Dhoni's boys, and modern jazz

Updated: 08 June 2013 14:22 IST

The four boys on stage were closer to Virat Kohli in age than they were to any of us. Most of those watching were also young, and it didn't seem as though they were casual listeners either. As is often the case, we're so quick to pass judgment on the young.

Half an hour after the finishing touches were given to reports on India's 26-run win in the Champions Trophy opener, two former colleagues and I found ourselves inside Cafe Jazz, attached to the Sandringham Hotel on St. Mary Street. My interest in jazz is cursory, and my knowledge rudimentary. It's also dated. I can recognise the first bars of Django Reinhardt's finest, and am familiar with the best of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Ask me about modern jazz though, and I'm as clueless as a tailender up against a Wasim Akram yorker.

"Fifteen years ago, people were saying that jazz is dying out," said my friend with a glance around the packed club. "They were saying the young generation has no interest."

The four boys on stage were closer to Virat Kohli in age than they were to any of us. Most of those watching were also young, and it didn't seem as though they were casual listeners either. As is often the case, we're so quick to pass judgment on the young.

What does any of this have to do with cricket? Quite a lot actually. Look at the team that beat South Africa, and compare it to the side that took the field at the Wankhede Stadium on April 2, 2011. No Tendulkar, no Sehwag, no Gambhir, no Yuvraj, no Harbhajan, no Zaheer.

These were not just any players. All six would be strong candidates for a place in an all-time Indian ODI XI. It was increasingly clear after that World Cup triumph, however, that India had to stop living in the past. The most ruthless decisions were all taken over the past six or seven months. Tendulkar aside, not one of that illustrious group has retired. They were all asked to step aside.

During the five-match series against England in January, MS Dhoni outlined his philosophy. "It's very important to think and go in one direction, not only as coach and captain but also with the selectors, because at the end of the day, we decide who is the best available talent," he said. "You have to give those guys a bit of rope."

And look at those he backed. Shikhar Dhawan's sensational hundred came in what was only his sixth ODI. Rohit Sharma was persisted with despite widespread calls for him to be jettisoned. Dinesh Karthik was playing his first game since August 2010. Ravindra Jadeja, though only 24, has been mocked more than any player in the history of the game. Umesh Yadav was winning his 18th cap. Only R Ashwin, who took Harbhajan's role, could be termed experienced, and even he hadn't played 50 games.

In the press box, while the game was going on, I didn't hear any mention of Tendulkar. Nor were there any passing references to Sehwag and Gambhir. When Jadeja was flailing 47 from 29 balls, no one piped up to say: "Wish Yuvraj was here". Sport, like life itself, moves on, even from the greats.

Nostalgia is hardly an Indian affliction. Welsh sport lives on it. I defy you to try watching a British Lions game in a bar frequented by the older generation, and last the 80 minutes without at least a dozen references to legends like Barry John, Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett and JPR Williams.

It's human to do so. I know that I can't sit through a great session of fast bowling without comparing those on view to the West Indies quartet that I idolised. Whenever someone praises the smoothness of Dale Steyn's action, the default response is: "But it's not exactly Michael Holding."

There's nothing inherently wrong with that, so long as we judge those of today by the circumstances of their time. Dhawan may well get first-ball ducks against West Indies and Pakistan. Yadav and Ashwin may not pick up more wickets. But they are the here and now, the best India have got in terms of form and fitness. And if you trust in them like Dhoni has done, the results can be beautiful.

As for the jazz, it was wonderful and quite unlike anything I'd heard before. It helped that I stopped hoping for the Hot Club and Honeysuckle Rose.

Topics : Cricket ICC Champions Trophy 2013 MS Dhoni Virat Kohli
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