Wednesday, Jun 29, 2022

Disowned Sutras

It is strange to hear Indian coach Gary Kirsten is “deeply disturbed” over what he calls “false allegations” that he had co-authored the now-derided

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  • Indian coach Gary Kirsten is “deeply disturbed” over what he calls “false allegations” – the report that he and Paddy Upton, the mental conditioning coach, had co-authored the now-derided vision document that aimed to raise performance on the field.

    He says he had no hand in this fine composition, that it was entirely the work of Upton. Kirsten also insists that he didn’t know that the document existed. This defies credulity: Upton is a close associate of Kirsten, a man Kirsten brought along with him from South Africa on his Indian mission. Why would Upton keep the coach in the dark about this rather radically-worded document? Why didn’t Kirsten know about its existence even after it had been distributed to the players? Why did he read it first “only two days ago”, along with amused readers of newspapers?

    If, however, what Kirsten claims is true, he might want to ask Upton to consult him when preparing vision documents of this nature, for two heads would work better than one.

    This vision document, a praiseworthy effort no doubt, could still be vastly improved; the original contains a few points open to contention or interpretation, and reveals more about what Upton thinks of Indians than what they should do to become world-beaters.

    The South African think-tank – or as Kirsten insists, Upton going solo – declares: “India has never been an aggressor at war, they have never been the first to strike... In the 1971 war with Pakistan, it took the Pakistan Air Force to strike a number of Indian airfields in North India before India was officially at war with the enemy.”

    Pakistan might contend the accuracy of this statement, and if he were to join the Pakistan team in the future, Upton would perhaps not try to benefit his wards with this particular war simile. Or would he tell them that Pakistan did well by attacking India?

    More seriously, having made this statement, Upton infers that the lack of martial aggression has translated into a lack of cricketing aggression, declaring that India’s bad cricketing record overseas is due to their being “unfamiliar with doing battle outside the borders of their mother country”.

    He might have a point, but it’s a matter open to debate. There were legitimate cricketing reasons behind the abysmal record, which has improved in the last six years – we’ve never had a bunch of outstanding fast bowlers, for instance, before the 2000s.

    One can also wonder if attacking one’s neighbours is really such a wondrous thing, desirable for sporting success. Two, India does have a rich, though regrettable, martial history of wars, between different states and kingdoms before it was unified into one entity.

    And while it might look like a case of nit-picking, Upton doesn’t seem to be aware that the navies of the Cholas did attack the regions that are now in Indonesia and Malaysia – way back in the past, though — fundamentally altering those places forever.

    During the two World Wars, the pre-Partition India contributed millions of soldiers to the eventual victors; Indian soldiers earned 30 Victoria Crosses during World War II.

    Now if Kirsten had been taken into confidence, he might have told Upton that martial success isn’t necessarily a great precursor of a sporting one. Kirsten could, for instance, have pointed out to Upton the lack of martial heroics of the people who’ve produced the most dominating cricket teams of the last 70 years – the West Indians and the Australians.

    Also, England ruled the world once, being the biggest of the European colonists, didn’t it? How is its cricket team regarded now?

    Kirsten might also have told Upton that the advise to the players to crank up their testosterone levels with sex may not be scientifically tenable, or prudent to a team with several married players – or, at least, not one to put down on paper and circulated.

    There’s much else that could prove useful in the vision document, but nothing really original. There is, for instance, advice on self-improvement and eating habits. However, what went into page 1 headlines in the newspapers was sex, not self-improvement. Which is understandable, for advise on becoming a better person is a bit akin to “dog biting man”. It’s no news.

    What is news is that the two South Africans in charge of the team need to work more closely than they seem to be working. Unless Kirsten, fearing another BCCI reprimand, is being economical with the truth -- which seems to be the case, especially since Micky Arthur, the South African coach, says the document is eight months old.


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