Those are sane words - heard normally from one of the game's mostly misinformed greats. Which is why it is surprising when one reads the byline accompanying these words. Even though I believe that the circumstances leading to this quote could have been avoided (from both sides), let me take you back in time to the year 1999 to demonstrate why this particular comment riles me up.
Exactly 7 years and one week ago in Chennai, on January 31, 1999, India lost the first Test of their two Test series against Pakistan. This particular Test match shall forever be known to every Indian cricket fan as a story whose positive end was so near and yet turned out to be so far. For some people in Chennai, that Test match shall be the one that sealed the reputation of the crowds at Chepauk for being the most sporting of live audiences ever. But to me, the Test, particularly the last day, will be a milestone dripping in infamy - the day when Sachin's back began asserting itself and when Mongia's wild hoick against Akram with so few remaining to be scored changed derailed India's fight-back. While these incidents are all that most people will remember about the Test, personally I will never forget one particular ball.
Now, most people talk only about Mongia and the subsequent failure of Sachin and the tail to score those precious 17 runs. But if you ask me, I think the deed was done much earlier. For, I am of the firm opinion that the vital balls/wickets that change the complexion of a game are always the ones that come at the start of a innings. So if you lost a game by one run, don't blame the late order batsmen, but blame the top half of the order for not scoring that vital run.
Similarly don't blame the misfield at the fag end of the innings, but the reprieve earlier. Don't blame that run out that claimed the 9th wicket, but blame the umpiring error that caused the premature demise of number 3.
So, it all happened on the 4th (and what turned out to be the final) day. I did not see the match live. But I remember lying flat on my belly in my hostel room and listening to the radio commentary on AIR. Twenty three overs into the final day, India were with their backs against the wall. Earlier that morning, Dravid had lost his off bail to Akram and Azhar had fallen cheaply too, lbw shouldering arms to Saqlain, while Ramesh and Laxman, the openers had already been cleaned up by Waqar the previous evening.
With Tendulkar looking rock solid at the other end, in walks Ganguly as India are down to the 5th wicket (and last remaining) pair of specialist batsmen, still requiring 191 runs to save the game. But Sachin is soon frustrated, with only 9 runs coming in the next 10 successive overs bowled in tandem by the Saqlain - Afridi pair. And then comes the shocker, the memory of which exposes Moin Khan as a man possessed by double standards like the worst of us. I will let Cricinfo's Travis (Basevi?) describe what transpired in his own words (as part of the ball by ball commentary).
41.1 Saqlain Mushtaq to Tendulkar, no run, a step forward, aggressive shot, played to midwicket fielder
41.2 Saqlain Mushtaq to Tendulkar, one run, bounces and spins a lot, turned to backward short leg, quick run
41.3 Saqlain Mushtaq to Ganguly, no run, short ball, cracked very hard at silly point fielder. both silly point and short cover turned their backs. the ball bounced off silly point's back but short cover was not ready either turning his back too
41.4 Saqlain Mushtaq to Ganguly, no run, pushed to offside
41.5 Saqlain Mushtaq to Ganguly, OUT:
India 82/5, Partnership of 9
SC Ganguly c **** b Saqlain Mushtaq 2 (25b 0x4 0x6)
Saqlain Mushtaq 14.5-5-19-2
Ganguly cracked this ball to ohard at silly point. the ball off his body fell down and diving **** caught it off the ground very clearly and Dunne gives him out! this is clearly not out according to TV replays
Now, I saw the replays during the evening news and what I saw clearly corroborates Travis's version of what happened. Ganguly's defensive stroke off the front foot hit silly-point and one could see the ball bouncing on the ground before being pouched by ****.
Guess who "****" is? It is the same man who has been quoted in the first para of this post. Lets see what more he has to say.
A captain needs to stand tall and handle situations, specially when they come in critical stages of the game and I think, Dravid has not only let himself down but also his team. I am dead sure that if Sourav Ganguly would have been the captain, the matter would have been defused tactfully and sportingly.
Ummm.. Moin, if I remember right, you were also the vice captain, that day in Chennai! So now, 7 years thence, you are qualified to comment on Dravid's integrity as a sportsman?
I understand that according to the laws of the game, Inzamam was out and if he does not know the laws, then it is not the fault of the law but Inzamam himself. But my point is that there are several cricketing laws that we don'?t follow because they are not considered within the spirit of the game.
You need to watch yourself, Moin. For, upon reading what you have to say, if they did not know even as much of cricket as I do, someone might start to wonder if you are a Nobel Laureate.
Batsmen don't run for singles or twos when the ball is deflected off their bodies or bats from throws, batsmen pick the ball and throw it to the close-in fielder or the bowler when it falls close to them. So much so, when Greg Chappell told his brother Trevor to bowl the last ball under-arm, it was also within the laws of the game.
So, now it is Chappell's integrity you are questioning? Hmm, wonder what qualifies you. Let us see. What were you doing in Calcutta, barely 20 days later, when Shoaib (while glancing over his shoulder to see Sachin sprinting toward him at the non striker's end) took a step backward calmly plonking himself firmly on Sachin's path, forcing Sachin to run wide (a few extra steps) to avoid him and getting him run-out in the bargain. Did you say something about your own team's insistence to win, hook or by crook. Even if we just assume it was a honest mistake from Shoaib, why did you, the magnanimous clean character you are, not rescind your appeals (in both Sachin's and Saurav's case). I saw that on TV, Moin.
I fear history might not forgive Dravid for his poor captaincy and unsporting attitude. After all, we have still not forgotten the acts of the Chappells, have we?
Yes, Moin, history might not forgive Dravid, if his captaincy was judged to be poor at the end of his career. His tenure is just a few tests old, but every other "expert" has praised his captaincy these past few months. But hey, I forgot. You are the "all-knowing guru", aren't you?
Anyways we have certainly not forgotten about the Chappells, but neither have we forgotten you. And lest YOU forget, a lot of Indians (in fact, let me add the Englishmen to this list too) have forgotten neither your un-sporting attitude nor your chaffing demeanor on the cricket field. Were you not the captain who resorted to moving your fielders after every single ball, and that too making these from mid pitch, seemingly in deep discussion with your bowlers, under fading light at Karachi in 2001 against England when they were fighting to win the test on the fifth day. I saw that too, Moin.
And in case you want to know, this was the verdict from one of your own countrymen (writing for the Dawn) after that Karachi Test match
...Moin Khan's captaincy and wicketkeeping (was) far from satisfactory.
Without taking any credit from England in this Test, Pakistan's batting proved disgusting, their bowling pathetic, fielding horrendous and Moin Khan's captaincy and wicketkeeping far from satisfactory. Saqlain Mushtaq picked up three wickets but conceded 64 runs from 17 overs.Moin Khan showed that he needed a lot of experience before he can command his men in the field when he made senseless bowling changes. ...
Moin, let me stop now. I think I have made my point. I hope you read this and I also hope to get a chance to remind you of your on field shenanigans every time you conjure up something similar.
(P.S: What the hell was the New Indian Express thinking when they were giving Moin a chance to comment? When will the Indian MSM learn? If this is how they are going to function, looks like I will be making more such posts here!)