The average Indian cricket fan's memory is short-lived.
Dinesh Karthik's last-ball six in the Nidahas Trophy final was more than an exciting photo-finish. It was redemption for a man whose career witnessed a Dhoni-sized gaping hole for more than a decade. Having debuted in 2004, Dinesh Karthik (like Parthiv Patel, Wriddhiman Saha and Ajay Ratra) had to step back and watch Dhoni take Indian cricket to dizzying heights.
Being a wicketkeeper is usually a safe bet. Dropping a catch or letting a bye go, is not remembered for long. Unlike batsmen and bowlers, there isn't as much competition for the position of a wicketkeeper in a team. However, that isn't the case for Indian keepers in the last decade.
Rahul Dravid was the captain and wicketkeeper for a few years. And then, when Dhoni climbed his way to the top, an aspiring cricketer might as well have tried for a position in the Indian carrom team!
In spite of performing consistently in IPL, domestic cricket and even in the international matches when given the opportunity, Dinesh Karthik had to compete with arguably the best wicketkeeper in the world for a place in the side.
Even when Dhoni was at his peak, DK had made his way into the team purely as a batsman, using his wicketkeeping skills to good use as a fielder – both close to the stump and at the boundary. In the age of wham-bam-glitz-glam IPL, Dinesh Karthik appears to belong in an Amol Palekar film – silent, polite and unassuming.
But more than anything else, DK finally got his own 'Lagaan moment'.
The average Indian fan's memory is short-lived. They will hail you as a god one day, and pelt stones at your house the next. To make an impact, you need a 'Lagaan moment' to etch yourself in people's memory. And there's no better way to do it than by hitting a six off the last ball. Ever since Javed Miandad hit Chetan Sharma for a six in the final ball, India has a grieving wound of the last ball six.
Javed Miandad after playing what is known as the 'most famous shot in cricket' – a last ball sixer off Chetan Sharma in Sharjah. Picture Courtesy: ESPN Cricinfo
Get yourself a 'Lagaan moment', and the fans will be willing to forgive your failures for months at stretch. You could slog for decades, but if you do not have a Lagaan moment that immortalises you, you're bound to fade into oblivion in the minds of fans and selectors. The story of Indian cricket features a number of stalwart characters, and they're remembered not for grinding their way to the top, but for those moments of bravado.
Sachin Tendulkar spent 26 years of his life playing the sport but is remembered for the Sharjah Desert storm – that tournament that gave Shane Warne nightmares and Indians wet dreams. Saurav Ganguly built an Indian side that was grappling with shame and dishonour but is remembered for taking off his shirt on the Lords' balcony.
400 + matches for India, 18,000+ runs for the team. Captain extraordinaire. But is remember for taking off his shirt at Lords. Image Source: Quora.com
Yuvraj Singh battled an abusive father, injuries and brain cancer – but is remembered for butchering Stuart Broad for six sixes. MS Dhoni, who broke the shackles of a small town, worked as a TTE, and booked himself a ticket to Indian folklore – will always be remembered for the six to win the World Cup.
While the above cricketers were genuine superstars, there have been a number of lesser cricketers too, who got a 'Lagaan moment' for themselves. Javagal Srinath – India's genuine pace spearhead for more than a decade toiled his shoulders off on flat, dusty Indian pitches for more than a decade. And yet, Venkatesh Prasad got the moment against Aamer Sohail for a mediocre delivery.
Ajit Agarkar, despite his frame and the fierce temperament of Bugs Bunny – gathered over 400 wickets and a century at Lords. But Joginder Singh got his moment by winning the last over against Pakistan.
Joginder Sharma traded in one uniform for another. Image Source: Sports Illustrated.
Vijay Bharadwaj – the bespectacled allrounder won the Man of the Final and Man of the Series in his debut tournament. But fans will remember Hrishikesh Kanithkar for his boundary to win the match against Pakistan.
For you see, Indian cricket fans do not go by facts, figures and statistics. You need to immortalise yourself (preferably by winning the match in the last ball against Pakistan) for people to remember you. It took 16 years coming, but Dinesh Karthik will finally be where he belongs – behind the stumps, and in front of the camera.
Meanwhile, it will be a struggle for Vijay Shankar, who had a nightmare day out on the final. He has already been trolled on social media, and will have to etch out his own 'Lagaan moment'.
For Indian fans want to watch a film when they watch cricket. They want a hero, who vanquishes a villain, in a gigantic climax that has twists and turns!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.
By Hriday Ranjan
Cover photo credit: netflix.com