Cricket and the comparison cactus!
Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the site.
I came across an article where the headline was “Is Pujara the next Rahul Dravid?” The author had compared the first eleven Tests of Pujara and Dravid and tried to show that we had unearthed a new Dravid. After 11 Tests, Dravid’s average of 48 and one century faded against Pujara’s average of 67 and four centuries.
You may call it impatience on my part or the high expectations I set from any article but I will put it down to my jealousy. That’s a human trait and believe it or not, I am human. I hardly like the article written by others, hardly. To satiate my ego, I try to find out the flaws in the logic given.
I tried comparing records of a few Indian batsmen in their first eleven Tests – Sachin, Sehwag, Ganguly, Pujara, Amre, Dravid and VVS Laxman. Vinod Kambli’s record in his first 11 Tests was far better than any of the others. He averaged 80, Sachin averaged 39 and VVS averaged less than one third of Kambli. In his first eleven Tests, Kambli had four hundreds, including two double hundreds, Sachin had just one hundred, VVS had none. In fact, if not for terrific performances in the much hated and ridiculed domestic cricket, VVS had a strong case for being dumped forever.
So what does the Pujara-Dravid comparison tell? Absolutely nothing.
In fact what does comparing players of two different eras tell you?
Actually this comparison is what snatches away the joy of enjoying the present. All of us are big fans of Sachin. I am no different.
But one of the reasons I could enjoy Sachin’s batting, apart from the fact that I followed him in my formative years, is that I didn’t have to compare him with anyone. I didn’t have anyone.
By the time I started following cricket, Gavaskar’s retirement was more than two years old. Other names were good but not great – most of them were anyhow in the last stages of their respective careers. Sanjay Manjrekar was as new as Sachin and Azhar was still trying to cement his place – after a terrific debut, he had gone through quite a long not-so-good period.
So actually, for me, there was no comparison. I could enjoy Sachin’s batting without burdening myself with the theory of relativity. I could enjoy Kumble demolishing oppositions without having to compare him with Chandra.
When Sachin scored only two half centuries in his first series, I didn’t have to compare him with SMG’s 774 in his debut series – I had no emotional connect with that. When Kumble failed to dislodge tail-enders, I didn’t know how Chandra would have ruled them because I didn’t know how he bowled. When Sachin batted with all the protection gears, I didn’t have to compare him with Tiger Pataudi who batted with just one eye – for me he was some cricketer people termed as great. When Kumble didn’t turn it square, I had no ways of finding out how Subhash Gupte did it.
I had no past to compare. My present was all I had and I was happy with it.
Unfortunately, we don’t have that luxury now. We have been witness to greatness for more than a decade now. We have seen Sachin showing his immortal side, Dravid showing what determination means, VVS showing what made him so special, Kumble proving how accuracy and discipline can make you a truly great bowler. Even the world had not seen anyone like Sehwag.
They are the idols we have grown up with. We didn’t have the burden of history to compare them with. Our present was perfectly fine.
Unfortunately, all but one idols are gone. Unfortunately, we are still in that past. Coming back to the present isn’t that easy especially if your past has been memorable. It takes time. There is always a lag.
We will compare. It is human to do so. It is human to compare and be unhappy about your present – very often that’s the driving force for progress. If you are always happy with your present, your progress may never happen.
With every defensive stroke Pujara plays, we will compare his body position with Dravid’s. With every crisis situation Kohli handles, we will compare how VVS would have guided the tail better. With every start Rahane gives, we will compare how dominating Sehwag would have been. The worst is yet to come. Wait for the day when Sachin hangs up his boots, we will be comparing even our morning bowel movements– how good they used to be when he was playing and how constipated you have become now.
It is okay to compare when unhappiness derived out of it can make a difference. Why to compare when it isn’t going to matter?
The problem with such comparisons is that it is never an “as is” versus “to be” comparison. In reality, it is always “what was that would have been” versus “as is” comparison. The problem is that while comparing, you set a bar measured by “what was” and whenever “as is” manages to touch that bar, “what would have been” pushes it higher. So your “to be” is never satisfactory.
This is the problem we will face now. We have a past to compare with our present.
The problem with such comparisons which are not on equal footing is that they always leave you in an unsatisfied state.
Imagine yourself enjoying a candle light dinner with your sweetheart. What if someone comes and tells you “You know that four foot tall, ugly idiot who use to stink like ammonia? He scored a night with the hot chick you were fancying”. You would surely like to use the same candle, which was the light of your dinner, to set the world on fire. What would have been kills the happiness of your present.
Imagine yourself sitting in the lavish cabin in your office and flirting with your hot secretary. What if someone comes and tell you “You know that moron who couldn’t get a job in campus? He is running his own business these days and is a billionaire”. You would surely give your piece of mind to the very same hot secretary. What would have been eradicates the opportunities of your present.
You will always find someone or something to compare with and make you unhappy. We humans have a tendency to search for the “Mirror of Erised”, sit in front of it for hours and be unhappy. We are humans.
My question is – why to search for such mirror if it is surely going to make you unhappy. Why not simply avoid it?
The problem our generation faces is that we need to start afresh. Being hung up about the past will never make it easy. The secret to handle this problem lies in stopping the comparisons. Simply stop it and enjoy the present.
A Pujara will never become a Dravid. By the way, a Dravid would also have not become a Pujara. There’s no point comparing VVS’ gentlemanly qualities with Kohli’s middle finger. Watch them, follow them, appreciate them and criticize them on a standalone basis, not relatively. Relativity will not make any sense.
If you are so hung up on comparisons, compare Sir Jadeja’s performance with Kallis’. After their first three Tests, Kallis’ record doesn’t stand half a chance against Sir’s.