“You are wrong sire! I did not have to pay for my life, I inherited it from my parents free of cost, but my job came at a dear price, I cannot afford to lose it for the sake of that free thing,” replied the batman.
The comedy noir shows a vital aspect of the Bengali, especially middle-class urban life. The joke was probably synthesised from the similar anecdotes of Kolkata, where middle class Babu culture dominated for over the last two centuries, and myriads of sociologists and anthropologists pointed out this ‘content as a mediocre clerk’ philosophy as the core principle of the modern, educated, urban middle class of Bengal.
But how on earth this characteristic is even pertinent in the discussion of ability in a cricket match?
For that we have to go through science, sociology and historic evolution.
David Epstein in his seminal work- The Sports Gene- has shown among other things three important factors as deciders of achieving sporting success. Body type, genetic trait and aspiration to win are pivotal to getting success in sports but there are also two very important things- enjoyment and ability to take the risk for high return.
As a matter of fact, for certain sports, the last point becomes the most crucial difference maker just like in some business ventures.
Cricket for over a century was not a high-risk sport. The game, a non-contact sport, embodies and built upon the Victorian ethics, used to build its suspense gradually. The five-day game seemed so slow that apart from English colonies, namely India, Caribbeans and Australia, others rejected it vehemently.
And if we dissect the game like a business venture, we find in classic Test cricket there are only three assets- runs, wickets and time. For a batter his wicket is paramount and barring extremely rare cases trading it off for the sake of run was tantamount to high-risk affair.
The irony is, the people who used to take high risks aka the free stroking batters have been the superstars of the game for the crowd since its inception but the traditionalists used to treat them as outlaws.
In short, Test cricket was like the business of land-owning elites-- cozy, classy, slow-- as tenacity, tradition and temperament were the key to success.
Like many other things, the old aristocracy of cricket was shattered and the game brought a new dimension in the name of limited-overs cricket. And the biggest difference was the revaluation of assets. As the number of balls became limited so scoring runs even by trading off wickets, which seemed heresy once, became the norm.
However, still the premium is very high for the wicket. There are still just 10 wickets and 300 balls so not only the price of wicket is still very high but also the old mindset of preserving wicket and go slow often becomes the most effective strategy.
But the real change occurred when the game was really shortened. With T20, the number of wickets for a side is still 10 but the number of balls were reduced just to 120. The ratio got low enough not to plan by overs but ball by ball.
“Test cricket is affair of elites, ODI is like middle-class and T20 is like the adventure-loving people who just want enjoyment in their life to the fullest,” said one of the cricket connoisseurs during a chit-chat at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium.
That is where our initial joke comes in. T20 is not for those people who are ‘content with a clerical job’ mindset. It is the game for those who love taking risk for the sake of yielding high returns. There is no place of prior status quo, getting set and building a safe platform to hoist. Every ball is vital here and one must be aggressive from the word go.
Recently Bangladesh T20 consultant Sridharan Sriram, who worked with Australian side, hinted an interesting point. While talking about Afif Hossain he said the Bangladeshi batter has the quality of hitting from the very first ball unlike the other Asian batters who takes time to settle and hence waste valuable assets in T20.
Not only Bangladesh, Indian batters also did the same even during the crunch semifinal match. And they showed the second important aspect, respecting the status quo.
The prime example was the wicket of Rohit Sharma. He struck a boundary of Chris Jordan but conceded two bot balls before getting holed in off the fourth ball of the over. He and his opening partner KL Rahul, who take time to get settled, are brilliant one-day players and big names but their style one must say totally unacceptable.
However, as in the sub-continent dropping big names is tantamount to transgression and people are owed with personal achievement rather than team cause, they have been surviving and piling up runs. Unfortunately the mindset of average and total runs, the vital aspects of ODI, are not helping the cause.
For India, another thing is endless pressure. Even the new generation players like Suryakumar Yadav, who are seen as fearless in IPL and in lesser international games, somehow feel the brunt and fail. They also become scared of failure and their numbness resists them from being fearless.
One may wonder how then India won the very first World Cup of the format. The men under a young Mahendra Singh Dhoni were actually extremely lucky. India by then did not take the format seriously and sent a very young side sans big names. As a result, they were fearless and eager to make their name with nothing to lose mindset.
Now, the question may come, Bangladesh and India both are falling prey to their ‘clerical’ mindset. What about Pakistan? They are in the final after all.
Mercurial Pakistan are in the final mostly thanks to their endless pool of pace bowling. In short, the country, for geographical, historical and cultural reasons have been endowed with the blessing. But again, they are not under immense pressure like their neighbours and they also showed how they break in a crunch situation in last tournament.
That in brief shows why the people in this part of the world will always fail in the shortest version, unless they shrug-off their ‘mediocre’ attitude.