In a world where people seek instant gratification and the fruit of patience is disregarded by all and sundry, one effective way to shoot to stardom and acquire instant success is to challenge the worth of the ‘League of extraordinary men’, people who have already earned the tag of greatness.
We have had instances in past where people have breached all codes of conduct and showcased their infinite stupidity to the world, the latest contribution being made by Dickie Bird. Dickie Bird happens to be the latest addition to the list of people who have selected a ‘Dream XI’ for Test cricket.
Just to set the context right, here is how the former International Umpire filled the blank sheet given to him.
Dick Bird’s Greatest Test XI: 1 Sunil Gavaskar, 2 Barry Richards, 3 Vivian Richards, 4 Greg Chappell, 5 Garfield Sobers, 6 Graeme Pollock, 7 Allan Knott (wk), 8 Imran Khan (captain), 9 Dennis Lillee, 10 Shane Warne, 11 Lance Gibbs.
Now if you are an avid sports lover and have been following Cricket since long, then there’s something about this list which gives a sense of uneasiness, a semblance of something egregiously wrong. I am not a big statistics fan, but leaving out the top ten run getters in the history of sport when you had the option to choose them is nothing short of utter foolishness.
This folly will become more prominent once Dickie’s team will be stacked up against worthy opponents like the Bradman’s XI; who for sure won’t be happy with Bird for leaving him out.
It’s interesting how this hypothetical battle of giants pops up so many other questions as to what is a perfect evaluator of a player’s performance, and what is that one governing factor that defines a player? To put into Tolkienesque terms: Might there be one factor that rules them all? But let’s keep that aside for now.
The point that I want to convey is the number of runs scored by an individual is one big factor in the appraisal, as the runs being amassed by an individual is a sign of talent and longevity complementing each other; and so is the number of wickets for a bowler. What twenty-eight years of being a spectator at the non-striker’s end could not teach Dickie comes as more of a common sense to most of us.
And if the above was not a serious crime, how do you justify leaving out a man with an average touching 100, a man who is the only one to have touched the magical figure of 400 in a match or, for that matter, a man who has 51 Test centuries against his name? Bird’s hypothesis should be ridiculed and dismissed as a chance at fame.
Citing reasons that Barry Richards would have gone on to break all records had it not been for Apartheid looks all mushy since extrapolating small performances over a long period never works in cricket. By that logic, Vinod Kambli would have been vying for a Bharat Ratna.
When we choose people we do so based on their performance and not on raw talent. It has never been about how many runs Vaughan would have gone on to score or the number of scalps Shane Bond would have picked; it has always been about the runs Tendulkar has scored and the wickets Murali has taken. One simply does not predict a career from debut performance.
The only plausible reason why Dickie did this is because he learnt a valuable lesson from memoirs of certain retired cricketers. Taking cheap shots at one of the world’s best would land you amidst the twitterati, the glitterati and the literati.
Leaving out SRT from his team made sure that the list got a billion views the day it got published, Lara’s exclusion brought in some more eyeballs from the Caribbean and whoever was left turned to the list when the number three in the list did not read Don Bradman.
Dickie probably got what he wanted and this post is a testimony to the fact that I fell for his trap; but what he lost en-route is the respect he had earned from standing for countless hours underneath the scorching sun witnessing the game we all love from that envious distance.