As India’s World Cup campaign begins, the only people quivering at their bowling attack are their fans. Even the team’s most fervent supporters will be taking the optimism, of defending the cup, stemming from Gru from Despicable Me India coach Duncan Fletcher with a pinch of salt (and a large glass of Bloody Mary). India needs to rethink their strategy on how the bowlers can get wickets. What can the likes of Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami, and Ishant Sharma do to make their efforts count? Or rather, what can they be good at? What can they practise day and night to turn their weaknesses into strengths? Not any kind of bowling, of course; not line or length or pace or variation. These will always stay our weaknesses. Instead, they must learn to sledge. They must use their good Indian education of learning by rote and rehearse opposition-specific, razor-sharp ripostes that will leave their rivals riled and rattled to a point where – if all goes to plan – they won’t be able to negotiate the gentle, wide of off-stump deliveries that are served with a side of bacon. The jibes must be precision missiles, designed to strike where it hurts most. And, so, here is the plan-of-action, country-by-country.
The Indian team has spent two months in another hemisphere without a single win. At least, it gave them time to study the opposition’s techniques. Sledging techniques, that is. Imagine the Indians’ surprise when David Warner affronted the entire team with mere gestures and words and the very next day went on to publish an anti-sledging book for children. India’s feeble attempts to counter were met with utter dismissal, with Warner asking Rohit Sharma to “speak in English”. This could well be the precise the strategy they need to adopt: master the Queen’s English and confound the Aussies with eloquence, all in a thick British accent. Instead of saying, “You’re ugly David”, go with “My dear Mr Warner, we’re empathetic of your consternation for your repugnant countenance. Care for a spot of tea?”
One of the few teams India will always bully, no matter the state of the game. Suresh Raina’s average against Bangladesh in ODIs is 101. If you really want to mess with Bangladeshi heads, get UmeshYadav to wave off their jibber-jabber and tell them to “speak in English”.
England remains the only team with the distinguished reputation of being sledged by an umpire. Phil Tufnell once asked how many balls he had left in the over, and Peter McConnell — Australian, obviously — shot back, “Count them yourself, you Pommie ba***rd.” So, picking on the Poms should be no problem. Attack their team composition: “Hey England, can’t find a captain from your own country? Hang on, with players of Indian, Pakistani, Irish and Zimbabwean descent, are you playing in the World Cup or are you the World Cup?” Or, try cuisine: “Hey England, when we said chicken tikka masala gives you the runs, we didn’t mean in cricket.”
History has shown that in the case of Pakistan, it is they who must sledge first. That seems to get Indian players to respond instinctively, giving it back straight from the heart. No rehearsals necessary. Javed Miandad mock(hopp)ing Kiran More in 1992; Aamir Sohail showing Venky Prasad where he’d hit a boundary in 1996; Wasim Akram smiling and shaking Tendulkar’s hand in 2003 after the latter had hit what he called the best ODI innings of his career (still can’t figure out that conspiracy). Always the same result: India has never lost to Pakistan in the World Cup.
vs South Africa
Easy. The entire Indian team should perform an a cappella song, but instead of singing they should make up a tune with only gagging sounds. MS Dhoni can beatbox from behind the stumps before physios rush out thinking Ishant – who’s been clutching his neck, croaking, and staggering around – has turned into a zombie. That should take care of the chokers.
vs Sri Lanka
Unfortunately, Kumar Sangakkara’s IQ alone is more than that of all the players at the World Cup combined, so India will have to be wary. There is hardly an insult that won’t meet a suave repartee accompanied by a Mozart soundtrack. Plus, the easy targets – the fatties – have all vanished from the Lankan squad. Instead, perhaps we can strike a bargain: take Jacqueline Fernandes back and maybe they can go easy on us.
vs West Indies
Viv Richards is often credited for the best comeback ever. After Greg Thomas said to him, “It’s red, round and weighs about five ounces, in case you were wondering,” Richards hit the next delivery for a six into a river and responded with, “Greg, you know what it looks like. Now, go find it.” But, the glory days are behind West Indies now. Even cricket boards are sledging them. The BCCI sledged the entire team by making an impromptu decision to fly them across the world and humiliate them by serving them up as cannon fodder for a “farewell series”. You hold parties with cakes and balloons for farewells. You don’t throw 11 grown men into a hostile arena with the crowd baying for blood. Cakewalk.