Sport is a microcosm of life. You can either believe that or view it as just a pretty line.
If you do believe it, a whole new world opens up. When you see a boxer, all bloodied and bruised still going toe to toe with his opponent, you see resilience. When you see a cricketer coming out to play with a broken and bandaged jaw, you see courage. When you see any sports person giving a fallen opponent a helping hand on the sports field you see compassion despite divisions. In other words when you see sport you see different shades of life. You appreciate and commend the good things and criticise the bad. You find heroes and villains and the inspiration to turn things around for yourself. It’s life playing out on a small scale on your TV sets.
If you do believe in that concept you will view what the Indian cricket team did in Brisbane and in the 4 Test series overall as a very big lesson in self belief. Belief despite almost insurmountable odds, belief despite having your back to the wall, belief despite whatever is thrown at you. And overall, belief that you can win, no matter what. It’s just the definition of a win that changes from individual to individual.
But even if you don’t believe in that concept, you have to agree that the sheer power of self belief can, if not move mountains, certainly breach fortresses. We saw that happen on Tuesday in Brisbane.
A lot has already been written about what Team India managed to do Down Under this time and a lot will continue to be written. This achievement will be celebrated for a very long time and rightly so. But apart from saluting what our cricketers did on the field of battle, we need to thank them for giving those of us who follow the sport and view it as something that can teach life lessons, a bag full of inspiration.
If you look back at the history of modern sports you will find multiple examples of sporting achievements that were deemed so improbable, that they assumed the aura of ‘miracles’. India’s 2-1 series win vs Australia will find a place in the August company of those triumphs.
It however, sounds quite simplistic to call this just a series win. After all it was so much more than that.
It was the story of a team that went to a foreign country and were so besieged with injuries that they had to rely on net bowlers to make up a playing XI. Of how a player who decided to stay back to help the team despite the death of his father, despite being given the option to fly back home. The story of how a calm and quiet individual took charge of the team that was down 0-1 after suffering the ignominy of their lowest Test innings total of all time and three Tests later went on to lay his hands on the trophy. Of how the team that was already without one if not two first choice bowlers then lost three other first pick bowlers that were available to injury and still continued to fight. Of how a player who was supposed to be a net bowler made his Test debut and in fact became the first Indian cricketer to make his international debut in all three formats on the same tour and played a crucial role for the team. How he stayed back with the team despite the birth of his child back home. The story of a 21 year old who played like a veteran when thrown into the deep end. The story of how a player criticised heavily for his wicket-keeping skills played two of the most crucial knocks and finished as the highest run getter for his team in the Test series. Of how a cricketer who had such bad back spasms that he couldn’t bend down to tie his shoelaces, played one of the grittiest knocks in Indian Test history. The story of how a young cricketer batted on despite suffering an extremely painful hamstring tear to save a match for his team. Of an old warhorse who was on painkillers and took multiple body blows but continued to stand tall and refused to give in. And the story of a team that despite all this believed that they can win.
Despite chasing a very stiff target of 328 and with just 4 overnight runs on the board, the Indian team came out on Day 5 of the Gabba Test determined to go for the win. With the series locked at 1-1, any other team would have perhaps been happy after the fall of a few wickets to play for a safe draw and retain the trophy. This young, largely inexperienced and fully fearless team though wanted to win. They wanted to make a statement. They wanted to show Tim Paine who told R Ashwin in Sydney how he couldn’t wait for him to come to the Gabba that the Australian fortress, which hadn’t been breached in 32 years, did not intimidate them. And they sent out that message loud and clear.
India beat Australia by the same margin (2-1) on their 2018-19 tour as well. But this win is much sweeter.
By now everyone with a TV set or an internet connection knows that a largely inexperienced Indian team beat the full strength Aussies in their own backyard. But a few numbers will help give more context to that.
Consider this. The combined experience of the Australian bowling attack in the Brisbane Test (Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon and Cameron Green) was 254 Tests (including the Gabba Test). For India that figure (for Md. Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Navdeep Saini, T Natarajan and Washington Sundar) stood at 9 Tests. David vs Goliath come to mind perhaps? It’s definitely along those lines. For every time they were down, the Indian team didn’t just hit back, they landed knockout blows.
In the middle of the euphoria of winning the Brisbane Test, it’s easy to forget that Australia’s only triumph in the series was in Adelaide. After that, despite certain sessions which they dominated, it was all India as far as the results are concerned. Win in Melbourne. Draw in the face of imminent defeat in Sydney and the big, shiny, juicy cherry on top – the Gabba win.
The way they played was incredible. The way they fought was surreal. But for me personally, the thing that really stood out and earned my complete and absolute respect was the way the team went about its business with smiles on their faces and quiet determination in their veins. And how they remained dignified despite pulling off a win that most teams would just love to rub in the faces of their opponents.
There were no over the top celebrations, the captain was not jumping up and down and showing a clenched fist to the opposition, there were no obscene gestures, no cuss words. Team India didn’t do that. Team India didn’t need to do that. The win was a big enough statement. The team in fact showed great sportsmanship in presenting an Indian shirt signed by the full team to Nathan Lyon to mark his 100th Test match.
It’s a common human trait to rub a win in your opponent’s face. Many tend to do that, especially in the hot rush of young blood. This Indian team, which was full of youngsters however, didn’t. They were satisfied in being drenched in the clean, dignified euphoria of winning. After all you don’t need to make anyone feel small to feel big yourself after a resounding victory. Let your achievement speak for itself.
Thank you for that Team India, because that too is a life lesson.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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