Sports have often been seen as a means to escape reality, the chance to get away from the grind and the rigour of the monotony that you are shrouded with. However, there are occasions when sports become a precept for life. A few hours back, we had the good fortune of witnessing a titanic contest in which a frankly rag-tag, cobbled together Indian team took down Australia in Australia, having overcome every conceivable obstacle that can be in the path of a touring party. And on the way, they have given us stories which have been inspirational, stirring and often beyond belief.
“I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures.”
You lose your father who has worked as a rickshaw driver all his life and has dreamt of seeing his son play for India. Due to the pandemic and the bio-bubble restrictions you can go for his last rites, but you will never make it back in time. You lose all your senior fast bowling colleagues to injury. In your third test, you become the leader of the fast bowling attack and have to rival a bowling threesome which is already in the conversation for being one of the best ever. You shed tears when the National Anthem plays. You pick five wickets up in Brisbane and walk out with your arm raised high with the match ball in it.
Be like Mohammed Siraj. Be the child that makes his father immortal.
You are not played in the first test match despite being in form. You watch from the sidelines as the team reduces to dust. You come out and perform like no young Indian batsman has performed in Australia since Sachin Tendulkar himself. Your bat does not have a sponsor’s logo but has the most emphatic sound when the ball hits the middle. You have the artistry of a virtuoso guitarist who is finally coming into his own and who also knows that the girls are looking at him. You make 91 in chasing the highest chase ever in Gabba and not a hair falls out of place.
Be like Shubhman Gill. Be compelling.
You have not played a first-class match in three years. You are not even considered to be fit for the format. You play only because the world and injuries have conspired so that you can do so. You are supposed to be an off spinner who does not even turn the ball properly. You drive bombs from Mitchell Starc down the ground as if you are playing club cricket. When the chase is on, you hook the best test bowler in the world for a six. And you get out when the job is almost done by going for a reverse sweep, on the 5th day of a test match!!
Be like Washington Sundar. Be fearless.
You take the train from Palghar to Mumbai and travel more than 80 km every day to play cricket. You are considered obese, obstinate and frankly not talented enough. In the first test match you play you are injured after 11 balls. But you never give up. You work on your craft and are prepared. You come to Brisbane and your cover driving brings back memories of Viv Richards.
Be like Shardul Thakur. Be passionate.
They call you slow. They call you a throwback. They think you hurt your team as much as you hurt the opponents. You stand, take blows and blows, prove once again that the shield can beat the spear. And in the midst of all this, you don’t say a word. You are brave while being gentle and you are the toughest chin in the business.
You are the captain of a sinking ship. You run out the best batsman in the world and let go of a crucial advantage. You take the hammer and nail a century in Melbourne. The modern society often mistakes posturing for aggression; you show them that belligerence is not an emblem that you wear on your forehead but a fire that burns deep within your heart.
Be like Cheteshwar Pujara. Be like Ajinkya Rahane. Be steel.
You are the best test bowler in the world. You are expected to bowl the visiting team out. By the end of the series, you have no support. Your home is about to be overcome by wolves. But, you run in tirelessly, threateningly, ferociously. The pack might take you down, but you will make sure you take down as many as you can with yourself.
Be like Pat Cummins. Be a lion.
You have been called overweight. You have been called lazy. You have been ridiculed because you have been granted the kind of preternatural talent that most people won’t even see in their lifetimes. You are young; the weight of the world is needlessly on your shoulders. You have been chastised when you have trusted those very abilities and they have let you down. You put fear into Australia in Sydney with your insouciance and you break down the walls of the Gabba fortress. You make the Australians stand up and applaud even when you are lying on the pitch while playing a shot.
Be like Rishabh Pant. Be yourself.
This Border Gavaskar trophy is riddled with such narratives. Ashwin and Vihari’s relentlessness in the final innings in Sydney which gave India the draw, that too with a bad back and a bad hamstring. Bumrah’s brilliance with the ball in the first three tests. Jadeja with his all-round genius. Rohit Sharma’s brief but dazzling stays at the crease when he was supposed to be grossly underprepared. Natarajan picking up wickets when no one gave him a chance with the red ball. India was supposed to be dead and buried after the first test in Adelaide. The hole was supposed to be deeper after the spate of injuries.
People have derided test cricket. Yet, there is no sport in the world which can teach life so many lessons as it can. It is the greatest format of the most beautiful game of them all. It rises above base discussions like saving time, TRPs, for that matter viewership. Test cricket gives you stories. It gives you fables of overcoming grave odds, of bravery, of pain, tears and absolute joy. Test cricket gives you tales of romance, it also gives tales of warriors.
Test Cricket 1. Everything Else 0.