On Expecting the Expected

Ever since it became apparent on the second day of the first Test in Ahmedabad that New Zealand weren’t in fact going to be crushed into dust by India, as everyone and their grandmother had predicted, I’ve been giving Dileep Premachandran a hard time for this article. (Mostly because he called Chris Martin “ready for the knackers’ yard” and anyone even casually familiar with me or this blog probably knows that suggesting Chris Martin is anything less than completely awesome is, in my opinion, punishable by torture and execution.)

But.

Truth be told, I was predicting the same thing everyone else was. I believe my exact words were “Vettori’s 100th Test appearance for New Zealand is going to be a nightmarish, bloodstained massacre.” If I felt any ambivalence I disguised it well.

I love New Zealand (yeah, not news, I know). I have a massive amount of faith in their players. I know that they have an uncanny ability to come good when appearing totally down and out. The fact that the spellcheck on WordPress still doesn’t recognize ‘Zealand’ as a word AS IT IS DOING RIGHT THIS FUCKING MINUTE sends me into a mini rage spiral. Still.

It was impossible not to. One of the oldest cliches in cricket is that anything can happen, but that’s sometimes just not true. Put Canada into the field with Australia and there’s a 99.99% chance that you could correctly predict what would happen. It’s like the lottery: technically, yes, there is a chance of winning, but you have a greater chance of being struck by lightning, twice, in the same place on your body at the same time of day while wearing the same 6 items of clothing. After the Bangladesh tour, with India coming off beating the mighty(ish) Australians 2-0, it would have just been unrealistic to think that the Kiwis – in a Test series no less (statistically the format in which they have been least successful in recent times) – would be anything other than woefully outmatched. They no longer had Bond or O’Brien. Their batting lineup was shakier than a house of cards on a seesaw in an earthquake. They had just emerged from a series in which they had failed to win a single ODI…against Bangladesh.

If the New Zealand team were a horse, it would have been taken behind some sheds and shot as an act of mercy.

There is very rarely anything nice about being proved spectacularly wrong, but (as England fans who were around in the 90s and early Aughts will attest) there’s nothing better than the team you love winning when you had prepared yourself for them to lose. It’s SO much better than an expected win. It more than compensates for the contrasting feeling – losing when winning should have been a foregone conclusion. It may in fact be one of the best feelings there is for a sports fan.

Shane Bond has said publicly that he’s always hated the ‘underdogs’ tag New Zealand have long been saddled with for this very reason, that they were expected to lose and winning was a bonus. And I agree with him. It’s not healthy for the team to think that way. It’s probably more than a little pathetic for the fans to constantly think that way. But it’s so hard not to, when it means that you occasionally get to experience this feeling. Because, for real, it feels fucking fantastic.

Or maybe I’m biased and the feeling is heightened for me because my long-beloved Chris Martin took 5 for 63 when certain people-who-will-not-be-named-except-that-their-first-name-rhymes-with-Felipe-and-their-last-name-is-Premachandran had written him off as old and past it. It’s possible.

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  1. #1 by Hiten on 15/11/2010 - 10:09 pm

    Tosh. Felipe does not rhyme with Dileep šŸ™‚

    As I get older and more handsome in a craggy sort of way, my love for cricket keeps growing. I think a large part of it is cricinfo. The large cash infusion that resulted from the ESPN acquisition has led to a smorgasbord of fascinating features that I can’t get enough of. Test cricket has become my favorite form of the game, and I actually look forward to S Rajesh articles!

    However, I still find it hard to enjoy the game without the patriotic element, i.e. I can’t watch an entire game in which India isn’t playing. I was at the FIFA World Cup this summer, and it was an incredible experience, madness. However, the sang-amour, the life-and-death type of feeling I feel when I watch India play Oz or Pak, was missing. And I feel jealous of you and your ilk who can feel it for the neutrals.

    I enjoy your blog, but not as much as your photography, because your blog seems irate, while your photos seem very optimistic šŸ™‚

    • #2 by reina on 16/11/2010 - 3:50 pm

      Watch the cragginess there, cowboy. If you’re not careful you’ll go straight past ‘Paul Newman’ and slap bang into ‘Clint Eastwood.’ šŸ˜›

  2. #3 by Gautham on 16/11/2010 - 5:22 am

    I can tell you how it feels when you expect the team to lose the 3rd ODI, after Aus scored a massive 350+ and then the Black Caps were what, 5 down for 100-ish, and you shut down the laptop, go to sleep, only to realize the next day you missed the aunt of all one-day chases by apna own McMillan… sigh… I tell you, I was gutted that I gave up on them.

    But then again, one can’t change for the one-off matches, majority of my teens was spent in watching them lose from one strong position if not another stronger position. They’ve always done well, ahem, coming from behind.

    I am glad so far. I just hope that they draw this one series, reclaim some pride and hold their heads high in front of the Indian and Aussie cricket teams.

  3. #4 by stany on 17/11/2010 - 6:29 pm

    AWESOME STUFF..!!

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