Saturday, 29 September 2007

Misbah’s misery and Gatting’s loneliness

Mike Gatting must be a relieved man.

Since he played that outrageously fluffed reverse sweep to hand over the 1987 World Cup to Australia, Gatting spent the subsequent two decades fending the simple questions “Why, Mike, why?”

After a prolonged loneliness, Gatting finally can take heart now that he has a company in Misbah-ul-Haq.

Coming back after a three-year gap, poor Misbah did everything right in the Twenty20 World Cup final until a rush of blood got the better of his sang froid. He went for that scoop shot that ballooned up only to find S Sreesanth at short fine leg. Pakistan were to finish bridesmaid.

In all probability, we won’t see Misbah scoop again. He must have touched the willow and vowed to banish the shot from his repertoire. Despite all his heroics in South Africa, Misbah runs the serious risk of going down to cricket history as the poor chap who came agonizingly close to break Pakistan’s long-standing jinx against India before a moment of madness did him in.

Misbah was not to emulate Miandad, that street-smart, street-fighter who, some 21 summers back, hit Chetan Sharma for a last ball six to leave a dent in the psyche that India took years to overcome.

I have this uncanny feeling that both the World Cup finals – the 1987 Australia-England and the Indo-Pak Twenty20 summit clash -- cricket took its sweet revenge.

Both Gatting’s reverse sweep and Misbah’s scoop shots are common in their deep contempt for custom. It defies tradition and throws the copy book out of the window. Both stand for wickedness that goes in the name of improvisation, a necessary evil arising out of the art, science and commerce of ODI batsmanship.

Both the hideous shots have found ample practitioners in Pietersen to Nixon (reverse sweep) and Misbah to Uthappa (scoop). But in the end, it was poetic justice that the same cheekiness, the same contempt for custom boomeranged! The shots that fetched them loads of runs, brought their peril too. And both came in the summit clash for the Holy Grail of ODIs. Indeed, cricket hit back with vengeance and the timing could not have been better!

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