A Season Of Second Chances

Redemption and reformation are often terms that are used in the context of damage control or to get things BACK in order when things have gone badly wrong.

As the dust has settled on the 2015 World Cup and the Indian Premier League has drawn to a close, various nations are getting back to their course with respect to Test cricket and bilateral one-day series.

No doubt each nation in this interim period uptill 2019 will be rebuilding their teams and set-ups in order to prepare for the next World Cup.

And a new order has been established in the cricketing world with Australia and New Zealand having built up strong units, while other countries like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and England are likely to undergo some metamorphosis in terms of rebuilding their squads over the next four years.

As this process of rebuilding commences around the cricketing world, a few individuals and countries have also gone back to the old order of operating with respect to its functionalities.


Zimbabwe's tour of Pakistan has been warmly praised

Zimbabwe's tour of Pakistan has been warmly praised
©REUTERS / Action Images

The biggest breakthrough of this year has no doubt been Zimbabwe’s acceptance to tour Pakistan.

Not only has it brought unprecedented joy to Pakistani fans, but also reiterated the fact that everyone in life deserves a second chance to make amends.

Without doubt the cricketing fraternity had been justified in boycotting to tour Pakistan as an aftermath on the heinous attacks that were made on the bus of the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009.

Considering at a time when Pakistan was already going into isolation as far as hosting international cricket events in their country was concerned, the Lahore attacks on that fateful morning of March 2009 acted as the final nail in the coffin with political leaders like Imran Khan making scything criticism of the security arrangements provided by the PCB and government of Pakistan.

Kudos also goes to the Zimbabwean cricket team (who partly out of lack of adequate financial securities) have agreed to play in the country once classified by the British as the North West Frontier Provinces.

The unassuming joy on the faces of the countless audiences who thronged the Gaddafi stadium this Friday to witness the first T20 International between Pakistan and Zimbabwe, just serves as a gentle reminder that cricket often serves as a balm to the countless trials and tribulations that people go through everyday coping with the vagaries of everyday life.

As an audience, I am sure there were countless debates on the fact as to whether touring Pakistan was justified or not. Honestly speaking, I will not comment on whether the Zimbabwean cricket board has been correct on sending their team. But as an observer of cricket, one must salute the spirit and courage that Team Zimbabwe have expressed by lending their hand of support to Pakistan.

Harbhajan Singh

Harbhajan Singh has earned a recall to the Indian national team

Harbhajan Singh has earned a recall to the Indian national team

Not very far from Pakistan, the Indian Premier League just concluded in India, with Mumbai Indians registering a thumping victory at the Eden Gardens earlier this week.

One of the chief architects of Mumbai’s resurrection in the tournament (after the most disastrous start one could ever imagine), was India’s ace turbanator -  Harbhajan Singh, who has been lying in cold storage for the last two years.

The story of Harbhajan Singh’s career runs a striking parallel to the journey of Mumbai Indians in the 2014 edition. Having made his debut in 1998, Harbhajan Singh became a hit at the cricketing box office in the historic series against Australia in 2001. His rise in the team as Anil Kumble’s spin twin partner reached giddying heights in 2011, when India became world champions.

However, post 2011 his career hit a road block as injuries and poor form gripped his performance, ultimately resulting in his omission from the Indian team after the disastrous 2011 tour of England.

Though he made a few sporadic comebacks against England in 2012 and against Australia in 2013 (against whom he played his 100th Test), MS Dhoni’s evident preference for Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja ensured that he didn’t board the plane for the 2015 World Cup.

However, his gutsy performance in this year’s IPL and a changing of the guard with Dhoni having resigned the Test captaincy has found favour from the new selection committee who have given him a thumbs up for the tour to Bangladesh.

As an Indian team fan of the noughties which saw the emergence of Harbhajan Singh from a lanky teenager to the turbanator, one hopes his career gets one final wind sail before he calls it a day.

Harbhajan Singh’s comeback is a salute to the triumph of the spirit of a sportsman who has defied age and logic to make a comeback, when his other illustrious colleagues like Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag seem to have passed their prime.

I am sure Bhajji’s comeback will also serve an inspiration to the likes of Yuvi, Viru, Gambhir and Zaheer to make one final attempt on bowing out on their own terms with a bang and not the fancies of a captain or a selector.

Ashish Nehra

Ashish Nehra has enjoyed a resurgence in the IPL

Ashish Nehra has enjoyed a resurgence in the IPL

Another player who has defied age in this IPL, to stamp his class has been Ashish Nehra who still seems to generate the same pace on docile Chennai wickets as he did in Durban 12 years back.

Nehra’s performance certainly turned the clock back and brought countless smiles among cricket followers like us who grew to admire the aggressive brand of cricket that Saurav Ganguly brought to the table by bringing people like Nehra and Zaheer Khan into the helm of the Indian cricket fraternity.

One just hopes that Nehra is given one final chance to stamp his presence in the Indian team before the commencement of the T20 World Cup in the country next year.

India deserves Ashish Nehra as much as Ashish Nehra deserves the Indian jersey. While the likes of Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami made an impressive display in Australia, but on crunch occasions like the semi-finals, India missed the calming influence of a death over/power play specialist – the role filled by no one better than Ashish Nehra

The Unfortunate Hero – Kevin Pietersen

Kevin Pietersen

Meanwhile, Kevin Pietersen remains outside of the England team
©REUTERS / Action Images

While the likes of Pakistan, Harbhajan Singh and Nehra seem to have got a second innings to get on with life and their cricket careers, Kevin Pietersen's heroics in county cricket still don't seem to have done enough for him to mend relationships with the ECB.

Given the rough history that KP had with Andrew Strauss (many believing in him to be the mastermind behind his retirement), the KP story seems to have seen its last chapter with Strauss (now Director of Cricket at the ECB) who cited trust issues as the main factor for KP’s non inclusion in the squad against New Zealand.

As a neutral observer of cricket KP has won countless fans in India too, given his exploits at the Wankhede in 2012 (I was blessed enough to be there!) and Headingley against South Africa (152) in the same year.

Certain mavericks need special care and treatment. Leaders like Imran Khan and Saurav Ganguly got the best out of such players. One just feels KP too deserves that second chance in order to mend bridges that got severly burnt in the 2013-14 series against Australia and after the release of his autobiography.

Maybe as an emotional supporter one does tend to take it a bit too far. But every relationship deserves a second chance. Be it a marital relationship or a friendship, misunderstandings do happen.

What is important is to sort out those misunderstandings as that is the real test of one’s humility and patience. Or else the consequences of the ego clashes is often borne by other members of the family like your children and other near and dear ones who love you.

The people of England do love their cricket as much as they adore KP. Nobody enjoyed England’s ouster from the World Cup which was as much as due to KP’s backlash as with the ECB’s rigidity about not accommodating KP on grounds of non-cricketing reasons.

In a season of redemption and reformation, as of now it appears KP has been the only one not to be given that second chance. Love and friendship deserves a second chance. Kevin Pietersen and English cricket deserve a second chance.

© Cricket World 2015