Over 96 hours have elapsed since India’s humiliating capitulation to England on a spinning track in the 2nd Test at the Wankhede. Shock has given way to surliness, pain to melancholy. The mood in the dressing room is downcast, the swagger missing, the bonhomie non-existent. Camaraderie and boisterous chitchat, the hallmarks of the team in the midst of a home series, are now conspicuously absent, replaced by furtive glances, conspiratorial whispers, and snide remarks as the Indian cricketers struggle to come to terms with the 26/11 moment in Indian cricket – losing to England in India on a rank turner.
Ashwin is in the next room, talking animatedly over his cell phone. “Yeah, I can do better commentary than Ravi,” he is heard saying. “Of course, I’ll avoid stale clichés….what? Ability to tolerate Rameez Raja? Ummm….Yeah, I think I can.” Ojha is hunched over his laptop, furtively uploading his resume on naukri.com.
The Indian team’s think-tank comprising captain Dhoni, his deputy Kohli, rival Viru, one time rival turned buddy Yuvi, and coach Fletcher are in the main room, brooding over the loss and discussing options for the rest of the series. Suddenly, Bhajji bursts in, hollering, “Have I made it large?” The senior cricketers, taken aback by the shrill theatricality, stare back at the feisty sardar. With no response forthcoming from his audience, Bhajji bursts into tears and scampers out, screaming the same question over and over again.
“I think he’s well and truly lost it,” murmurs Dhoni, shaking his head. “Not to worry, I’ve told Irfan to be on stand-by for the Eden Gardens Test. He assures me that he has slowed down so much of late that he can bowl his off-cutters at 90 kph, which means he will be as fast as the English spinners. So we will still be competitive in the spin department and should press for a turning pitch in the 3rd Test.”
“You and your obsession with rank turners,” snaps Viru. “Abhe, lets make a flat, pitch where we can pile up over 700 runs of which I will score at least 250, I promise. Then we can bowl them out twice over by boring them to death. Time tested, fail proof formula.”
“Jab tak balla chal raha hai, thaat hai beta…” interrupts Yuvi before he is cut short by the rest. “We get it, Yuvi. Cricket is just a game within a larger game called life which can spring bigger surprises etc etc. But please spare us your spiel on the philosophy of life. Its getting so repetitive that its getting even more depressing than the loss in the 2nd Test, yaar,” pleads Dhoni.
“Oh ok, just trying to cheer you up. Whatever,” apologizes the southpaw.
“Coming back to Viru’s objections,” continues Dhoni, “I still think all we need to do make some minor changes to our batting line up and we’ll still be competitive on rank turners. And by that, I mean…”
The skipper pauses, takes a deep breath, and whispers gingerly, “dropping Him and bringing in Rahane.”
The words, though uttered softly, have the impact of a thunderbolt. Gambhir sputters the tea he is sipping, spraying a mouthful over coach Fletcher. “B****, M**8,” stutters Kohli, the first to regain his composure.
“Have you gone mad, MS? What you said is blasphemous, dude. You can go to jail for this,” exclaims Viru, shaking his head.
“Right, so you will go to Him and tell Him that He’s being dropped. Dude, stop bullshitting and lets make realistic plans,” says Gambhir sarcastically.
“Well of course, I don’t have the guts to tell Him that I want to drop Him . We all know that only He can drop Himself. But maybe subtle hints, gentle persuasion might work,” retorts Dhoni.
“Like what?” Viru asks.
“Oh maybe we can send Dravid with ‘retirement’ scrawled over his forehead into Paaji’s room. Then He will see the writing on the… Hahah.. now isn’t that funny?” sniggers Aswhin, who has just joined the rest after finishing his conversation. He has the air of a man who has successfully concluded a lucrative deal.
“Um….didn’t get it,” said Dhoni. “Neither did I. What does that mean?” adds Viru.
“Oh, you were talking about subtle hints so I… never mind,” answers Ashwin.
“Actually, wouldn’t it be awesome if we could plant the idea of retirement in his head, a la Inception. Then the great man will, of his own volition, call it a day,” sighs coach Fletcher, who has by now wiped off the tea from his face.
“Right then. Lets back to realistic planning, shall we? I say, we adopt a defensive approach for…” Gambhir is suddenly interrupted by his skipper.
“Hey guys, we just might be able to mount an Inception style operation,” exclaims Dhoni. “Rahul Sharma knows of a party-drug that lets people get into each other’s dreams and interact. Dreams within dreams, projections, even inception. I tried it with him after one of the IPL parties, and it works.” Dhoni grins sheepishly. “We just need a guy to play the role of the architect to conjure up a vivid and rich landscape and we get into His psyche to plant the idea of retirement. Guys, shall we do this?”
The boys look at each other with incredulity. Viru is the first to speak. “If this is another one of your jokes, then I’ll upper-cut you instead of the ball.”
“Trust me, dude. I’m dead serious. Are you guys with me on this?” Dhoni pleads.
They look at each other and nod slowly.”The upper cut threat still holds in case this backfires,” menacingly warns Viru.
“Hey, wait a minute,” yelps Yuvi. “I can’t believe that we are gonna mount Inception on God. Actually, I can’t even believe that we lost to England on a spinning track. What if I am dreaming all this? What if we are all in a dream after an IPL party from last year’s edition? Wait, let me check.”
Yuvi takes out his totem and spins it on the bench. All the guys stare intently at the spinning tractaroid as it completes a loop on the wooden plane, loses momentum, and eventually topples over. The boys seem a trifle disappointed.
“Right. So that’s that. Excellent. Let’s start planning the dream sequences in earnest then,” says Dhoni, once again in control of his crew.
(Continued in Part II)