Monday, March 25, 2013


As some runs are said to be more valuable than others in cricket. Arguing a few weeks ago that Ronaldo should be given the Ballon d’Or award for 2012, although in La Liga 2011-12 season, he scored fewer goals than Messi, Mourinho, the Real Madrid manager said that Ronaldo’s goals led to Real Madrid winning the La Liga title in the aforementioned year, whereas Messi’s didn’t. And La Liga, he stressed, is the toughest league in the world. In one of his programmes on NDTV, the former Australian cricketer Dean Jones had observed that although Sachin Tendulkar had scored more runs in test cricket, Ricky Ponting’s runs were in a sense more valued than his because Ponting did not play against weak cricketing countries and accumulate relatively easy runs. That is, some runs are less valuable than others. In football, going by this logic, a goal scored against a relegation-threatened team  in the English Premier League is less valuable than one scored against Manchester United. Recently Ricky Ponting said that Brian Lara is a greater cricketer than Sachin Tendulkar because Lara’s contribution led to match victory more often than did Tendulkar’s. Thus if one scores a double century but the team loses the match, it is at best merely an individual’s achievement and does not amount to much. It has often been said that Rahul Dravid has been a greater “impact player” than Tendulkar. Kapil Dev’s 175 against Zimbabwe in the 1983 version of the cricket World Cup is among the cricket folklores because it changed the course of the match, which India won. In that match Kapil had come to bat when India was 5 wickets down with about sixty runs on board. If victory of the team is all that matters, then Italy, the 1982 World cup winners was the best team of the tournament, but many connoisseurs have always felt that Brazil which lost to Italy in the pre-quarter finals was the best team in that tournament. Was Argentina really the second best team in the 1990 world Cup? It was a team that was determined to win the Cup, and adopted a strategy that would teach a thing or two about defensive play to Mourinho today.

Let us now consider the matter of defeat in a team game such as football and an individual’s responsibility for it. Could one say with sound justification that Zico was responsible for Brazil’s defeat in that team’s quarter final match against France in FIFA World Cup, 1986, because his failure to score from the spot led to his team’s defeat? Can one hold Sachin Tendulkar responsible for India’s poor show in the current (2012 home series in India) test series? Or for that matter, captain MS Dhoni? Can one hold Ronaldo responsible for the defeat of Portugal in the semi-final of Euro 2012 for keeping himself for the last attempt during the penalty shoot-out? Reportedly it was his choice. Now if Real Madrid’s winning the La Liga crown last year could be attributed to Ronaldo’s goals, why can’t he be held responsible for Portugal’s defeat? Why can’t his failure to score goals be viewed as the cause of Potugal’s defeat in the 2010 version of the World Cup? That is how this great player’s contribution would look like if one buys Mourinho’s logic. Would Messi have been able to score so many goals had he not been supported by such outstanding midfielders as Iniesta and Xavi in particular? Blaming an individual player for a defeat in a team game like hockey or football is unfair, and at the same time crediting a single player for a victory by his team is equally unfair.

At the same time it would be incorrect to brush aside the Special One’s point of view. Messi says the almost the same thing: one’s individual accomplishments are not as satisfying when one’s team loses. Brazilian Ronaldo became the highest goal scorer in the World Cup finals in 2006, but Brazil, who was clearly the pre-tournament favourite to win that edition of the World Cup, did not go beyond the quarter final stage that year. Ronaldo’s record was not even a poor consolation for the team’s failure. Likewise Messi’s spectacular achievement could hardly compensate for Barcelona’s failure to win La Liga and the Champions’ League both. And Messi knows it very well and has said things to this effect on more than one occasion. In this connection, as an aside, one might think of a team’s ability to keep the ball with it by accurate passes, but that does not always lead to controlling the game. A team controls the game when it breaks up the opponent’s moves to attack and creates opportunities for its strikers to score. In its quarter final match against France in 2006 World Cup the Brazilians kept the ball with them much longer than did the French, but their passing was fruitless – it did not lead to creating opportunities for its forwards to score. Not just fruitless, after a while it was unpleasing too.

So Mourinho is both right and not quite right. Like we are in many things that we do, many things we think.  

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