View Full Version : The secret of the red handkerchief and other stories

December 2nd, 2002, 01:24 PM
The red handkerchief peeping out of Virender Sehwag's left pocket as he bludgeoned the Kiwi bowlers all over the park was not just a passing fancy. If Steve Waugh sticks to his tattered red handkerchief like glue; if Tendulkar makes it a point to strap on his left pad first; if Gunawardene smothers the blade of his bat with kisses before every ball - well, these superstitions or call them idiosyncrasies are here to stay.
Cricket players and their superstitions make interesting study, especially in a sport that has in evolved in leaps and bounds from the erstwhile white flannels to pajama cricket. In an age when stuff like third umpires, rail cameras and designer shades has changed the face of the game, cricketers worldwide still swear by divine intervention.
The red handkerchief, nonchalantly tucked in the pockets is a classic example. Mohinder Amarnath, one of the best players of genuine fast bowling that India has produced, always had the red hanky to edge him on.
Amongst the present crop of Indian players, we have skipper Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag carrying on with the tradition. Whether the red hanky actually makes the batsmen prosper is something we will never know.
The colour red might reflect danger, confidence or any of the other trillion things that makes the batsman feel that his guardian angel is lurking around. The master of clinical and board room orchestrated cricket, Steve Waugh has also not escaped the apparently supernatural appeal of the red handkerchief.
The red cloth that he has been carrying with him for years whenever he takes guard now bears a battered look. But 'Tugga', as the Aussie skipper is affectionately called, is loath to part ways. And the same goes for the old baggy green cap that he refuses to budge from his head.
Rahul Dravid 'The Wall', is as careful about putting his right foot first in the ground when he comes in to bat as he is about playing copybook cricketing shots. The energetic and full of beans Reetinder Singh Sodhi has a one-point agenda before going in to play - He religiously goes through the Japji Sahibji before every match.
Nikhil Chopra from Delhi just has to have yellow or a black colour splashed somewhere on his attire before he goes to play! India's hero against Sri Lanka, Yuvraj Singh, believes that the bandanna that he now wears beneath the helmet apart from looking quite becoming on him, has actually worked wonders.
Former Indian captain, Mohammad Azharuddin was a stickler for circling his head twice before taking strike and flamboyant Kris Srikanth used to snivel his nose and saunter towards the square leg umpire after facing each delivery!
The superstitions are not limited to India alone. Mark Waugh always raises his collar as he walks onto the field We have all seen Sanath Jayasuriya go through the elaborate ritual of touching all his cricket equipment before taking guard. So much so that even after tearing the opposition bowlers apart, he continues to pat his pad and adjusts his helmet after every ball he faces.
And who can forget Roshan Mahanama muttering a mantra and then kissing the tip of the bat's handle every time before facing a ball! Allan Knot was in the habit of touching the bails before taking strike. Cricket folklore has it that in the Oval Test in 1971, Farokh Engineer kept guard over the bails not allowing Knott to touch them and hey presto! Knott got out cheaply.
Anil Kumble fondly remembers how Sachin Tendulkar used to come running, take Kumble's pullover and hand it to the umpire during the Delhi Test against Pakistan. Sachin believed that the exercise would get Kumble a breakthrough. And what a breakthrough, Kumble registered a perfect 10, claiming all the Pakistani wickets and guiding India to a historic win.
Interestingly, every time Sachin took the sweater and gave it to the umpire, Kumble got a wicket! Whatever the talismans, the quirks or the superstitions, cricketers round the world take their rituals seriously and if it helps their cricket well who can complain!