The curse of the oval pitch?

A pitch is like a second home to players. When they insult it in a drunken stupor, revenge is round the corner; or so it seems.

It was not long ago that Alastair Cook and his men landed in Australia as the firm favourites to retain the Ashes. In what has been a magical transformation, Mitchell Johnson and Australia have ensured that the hallowed symbol of supremacy travels back, well in time for the Christmas celebrations.

The loyal English fans might well be wondering whether the distasteful act of their players on the fantastic as well as fateful night of August 25, 2013, has anything to do with this debacle.

After winning the series 3-0, the Englishmen uncorked the bubbly, their cup of joy overflowing. Then the dreadful thing happened: the players were so ‘high’, they decided to relieve themselves on the Oval pitch.

Though they tendered an apology once they were sober, the pitch has probably not forgiven them. The consequence: the Ashes was lost in the first three Tests itself.

Contrast the English players’ behaviour with that of Sachin Tendulkar’s. The Mumbai legend’s final act of a long cricketing journey, which lasted 24 years, involved the pitch.

Once the farewell celebrations concluded, Tendulkar walked up to the Wankhede wicket, bent down and paid obeisance. The fact that he wouldn’t be heading back to his ‘second home’ anymore touched Tendulkar so much, his eyes turned moist.

This, on a day when he was calm and composed, and showed that his way with words was as good as that with the willow, rendering a rousing speech befitting a monarch.

It was the 22-yard strip that had made Tendulkar the king and he acknowledged it with the moving gesture before packing his bags forever.

As for the Englishmen, all is not lost yet. Maybe, they can seek the Oval pitch’s pardon, promising never to repeat the deplorable act.

R. Narayanan