I can visualise the disappointment, that unfathomable feeling of being cheated, engulfing the cricket following majority in the Valley the moment they realised Parvez Rasool was not in the final Xl in India's last match against Zimbabwe. By contrast to this dejection, the mood in Rasool's home-town of Bijbehara was one of celebration and one could detect a sense of pride and fulfilment, despite their anti-India sentiment, a few days before India embarked on their tour of Zimbabwe. New television sets were being acquired, faulty ones were being repaired, and all in preparation of watching Rasool in live action.
They were patient and understanding of Virat Kohli's selection of the Xl in the first three One-dayers, knowing fully well that the first priority of the team was to ensure a series win. After India did that with ease against a team which would probably be no match for even a Ranji side, they looked forward now to Rasool's debut. That Kohli, the in-your-face captain, chose to ignore only Rasool and no one else on the bench has left them shocked and, one may assume, angry at one more example of India's injustice to the Valley.
Was Rasool not good enough to find a place in the team against a side which had been steamrolled by India 4-0? Not good enough to be played in the final encounter, which India could not have lost by any stretch of imagination, given the sub-standard quality of the Zimbabwean team?
Kohli obviously did not think so given the fact that he felt insecure in disturbing his "bowling balance", the reason he chose not to pick Rasool. Team selection is his prerogative. He seems to be obsessed with not losing, typified by his obdurate defiance and questioning of an umpire's decision even after he was ruled out twice (the second time on the third umpire's confirmation). Any other player, leave alone a captain, would have been severely reprimanded for this breach of sporting code and ethics, but he is the India captain, and no one dares take on the India captain.
There are defenders of Kohli's decision to let Rasool keep warming the bench. When players much superior to him have waited in the wings for years, why make Rasool an issue?
Well, when you have rested a few key players, and picked rookies against a side you know the team could and should experiment, it defies cricketing logic to keep just one man from playing. Shouldn't the same logic of not disturbing the "bowling balance" have been applied to the promising swing and seam bowler Mohit Sharma, who did play the last two matches?
Well, Kohli is a cricketer and not a politician and should care a damn if Omar Abdullah tweets and politicises the issue, though all he is doing is expressing the sentiments of the Valley.
After all, sportsmen are one-dimensional creatures and in the present age behave like robots programmed to win at any cost. They and most of our ilk are not supposed to know of what CLR James wrote in "Beyond A Boundary", a book that explores the West Indian identity linked to its cricket: What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?
James had twisted a Rudyard Kipling line from his poem "The English Flag": What do they know of England who only England know? In our context I would twist this further: What do they know of India who only India know?
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.