Pampered, Privileged Prima Donnas in Spineless World Cup Surrender

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Team India - Spoiled, Pampered Prima Donnas

ON DRIVE with Sham Samaroo
November 24, 2023

If for a moment there you thought this was about today’s generation of emotional misfits, you could be forgiven. Our society seems to have raised a generation of mental midgets for whom simple, everyday challenges become traumatic experiences crying out for counseling and therapy. As an educator for the past 38 years both at the high school and college level, I watched daily in disbelief how this insanity is nurtured endlessly. If a student gets a poor test grade, counseling is needed because Tommy cannot handle the stress of a failing test. It gets better.

As a supervisor you are constantly mediating between a teacher and an irate parent demanding a higher grade for their child. Teachers are made to jump through hoops to justify a grade. Even after completing that Olympic routine, the teacher is confronted with the default excuse: “My child feels you do not like him”. It’s no longer about failing grades, missing home works, or incomplete assignments, it’s about feelings. Spoiled, pampered, and special privileges made him a star through high school. Naturally the student expects same in college. And why wouldn’t he? So when life throws up a few routine surprises, or a different result from what he wanted, colleges bring in therapy dogs and play dough to help him cope with the “trauma” of disappointment. Soon society has another generation of namby-pamby adults unable to cope with the “pressures” of simple everyday challenges. And we expect them to compete with their international counterparts? Dream on.

Hopefully by now you realized that the Indian cricket team is sports equivalent of today’s namby-pamby generation. How else could one explain this helpless, hapless, hopeless performance from the best team in the tournament? And let’s be fair, they were the best by a country mile. But these prima donnas are also spoiled, catered to, made excuses for, and given every privilege. Not only by the BCCI, but by almost every sportswriter, commentator, and expert looking to get on board the gravy train. You heard the daily commentary. On cricinfo – the game’s foremost web portal, two of every three articles ask “leading” questions: Is Team India unstoppable; Greatest ODI team ever; Most prolific batsmen; Most lethal bowling attack? These pompous prima donnas heard this so often they actually believe it. Is it any wonder they struggle with the normal pressures of a WC final? They expect everything to be handed to them, just like today’s namby-pamby generation.

Tendulkar, Dravid, and Dhoni in the nets at Lords July 20, 2011

In the finals, Sharma and India were off to the races, 80 plus in the power play, the highest in the tournament. Two quick wickets brought a momentum change, nothing out of the ordinary mind you, and panic set in. This team, the “best “of all times; the one that ran up scores of 357, 326, 410 and 397 in their last four matches batting first, now could only manage four boundaries in the final 40 overs. After Sharma’s dismissal, a mere five boundaries in total were scored, two of them by Shami and Siraj. Spoiled, pampered, privileged. At 81 for 3, Kohli and KL Rahul, two of the tournament’s most prolific scorers crawled to a 67-run partnership eating up 18+ overs. They managed just one boundary between them coming after 16 overs. In other words, these two giants of ODI played out 100 balls without a boundary. How did Australia handled the pressure after slipping from 41 for 1 to 47 for 3? Head and Labuschagne steadied the ship for a few overs before Head took on the bowlers with Labuschagne in test mode. He went after Shami, the tournament’s leading wicket-taker; smacking him for back to back fours before launching Kuldeep for a massive six. Head took the game by the scruff of the neck. This was high pressure batting. Yes, it was high risk but with high risk comes high reward. Of course, if you are batting for personal glory and records, you avoid high risk. You just knock it around for a 109-ball 67-run partnership with one boundary.

The tournament saw the adulation and idol worshipping of “King” Kohli. Kohli fans please don’t start throwing statistics as yet. There is an individual who sits beside him in the dressing room whose dirty socks “King” Kohli is not fit to wear. His name is Rahul Dravid. My friends, I saw Dravid batting at Lords in 2011. Meh Jesus, in overcast conditions Anderson and Broad were scything through the Indian line up. I sat behind the bowler’s arm. After the ball was released it wobbled in the air from middle to outside off, then reversed direction after hitting the pitch, or just held its line. Dravid was Mr. Ice. Born to rule the storm like Casabianca on the burning deck. His cover drives were liquid gold flowing across the turf at Lords. An undefeated ton while all his compatriots about him fell. That’s how you handle pressure: something that these prima donnas seldom faced because they were often given special privileges.

Now for some stats. “King” Kohli debuted when India was already a formidable test and ODI team. Yet since 2013, the year Tendulkar retired, India have not won a major tournament. They lost the test championship in the summer. Do you remember how they got there? They had a four-test home series against Australia and could not afford to lose more than one test. What happened? Ravi Shastri boasted he hoped the wickets turned from ball one. He got his wish. Spinners took the new ball. Spoiled, pampered, privileged, and catered to by BCCI. Are we starting to understand why they cannot handle pressure? The previous final in 2021, they lost to the Kiwis. In 2017 another final defeat to Pakistan in the Champions Trophy. Both in the 2019 and the 2015 World Cups, India were knocked out in the semifinals. Please check “King” Kohli’s scores from each of those games, and then let’s talk stats. That’s called performing under pressure, or not performing, as it were. So let’s continue to salute “King” Kohli. He is the King of personal records, but to date has won nothing. Judging by his repeated failures in major tournaments, to call him King of nothing is giving him too much credit. He is King of less than nothing.

India lost the WC finals, not because of the toss, the pitch switch, the dew, or captaincy. These may have played a role but what about all the other tournaments. The real reason for the repeated failures at the final hurdle is that these pompous prima donnas, groomed in a sport culture of privilege and accommodation, pampered and spoiled, will regularly be found wanting when called upon to perform under any sort of pressure. And that, my friends, is all she wrote.