Beards have ultimately won not one but two series against New Zealand this year. While the bearded team won all the five test matches, the one-day series was won by three matches to two. The last One Day International (ODI) at Visakahpatnam must have been very disappointing for the New Zealanders. They lost it by as many as 190 runs, a stunning defeat – all because of too many bearded men in the field?.
One was left wondering whether this superlative performance was because of the sudden growth of fizz all around in the Indian camp. New Zealand are actually not quite the push-over in so far as the game of cricket is concerned as they would seem to be from the results. To beat them so thoroughly, particularly in the five five-day test matches needed, one thought, much more than cricketing acumen. One wonders whether it was the new facial that the Indian brigade landed on the grounds with that did the trick. Never in the history of cricket in India had so many bearded men taken to the field to play the gentleman’s game. This time almost everyone barring one or two sported lush and well-cultivated black beards and luxuriant mustachios.
Out of the 19 named for the tests with New Zealand as many as thirteen sported beards – some shaggy and others really lush. There were some unlikely team members who also took to growing good, healthy looking beards. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, for one, was never the one who could be expected to raise that healthy growth. But he did and sported a good lush beard – probably inspired by the skipper Virat Kohli. Even Ravi Chandran Ashwin, that unlikely Tamilian, displayed the unexpected fungus along with Umesh Yadav who, not to be left behind, fell in line with the team spirit and could manage a kind of stubble, somewhat like a wild and widely-spaced under-nourished, draught-stricken growth. Murli Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, however, took the cake away being virtually unrecognizable in their thick well-groomed fizz that seemed to have been fertilized with heavy doses of urea and potash.
As an aside, one must mention the legendary Dr. WG Grace who used to display a massive flowing beard. A cricketing legend in more ways than one he excelled in batting, bowling and fielding. One wonders whether those superlative qualities were born out of the best beard ever witnessed on the cricket pitch. A 19th Century cricketer he used to represent England along with his two other clean-shaven rather undistinguished brothers.
Among the fresh faces for the final two ODIs Dhawal Kulakarni and Hardik Pandya also displayed facial hair. While Dhawal’s was sumptuous and made him look more like his fellow Mumbaikar, Ajinkya Rahane, Hardik’s was no match. No wonder he was dispensed with in the final ODI having been rather undisciplined in his bowling in the fourth ODI. One wonders if it was because of lack of care in raising a good-looking growth that matched the heft and carry of a speedster.
A bearded team seems to have been a kind of a totka for Indians. Unfortunately, I could not get the English equivalent of the word. The online dictionaries have been of no help, frankly confessing that it is not yet on their database. In Hindi totka is associated with superstition. It suggests that if you did a certain thing in a certain manner you were more likely to do well. Many cricketers, including the God of Cricket, Sachin Tendulkar, believed in it. It could mean putting on the left leg-guard before the right one or vice versa. It all depended on the player to determine which act of his before commencement of a match actually resulted in better performance. Perhaps, landing on the cricketing middle with beards, too, is a “totka” pushed by the skipper, MS Dhoni and his deputy, Virat Kohli, both of whom have lately given up their hairless visages.
If beards could win cricket matches, why have it against the players. It does seem to do wonders to them. Let’s all revel in beards and clap the team on to more and more successful exploits on the cricket pitch at home or abroad.