Mumbai Indians' comeback, match-fixing and the beautiful thing we call 'sports'
It has been a fairy tale weekend, a weekend full of comebacks, with scripts so sensational that it made me fall in love with sports all over again. First Yusuf Pathan setting Eden Gardens ablaze and single handedly snatching the second spot from CSK for KKR, then Sergio Ramos helping Real Madrid script a monumental comeback over their city rivals in the Champions League final and then the one to top it all; Corey Anderson and Ambati Rayudu (with little help from James Faulkner) accomplishing the finest run chases of recent times to help Mumbai sneak into the IPL playoffs.
It has been a treat for the fans and more so for the neutrals. When supporting your favourite team/player you often tend to miss out on appreciating the opponent or the game as a whole because passion succeeds sanity. But when that pressure of wanting your team to win is off you, you tend to yearn for closely fought encounters.
Supporters, neutrals all took to social media to praise Yusuf bhai, to bask in the glory of Madrid's Champions league triumph, to feel sorry for the spirited Atletico Madrid and to question the credibility of Mumbai's over the top victory over Rajasthan.
Yes, the dreaded 'F' word was thrown about a lot and that more or less tainted the heroics of Corey and co. I wouldn't blame the fans much because they have obviously been hurt by the fixing scandals that have mauled the game for some time now. But it seems to have blurred their thought process too. Any match that goes down to the wire or any instance of poor display of skills by a player is looked at with suspicion.
Close finishes are always labelled as 'Fixed matches'. Wasn’t shortening the game time, and getting interesting finishes the purpose of T20 in the first place? In a tournament comprising of 60 games at least 20-25 odd games are going to go down the wire. People need to understand this.
Pressure forces you do to funny things. So when a player of Faulkner's calibre misses his length in a crunch situation, it is not because the match is fixed, it is because pressure got the better of him. Any person who hasn't played in front of a large crowd wouldn't know what sort of tricks pressure can play. It can make the best of the players look silly. I, for one, had the privilege of playing Table Tennis (for my college, state) in front of 70-80 odd people and even that was not easy.
Standing there all alone, taking all the encouragement and the abuses of the crowd and trying to focus on the game in a tight situation does take a lot of mettle. The brain stops working and sometimes you just cannot control your actions. At the end of the day, the one who handles pressure better wins the game. Today, Tare and Rayudu won their battle against pressure while Faulkner succumbed to it.
Instances of spot-fixing have been reported and the accused have been punished but I refuse to believe that entire matches can be fixed.
Fixing an entire match would have to involve almost all players on the field. You cannot fix an entire match with the consent of just a couple of players. All bowlers have to bowl badly and almost all fielders have to mess things up. Getting the consent of all players on the field is highly unlikely. It could be hard to believe but not all players are in for quick money. Some do aspire to play quality cricket and represent their nation someday.
Do you think people of Mukesh Ambani's stature would risk their reputation by jumping into the dirty pool of match-fixing? I believe reputation matters the most to them, everything else can follow. Why would they splash about money in order to fix matches and put their image on the line? IPL trophies would come and go but what matters most to them is the age old Ambani name. Mukesh just wouldn't be willing to sacrifice that for the little matter of an IPL playoff spot.
Spot-fixing, showbiz and the money thrown about in the IPL has led people to believe that entire matches are 'scripted'. I think the fans need to think a little clearly and not let a few stray incidents affect the way they feel about the game they love. Fixing scandals have, happened in football too, close encounters happen in football too, impossible comebacks happen in football too but rarely do I see any fan raising suspicions about the credibility of the game?
Spot-fixing has been carried out in the past but BCCI and the IPL's governing body have taken strict measures in order to keep the game clean. What we as fans of the game can do is to stop speculating each and every movement of the players. Everyone makes mistakes. A good fielder dropping a sitter or an experienced bowler bowling dollies in the final over does not mean that the match is fixed, it just means that on the day, the stage got to him.
Also, the emotions that the players expressed after the match. The pure sense of jubilation on young Tare's face, Rayudu's tears when he could not get 2 of the penultimate ball and that look of dejection on every Rajasthan Royals players face. Could all that be a lie? Are all of them such amazing actors, who despite already knowing the outcome of the game reacted in such an extreme manner?
Crazy things happen, Netherlands too chased down a similar target in the World T20. Life takes you to unattainable heights when you have nothing to lose. Mumbai Indians took advantage of that and pulled off a miracle. Let's for once just clear our brains and see how lovely the sport is. How unpredictable and full of emotions can it be. The Wankhede last night was a sight to behold.
Anderson played a blinder, Rayudu played the perfect cameo, Watson had a shocker, Faulkner lost the battle against pressure, Tare held his nerve and in the end as Ravi Shastri says, cricket emerged the winner. Let's just think straight and let's stop being sceptical about every match. Well played Mumbai.