a world where there is so much sadness and grief, what can beat the pristine delight of watching the King’s Men bumbling along, falling down, ripping their trousers and soiling themselves? And if there was any doubt as to how seriously the KKR team treats its role as the tournament’s clown, they even communicate among themselves using sign language in the same way that clowns connect with their audience noiselessly through pantomime.
2. There was an old man I remember who used to sit at a park bench in Vivekananda Park, all mufllered up and wearing a monkey cap in the rather feeble Kolkata cold. There was an aura of sad languidness about him for which I always found him interesting. Then one day he stopped coming. Well thanks to KKR, I can see him once again. He is Brad Hodge.
3. Talking about memories, I recall those days when I was young. Of golden winter afternoons playing “gullie” cricket. When our sporting lives revolved around the excitement of the “official” matches that were played against the next para (community). Aah what a team we had. Even though he could never score a run to save his life, Bunty-da was the captain just because he was a big bully. Chotka batted one-down because his elder brother was the local councilor. Brando would show his “judgement” by leaving any delivery that was outside his off-stump even though we were playing 10-overs-a-side. Nobody could figure out why Poltu would always bowl even though Hulo-da was by far the better bowler (The fact that Poltu owned the team’s batting gear could have had something to do with it).
Then on days where we were playing among ourselves on the streets and there were not enough players to make teams, we would play by what was known as “lottery”. In this form of “gully cricket” every player essentially forms a “team of one” and all that was left to be determined was in which order we would bat (this would be the reverse order in which we would bowl). Everyone would field and he who made the most runs won.
So how was this order decided? Someone (let us call him A) would stand and the second person (let us call him person B) would hold his hand behind the first person in a way that A would not be able to see. B would then show a random number of fingers and A would call out a name from among those assembled. And the number represented by those fingers would then become the called out person’s batting position.
Thanks to the Knight Riders, I am once again in touch with my past in a way I never thought would be possible. This is because KKR brings to my world the innocent amateurishness of the archetypal gullie team — McCullum being the new Bunty-da, Agarkar the new Poltu, Akash Chopra/Bangar the new Brando and Charles Langeveldt, who is considered to be one of the best T20 bowlers especially in South African conditions, an image of Hulo-da, not being given much of a chance. Their team selection, like a gully team’s, has no rhyme or reason. For instance on a spinner’s track where the opponents pick three spinners, KKR drops their most famous tweaker and goes with just one spinner. This kind of casual ineptitude reminds me of the time we went to play a game and found out that none of the players who were present that day could bowl overarm.
And the batting order in KKR, I am sure, is determined by “lottery”. And why should it not be? After all in this franchise, every player is a team of “one”. Keeping that in mind, I am sure Buchanan stands behind assistant coach Mott, shows fingers and Mott calls out names at will. How else can you explain the totally random order in which people come out to bat, an order which makes about as much sense as “English Babu Desi Mem”.
Thank you KKR, for bringing to professional sport a bit of gullie cricket thus helping me to relive those memories.
4. KKR rocks because it has given us John Buchanan. For one, if we had not seen Buchanan in action, we would have never realized how truly great the Austrailan team of the 2000s was, so great that it could decimate the opposition even with Sir John as its coach. And second, he has made us realize that Greg Chappell was not really as bad a bloke as we thought him to be. Sure his Vision 2007 did to the country what two hundred years of British rule could not. But even then, sometimes he did speak sense. And once in a while he did give us results. At the very least, he was undoubtedly a great cricketer in his days. These are of course things one cannot say about Sir John. Now in retrospect, I realize I may have been a bit too harsh on Greg-ji when I thought he was the bottom of the barrel. I thank the KKR for correcting me.
5. The more time Shahrukh Khan is at South Africa cheering for his team the less time he has to make films. This is indeed KKR’s single greatest contribution to the world of art. However it seems SRK has gone home right now because evidently he is sick of being laughed at in his face. An urgent appeal from someone who loves the movies: Please SRK, please come back to South Africa. For the love of God.
6. In order to bring an economy out of a disastrous recession, massive investments need to be made (even though it may be totally wasteful) so that cash flows through the system. This is why during the Great Depression, American president Roosevelt reportedly employed men to essentially dig holes in the ground and then cover them up.
In our recession-hit times, KKR has followed in Roosevelt’s footsteps and done its part to rescue the economy by throwing enormous sums of money at a whole army of coaches, assistant coaches, trainers, physios, conditioners and what-nots. And not just that. The Knight Riders fringe players were even sent to Australia to take part in practice matches, talent-spotting camps were held and then a mammoth squad of 57 people were assembled and put on the KKR payroll.
And what have all these people done? The cricketing equivalent of digging holes and then covering them up. But in a recession, this is exactly what needs to happen.
According to some sources, when President Obama was asked what return on investment he expects on the billions of tax-payer dollars he has used to buy off worthless housing loans, he said “Well if you think that’s bad then all I can say is that at least I have not spent 600,000 USD on Mashrafe Mortaza.”
7. And finally KKR rocks for deciding to drop the “Kolkata” from its name which has been speculated to be a harbinger of the franchise’s shift from the city. Kolkata has suffered through the famine of 1942, Direct Action Day of 1946, decades of Left front rule, Mamata Banerjee and Moonmoon Sen. Our tormentors never seem to want to leave us, no matter how hard we pray. However Knight Riders has been refreshingly different. So a sincere expression of gratitude to the franchise for being kind enough to spare us the joy of being represented by it.
[Photos courtesy ABC and Sulekha]