THE UNPREDICTABLE GAME
- By Capt. P. Alasingachar
[Capt. "P.A.Char" was a fine opening batsman, much renown for his on-side play. Scoring centuries was a habit for him, much of the steel of his mind and muscle both displayed in the act as much as his famous handshake which probably rates as one of the tightest! He would not tolerate a weak handshake to which he would immediately react "like a dead snake?" He worked as a Physical Education Teacher at the RIE after he had his stints at the reputed NIS, Patiala. He is a fitness buff. A good tennis player too. This is an article that holds good on any day. He was born in 1924.]
Cricket has been a game of unpredictability. The unpredictable factors are weather, ground, opponents and individual's skills, personality and mental poise.
The game is centered round the batsmen. The fielding side is there to take them out. The fielding side, consisting of bowler, wicket-keeper and nine others strategically posted, poses varieties of challenges to the batsmen. One factor of importance in batting is the striker's vision - his perceptual ability. As the striker faces the bowler delivering the ball he has to bring in numerous subtle and rapid reflexes in order to play the ball - forward or backward, to drive or pull, cut or glide or even block it. When the ball leaves the hand of the bowler, in the air, towards the striker, he will not be in an ideal position to appreciate the pace or speed of the ball until after it has started dipping. The accommodation of the eyes to focus the ball sharply starts a fraction of a second later - possibly when the ball is about six metres from the striker. When the ball is about two or three metres from him, his binocular vision is disturbed for a fraction of a second - called The Blind Spot, and he regains the focus a little later when the ball is much nearer to him. In the presence of the swerve, swing, spin, dip or float of the ball the striker's vision is put to a greater strain leading to a greater unpredictability of the total situation - consisting of behaviour of the ball and striker's possible responses viz., body alignment in line with the ball, the arc of the swing of the bat, offering the broad face of the bat and application of force to hit the ball or muffle its force to block it.
The best of human reactions in such a context is about one thousandth of a second - called "The Reaction Time" but most of us have either not cultivated that sharpness or blessed with that gift. The reaction time is not adequate to make the right judgment and subsequent reaction. There, definitely is another element which is called upon to function and that is intuition.
lnspite of so many possibilities of failure why is cricket such an enjoyable game? This is because the element of unpredictability reduces the gap between Novice and Expert. This factor takes the enjoyment beyond technical excellence.
The reduction of the gap between novice and expert is also due to a fact that the game does not brook any pride. The proud player is at once pushed down to the bottom and reduces him to a helpless spectator as it were. This ultimately makes him respect the unpredictability and become humble. Cricket is a great leveller.
If something is totally unpredictable we accept it as "an act of God or fate" but if it is partially unpredictable then we are disturbed and a poised acceptance alone is the outcome. Most of our tensions with others and even with ourselves are due to this lack of graceful acceptance. This lacking leads us to distortions of expectations and self evaluation. We start blaming and 'sledging' - a defence mechanism' - a personality factor.
This is where cricket becomes a sound school for character. It prepares us to face situations positively with humility and prepare us to enjoy the process rather than the outcome. The game of cricket is a character building institution.