A leaked secret dossier from the Indian cricket team’s conditioning staff prescribes good sex as a pre-requisite to good performance on the field. Any takers?
Take this two-part quiz.
What is the most depressing form of dismissal for an Indian cricketer during a match? A: Getting run out. That’s an easy one, because no cricketer prefers to be sent back to the pavilion for what is — in most cases — a silly misunderstanding with his batting partner, quite unrelated to any lapse in batting technique or temperament. Now the trickier second part: What is the most depressing experience for an Indian cricketer off the field? A: Ditto. Running out — of bed partners!
To be fair, the memo also included tips on healthy eating, personal discipline, and history of war strategy as applied to cricket, apart from sex and sporting performance. But like all good journalists, the scoopy Hindustan Times reporter focused dutifully on you-know-what.
“From a physiological perspective, having sex increases testosterone levels, which cause an increase in strength, energy, aggression and competitiveness,” the memo said, adding that the players should even consider going solo in the absence of appropriate company, i.e. if there was no maiden to bowl over. In less academic street lingo, it simply meant: have sex before hitting a six, a bonk before you tonk the ball.
Quite aptly, the last goofy word on the memo came from Rajan Zed, a Hindu Indian American who has created history of sorts chanting Hindu prayers in several state senates as well as the U.S. Senate. Zed called for Kirsten’s resignation claiming he had attacked India’s moral fiber, since the country’s cricketers were role models for its youth. On second thoughts, Zed’s protestations may not be so goofy, after all: turns out he is the PRO of the Hindu Temple of North Nevada, and needs all the publicity to raise funds for a new temple. What better target than a firang who officially advocates fornication in the land of ancient Hindu wisdom, and never mind if the first known research thesis on the subject — Kamasutra — was written in admirable painstaking detail by an ancient Hindu sage, Vatsyayana.
Clearly taken aback by the uproar, Kirsten denied any involvement in Upton’s dossier, even invoking his “religious and moral beliefs” to bolster his denial. He convinced nobody. Equally clearly, the two non-Indians involved in the controversy — Gary Kirsten and Paddy Upton — have yet to complete their Indianization. The rule here is simple: Don’t say anything provocative in writing. Virtually every captain-manager with whom I have travelled for my club eleven ended the evening team meeting after a hard day in the field with a wink and a sign-off command — go boys, hit the town! You knew exactly what the old man meant, and you never ever imagined getting it in writing.
Which is why the entire episode has left cricket veterans amused. Whoever dared to accuse Indian cricketers — and, to be even-handed, sportsmen from any country — in any era to be models of celibacy or sexual propriety? At the height of his fame, tennis great Bjorn Borg expressed his distaste for on-court doubles matches with the classic line: “Mixed doubles is something you play off the court.” Legend attributes at least a couple of broken beds to English cricketer Ian Botham on his overseas tours, and Pakistani playboy-cricketer Imran Khan acquired the reputation of scoring as a Bollywood stud. At the behest of the canny Aussie businessman Kerry Packer who started the glam-show of cricket under the lights, Khan often gave television interviews wearing T-shirts that provocatively proclaimed: “Big Boys Play at Night”.
One must report with professional satisfaction, if not with patriotic pride, that Indian cricketers have not lagged very far behind. The late Dilip Sardesai, himself an epitome of rather staid middle-class values and more prone to indulge at the bar and at the buffet table, once revealed an unspoken (and naturally, unwritten — Gary Kirsten, please note) age-old rule of Indian cricket: No girl or woman, unless she is the wife or confirmed fiancée of a fellow cricketer, is off limits for any player in the dressing room. In other words, dates are fair game for prying eyes and worse.
What trickles out in the media is the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Celebrity reporting of this kind mandates a glamour element whose threshold is met only when Cricket meets and mates with Bollywood. And so the Tiger Pataudi-Sharmila Tagore and Mohammed Azharuddin-Sangeeta Bijlani marriages, the Mohsin Khan-Reena Roy marriage and breakup, Vivian Richards with Neena Gupta, and even the boorish Ravi Shastri bonding and splitting with starlet Amrita Singh make news. Conversely, the Polly Umrigars of the 1950s and 1960s, the Gundappa Vishwanaths of the 1970s, the Sanjay Manjrekars of the 1980s and 1990s, and the Rahul Dravids of the current generation are viewed as oddities: good — and therefore, by Page 3 definition, boring — boys who play and score only on the field.
But there may be a cruel irony to all this wildly pleasurable off-the-field activity. According to a famous cricketer, who later turned team manager, cricketers are most in demand for attending late-night parties and enjoying female company when they are in the news spotlight — i.e. during a match or a series. But that is precisely the time when they should be in their peak form, for which they need to rest and discipline their lifestyle. “And, let’s face it, as you fail to score on the field, your chances of scoring off it plummet as well,” he lamented.
So, does the Kirsten-Upton mantra really work? Discounting the impropriety of committing such advice to paper, what does one make of the advice itself? For the record, India lost miserably to Pakistan a few days after the secret memo was issued.
The broader debate however has raged across centuries. In 77 A.D., Pliny the Elder, a Roman historian, contended that sluggish athletes could be revitalized by love-making. The ball that he set rolling has yet to come to a conclusive halt. Interim research has raised questions about its efficacy based not only on the kind of sports but also the kind of sportspersons. Since the studies have measured testosterone and, as we all know, testosterone is the reason men are men and women are women, where do the female athletes figure?
One is inclined to believe that every sportsperson — particularly at the professional level — better know, as a crucial part of the pre-event preparation, how his/her body works or does not work in the face of external stimuli: be it the weather, food, drink or any physical activity, such as sex. And maybe the international football coach Clemens Westerhof had a point when he said: “It’s not the sex which tires out the guys, it’s the staying up all night looking for it.” Touche.