On Wednesday, while Indian cricket fans were saddened by Team India’s defeat in the first semi-final of the World Cup against New Zealand, Mumbai-based astrologer Greenstone Lobo wasn’t surprised, as his words immediately after the loss were: “Sad to be proved right. Rain or no rain, what was predicted happened and it is sad.”
Interestingly, more than two months before the commencement of the World Cup, Lobo had predicted that Virat Kohli’s boys would return empty-handed.
However, he says, “I would have been happier if my prediction had gone wrong. I started doing research in sports astrology as I was fed up of the Australians winning all the time.”
Lobo firmly believes that former Indian captain M.S. Dhoni was a lucky charm for the Men in Blue. “When I spotted MSD in 2005, I was really happy that we finally got a man who will win us the World Cup.
The Prime Minister also stressed the valour of the fighting effort, relegating the fact that India was defeated to the background. Kohli was generous in acknowledging that the New Zealand bowlers were on the money, continuing to bowl the right line and length after getting him and Rohit out with good deliveries. "We're sad but not devastated," said the skipper.
If there was one red face during the match, it may have been that of former player and commentator Sanjay Manjrekar who had brushed aside Ravindra Jadeja's merits as a cricketer capable of competing at this level. In the course of the World Cup, Manjrekar had dismissed 'Sir' Jadeja as a "bits and pieces" player and had to eat crow after a memorable all-round display from him. He fielded every ball hit in his direction with ferocity and bowled with discipline before playing a dream innings.
Jadeja represented the best of Team India's efforts to swim against the tide. He bowled line and length and turned one sharply enough to beat Nicholls' defence, prompting former England captain Michael Vaughan, an active tweeter, to take a dig at Manjrekar. And before he twirled his bat like a sword to celebrate the half century, Jadeja himself turned towards the commentary box as if to say - "Ab kya bolenge".
Earlier, Jadeja had taken Manjrekar on in Twitter itself to point out that he had played twice the number of ODIs as Manjrekar and demanded respect for his game. After the match, a chastened Manjrekar tweeted - "Well played Jadeja! There is no doubt at all that on a pitch on which the slower ball was not easily hittable, Jadeja timed his lofted drives better than anyone else, so much so, Dhoni was totally content to let him do all the striking."
Sympathy over criticism
Interestingly, sympathy for the cricketers appeared to be high among the discerning and many lay cricket fans too. The critics of course, hit hard at the team's failure to cope with the conditions even as praise for Kane Williamson poured in for his strategy of going for the jugular and getting the Indian batsmen out rather than trying to contain them. He also set fields for his bowlers to go for early wickets which they obliged.
Going down fighting
If however, India had not fought back from the depths of five for three, the team would have been pilloried. As Jadeja roared and Dhoni fought on grittily in his shadow, hope was reborn. Their dismissals meant accepting the inevitable, but only after a sporting contest, even as some expressed doubt over Dhoni's dismissal when the 38-year-old was run out, millimetres short of his crease.
More hype than delivery?
The arguments over ifs and buts may go on. But the fact remains that the Kiwis are in their second final on the trot and India's record at the last-four level and in the Finals has not been very good in the last eight years. In that time, India won only one ICC event - the Champions Trophy in England in 2013 - while coming a cropper in all other multilateral events despite being either one or two in ODI team rankings.
The failures on the big occasion are a sharp reminder that Team India is a little more hyped up than the results may justify. But then Dhoni has not been the master finisher that he was in 2011 although being number 7 in the batting order seemed too low on the big day. That is a decision Kohli may find hard to justify, much as Dinesh Karthik batting at no. 5 was a little too high for someone known to perform better lower in the order and in the end overs.
Truth be told, the batting was devastated as much by the new ball as in the batting order being mismanaged, suggesting that changes were done by instinct rather than sticking to a credible plan to cover all eventualities. This failure could at least be directly attributed to Kohli as the batting order is the captain's sole prerogative. Will Kohli get another chance in the next World Cup to make amends is the million-dollar question?
But MSD has completed his astrological quota of success and couldn't be a part of the WC winning team in 2019," says Lobo, adding, "More than a personal victory (in terms of the prediction), I'm pleased that I was able to defend the cause of astrology."
According to Lobo, even if the match had not been stretched to the second day because of rain, the result would have been the same. "It was only nature's way of making the match more interesting. Rain or no rain, it was anyway supposed to end this way," he asserts.
Dravid's son will be a cricket star
Meanwhile, Lobo's book Howzzat, containing 50 predictions on Indian cricket apparently includes one about the future superstar of Indian cricket born in 2005 - a clear reference to Rahul Dravid's son, Samit.
"Samit Rahul Dravid will surpass his father's achievements," says Lobo, who adds, "Samit will break records and tear his way into the history books. He will create his own records too, which will stand for a long time."
On a parting note, the astrologer adds, "When Samit posts those big scores and makes a place for himself, I hope people understand that it is through merit alone and not because of his father's clout. Samit has it all. His being born in Rahul Dravid's home at the right time is destiny's way of ensuring the continuity of his illustrious father's legacy."