World this week – my perceptions and similar views

Posted on

I haven’t had enough time during the last couple of days to complete the newsletter. As usual, an interesting topic is getting ready this time too. Meanwhile, I did manage to read through many topics during my reading time. Surprisingly I found a few among them worthy to pass on here. They were carrying similar messages to what I wrote in the recent special editions of our Team 1 newsletter.

Indian Cricket and state of mind
One such article was a write up by Mr. Shashi Tharoor in the Times of India. Cricket has a big fan following in the sub-continent with almost about 60% of TV viewers watching cricket (the nearest contender in other sports activities is soccer with 15% and Hockey and Tennis in the range of 14% viewership). So no wonder he decided to write something on it.

It was written just after the defeat of India in the ongoing Cricket Series with England. His temptation to see, in Indian cricket, metaphors for larger issues in our national life (secularism and diversity, for instance) is often irresistible. He warns us that this is one to which he has succumbed in the past — even while being conscious that one should always be wary of making too much of anything that transpires on that theatre of the fleeting, the sports field.

Here again, Indian pace bowler Sreesanth is coming into picture. In January, in one of his write up’s Mr. Tharoor wrote about Sreesanth’s reaction to the South African paceman’s attempt to intimidate him — encapsulated, He hopefully argued then, all that is different about the new India: courage, assertiveness, a refusal to be cowed, a willingness to take risks and ultimately the confidence to stand up to the best that the outside world can flung at us — well beyond the cricket field.

He now realises that he spoke too soon. He adds on that he has just spent the better part of five days watching India’s cricketing leaders sell themselves, and the country, short at the Oval. After piling up a lead of 319 in the first innings, Rahul Dravid declined to enforce the follow-on against a demoralised and all-but-beaten England team. Dravid, a man he used to respect, sought to justify this pusillanimous decision by claiming his bowlers were tired.

This, despite the pace bowlers having had a good night’s rest before the end of the England first innings, and having bowled barely 20 overs each in the previous day. He has infor from reliable sources that our bowlers were in fact raring to go: the disgraceful decision was not theirs but was sought to be pinned on them. There is only word for that, and it is not a pretty one.

The logic of the decision, according to its defenders, was simple: one-up in the series, India wanted to eliminate the slightest chance of losing. But there were barely two days left, and a gigantic lead: while nothing is impossible in cricket, a defeat was next to inconceivable. England had their backs to the wall: they had shown no capacity to bat through two days. They would have had to make 500 in record time to set us a target, and then bowl us out in two sessions, to win.

This would have called for such an abject performance by India with both bat and ball, against the run of play in the entire series, as to be improbable: even in a fantasy scenario for England, the best likely outcome for them would have been a draw.

But by batting again, India completely undermined itself. The drooping shoulders of the English team received a perceptible lift: then, when Indian wickets clattered, the formerly demoralised Englishmen were energised. Instead of having to bat through two days to save the Test, their batsmen only needed to survive a bit over one day. The decision also signalled to the opposition that the Indian team leadership did not have enough faith in its own bowlers to bowl the English out a second time, and in its own batsmen to chase a possible 100-run target in the fourth innings.

When you have so little faith in yourself, why should your opponents fear you? Dravid’s decision emboldened his opponents; they played in their second innings like men who had just learned that they did not need to respect their adversaries.

If this self-inflicted belittling was shameful enough, even sadder than all this was the complete lack of the will to win. The Indian captain knew, of course, that not enforcing the follow-on made a draw the most likely outcome, and he didn’t mind. As long as we can win the series 1-0, Dravid and his ilk must have told themselves, what is the need to try to win 2-0? This was exactly the sort of thinking that had abased India in the bad old days, when India routinely played out meaningless draws out of fear of defeat. By being afraid of losing, we helped our opponents not to lose.

The gutlessness of the decision was sought to be defended as one that could only be appreciated on the field of battle. “If I was sitting in an armchair,” Dravid said, “I too might have disagreed with the decision.” (By that logic every actor can reject every theatre critic’s view of his performance.) But many experienced cricketers I spoke to at the time saw it for what it was. Dravid’s own embarrassing innings of 12 off 96 balls, the slowest dozen runs ever made in the history of Test cricket, was emblematic of the problem.

The cricketer Steve James described it as a “pedestrian innings” which “portrayed a man full of fret and fear”. England, he added, “can thank the Indian captain’s timidity”.

When he wrote about what Sreesanth’s attitude betokened, I stressed that it didn’t matter that India lost that Test series, because my point was not about cricket. It was about a state of mind — a state of mind that will also change the Indian state.

What Sreesanth demonstrated in Johannesburg was an attitude that has transformed the younger generation into a breed apart from its parents’. It is the attitude of an India that can hold its nerve and flex its sinews, an India whose self-confidence is rooted in the sober certitude of self-knowledge, an India that says to the future, “come on; I am not afraid of you.”

Dravid demonstrated, haplessly, that the dead hand of the older India still clings on — an India that is afraid to take risks for fear of failure, an India without the courage of self-belief, an India that is all too willing to settle for 1-0 than go for 2-0. This is the India that did a deal with the Kandahar hijackers rather than the India that threw out the intruders of Kargil. We have the capacity to be, in any field of national endeavour, both kinds of country. But I have no doubt that the attitude I saw on the fourth day of the Oval Test is unworthy of what the real India is shaping up to be.

Mr. Tharoor ends up his note with the above feelings.

I take it up from there a little more, with my favorite character on the cricket field – Sreesanth. Although I did stop watching cricket in full because of the excellent performance record of our team, I did watch a few overs during the 3rd Test. I was delighted to see Sreesanth back in action, and he was a completely changed bowler this time around. The Sreesanth Syndrome (of doing all his routine prayers/rituals before he takes his run up or even while doing the running) was not there. He was a man of concentration and focus. Yes, and the results showed too. Eventhough he was unlucky with the wickets, he came out with excellent match figures. Many times, he was coming out with superb and unplayable balls.

This shows determination, dedication and preparation and the hardwork associated with all these three. You can never come out as a winner, if you don’t do any of these. One needs to be continuosly updated and prepared with his own skills and also aware of his own weaknesses and take appropriate remedial measures at the right time. Then only he can utilise the golden opportunity he has or when suddenly he is given a chance. That time, it is only he and his capabilities and the way he handles things matters. Of course, God’s grace and blessings are important all the time to achieve success. I wish we have many gutsy players like him, who has the guts to stand up and walk against opposition players with guts in mind and fury on eyes. Then only we will win. It is just the same way, you throw a stone at a stray dog, if it mourns and runs away, you know it is him at the receiving end, and the same time, if it barks, turn around and come running at you, you know it is your turn.

Cruise tourism set to make waves
Another interesting news item which came across was about the new policy which the Indian Government likely to introduce, which proposes service tax waiver and easier visa norms for cruise travellers (visa on arrival facilities). This is really a great news to bring in more tourists and revenue to the country.

Change your thinking to change your life

Albert Ellis, who recently passed away at 93, was one of the best known and most influential psychotherapists of the post-Freudian era. He could outperform the zaniest of Zen monks with his colourful use of expletive and sing-along ditties involving audiences packed into $10-a-ticket seminars. Like Eastern Masters whacking their lazy or stupid acolytes, Ellis too had a confrontational style: “Neurosis,” he was fond of saying, “is just a high-class word for whining.” Stop moaning, he urged his patients: get off your backside and deal with it.

In the ’fifties, Ellis’s rational emotive method of behaviour therapy challenged the far more ponderous psychoanalytical technique of Sigmund Freud, just as the Zen school of sudden enlightenment defied the older, slower mirror-polishing techniques of meditation. While Freud insisted on excavating childhood experience to go to roots of neurosis, Ellis believed that the key to happiness lay in “forgetting your Godawful past”.

His basic message — everyone has capacity for “crooked thinking” or skewed assumptions that lead to neuroses — is remarkably similar to the psycho-dynamic insights of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. What, for example, Patanjali calls vikalpa, viparya and mithya-jnana, would be equivalent to the destructive semantics of the self that Ellis uncovered with his ‘correct-your-thinking’ approach to mental health.

Following the Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus, whom he liked to quote, Ellis believed that in order to change your life, you have to change your thinking. And like Marcus Aurelius, the student of Epictetus, Ellis thought that our suffering is due not so much to the events in our lives, but to the way we interpret them. This echoes one of the great axioms of yoga — manah eva manushyana karana bandha mokshayo — mind alone is responsible for human bondage as well as liberation.

He also taught unconditional self acceptance (USA), which translates into “you always accept you no matter what you do.”

The same courtesy is extended to ‘unconditional other acceptance’, that is, “Nobody is evil, even if they do evil things” and ‘unconditional life acceptance’: “You always accept things, no matter how they are”.

These accord well with the samatvam (same in pain or gain) philosophy of enlightenment of the Bhagwad Gita: Don’t get stuck in the mud of the past, rise above it like a lotus.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s