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Expect the unexpected! by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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15th November 2005
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Expect the unexpected!

The first time a one-day series of more than 6 matches resulted in such a one-sided result in India, the hosts were at the receiving end, facing a drubbing of 5-1 against their arch rivals across the border, when the calendar read 1987. And even that sole win was a result of a technicality - scores tied, Qadir's goof, Srikkanth's presence of mind, a run-out and Miandad'd blow-up. But for that lone win, the series was a long drawn one, stacking up one loss over another, each day more miserable than the one before. Drooped shoulders, long faces, tired legs and shaking heads - the series never seemed to end. In spite of a couple of bright spots, in the form of Ravi Shastri's subliminal form and Manoj Prabhakar's scintillating century in the final game, the Pakistanis maintained their choke-hold for much of the series, upping the ante, every time the Indians raised their game, matching shot for shot and wicket for wicket... and more... With the loss of test series a couple of weeks before, to a whisker-like margin on a mine-field pitch, the series had a completely contrasting effect on both the teams - the Pakistanis - buoyant, and resurgent, while the Indians - down, beat and hurting.

About an year ago, the spectre of another 6 match one-day series raised its ugly head once again, and this time, it was even more painful. Not long after the burst of the Indian might in the shorterned version of the game, following a fanstastic series in Australia, leading up to the World Cup and finally icing it with a series win in Pakistan in both versions of the game, the arch rivals came back to the home turf licking their wounds, thirsting for blood while hunting in the familiar grounds. Exactly as before, the test series was decided at Bangalore, again on a mine-field that exploded right in our faces, with the tweakers once again, riding away with the glory. The one dayers started as a consolation to an entire nation that was clamoring for revenge. The first two one dayers were won handily and before the chatter of resurgence of Indian one-day game, following a wretched season, reached the press-boxes, the Pakistanis, once again, claimed the ultimate honors, beating the home side consecutively in the next 4 games, and winning the rubber, 4-2. It has taken 18 years to make amends, moving from a 5-1 to a 4-2. Much more than the consecutive losses, the rut that the Indian one day side got itself into, while playing a completely contrasting game in the longer version, seemed to baffle all and sundry.

So the stage was all set, when another drawn out one-day series has been announced, this time 7 in number, to the regular and faithful patrons of the BCCI coffers - the Lankans. The official ICC ranking tables said it all - they were the best (or at least, next to) and we were the worst (well, almost). The high drama involving the sitting captain, recently appointed coach, the BCCI elections mess, and the perennial patron-in-chief Dalmiya, just before the start of the series, all but guaranteed the result - with a little bit of luck, the Indians would end up on the other side of either a 5-2 or a 6-1, and if everything went down the drain, the result would look a 7-0, a not so surprising eventuality. The captain-coach fiasco not only ruined the morale of the team, but also brought back the dreaded camp mindset, with the players choosing one camp over the other, pitting one person against another, siding with either the captain or the coach, tearing up the much famed team fabric, that saw group huddles, pumping fists, mass celebrations and just an year or two ago. The average Indian fan braced himself for the inevitable mauling at the hands of the puny Lankans, and the even more inevitable witch hunt after the series - head of the sitting captain, nipping of the young buds and such familiar blood -letting tales.

There are only teams in the history of cricket that justify the tags - unpredictable and inconsistent, and the tags cut both ways. Even more surprising is the fact that they are cut from the same cloth, the neighbors - India and Pakistan. Unpredictability is pulling out a victory from a goose's behind, like felling a giant for 140 while falling for a 183 in a World Cup final. Inconsistency is the inability of closing out 11 consecutive finals, while reaching to that stage every single time. It so happens that unpredictability would yield Bangladesh and Kenya their first wins on the Indian soil and inconsistency would ensure that the side, which was widely believed to be receiving a 6-1 drubbing in a 7 match series would dish out a similar result to the opposite side. Every move clicked in a big way, every plan executed in a spectacular fashion, every player flourished in his own fashion, and every result more endearing than the one before. With exception to the run during the recent World Cup, rarely did the Indians have such a dream run in the concised version of the game. What is it, if not irony, when inconsistency comes to your rescue and unpredictability saves the day! In moments as these do the hearts cry out - let ye be thus always!

With the Proteans waiting in the wings raring to go head to head with the home side, the only thing that the average Indian fan can expect is, the unexpected, and like before, it can cut both ways!

Other cricket related articles by Srinivasa Kanchibhotla
From the Ashes, it rose!
It is progress ... DAMN IT!!!
Ghosts of Chinnaswamy
Congratulation Message to Indian Cricket Team
Resumption of ties
Rock, rock, rock it again!
Tour full of negatives

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