Sometimes All Magic Needs Is a Chance

Mr Kaustubh Sonalkar, Group Director HCM, Comms, CSR and General Affairs at Welspun Group

Of grit and glory

Are made great stories

Of passion and of ambition

Let the youth shine bright and clear

This should be our mission

Let me replay for you the words that created history.

Ind 322/6 after 96.1 overs: FOUR! Pant hooks the short ball for four. India need 6 runs.

Ind 322/6 after 96.3 overs: Thakur runs through for two just after Pant skied one. India need 3 runs. Almost there. Almost there.

Ind 322/6 after 96.4 overs: WICKET! Thakur caught now. India still need 3 runs. Pant will be on strike.

Ind 322/6 after 97 overs: FOUR and win it! Rishabh Pant has done it! India has done it! What a result! What a series! What madness! India wins the series 2-1. Pant finishes with 89 and Australia have lost at The Gabba for the first time in 32 years.

Commentary source: Scroll

India is celebrating this as the victory of the fresh and new…of the youth. But this is so much more. It’s all the peripheral stories that have worked magic – it’s the story of a coach that stood by them and inspired every move. It’s the story of actions speaking so much louder than words that even long-time arch rivals and competitors have hailed the event. Once again, sport proved that its lessons are those of life, business and the world. 

Let’s start at the beginning. 

90 runs, 110 balls. It looked like a T20 match, but it was not. It was the fifth day at The Gabba pitch, India versus Australia. No one imagined that the match would turn around this way. The win still looked far, far away when Pujara got out. It was all left to Pant, who finished the match with 18 balls to go.

India’s win against Australia the other day was the positivity Indians worldwise needed after COVID-19. More than 10 players injured, fighting a battle at the Australian fortress, The Gabba, a place where no team has defeated the host in over 32 years, and still managed to pull off a victory no one imagined. Players who were brought as net bowlers played the match of their lives. Against a full-blown, experienced Australia, a group of youngsters showcased a mindblowing performance, an epitome of hope and determination – something that will be remembered for a really, really long time. 

Who would have thought? Since the beginning the test matches were a nightmare. The team suffered a major batting collapse in the 2nd innings in Adelaide when it got all out for 36 runs, the lowest-ever Test score by India, plummeting below the previous bar of 42. Then, the team lost its drive further when Captain Virat left for paternity leave. Fast bowler Mohammed Shami has a right-arm fracture and Umesh Yadav was down with a calf injury; both ruled out of the remaining two games.

“Can you believe this Indian batting line-up without Virat Kohli for the next test matches? They are in deep trouble,” said former Australia captain, Michael Clarke. Former batsman Mark Waugh on if India could back after losing the first test, said, “I just can’t see how they can bounce back (after) Australia whitewashed them on the third day. So ‘’no’’ is the answer – four-nil to Australia.” And these were only a few of the many daunting statements the Indian team we up against. 

Soon when everyone thought that it couldn’t get any worse, India lost the toss for the third Test. Rahane took over. Amidst the alleged tampering and racism, Cheteshwar Pujara and a Pant steadied the ship, but after a few punches, they were knocked out too. Then came Hanuma Vihari with an injured hamstring and Ravichandran Ashwin with a sore back, yet India batted 258 deliveries despite numerous injury blows, and led India to a fighting draw. 

That one was a big save, but Ravindra Jadeja’s left thumb fracture and Hanuma Vihari’s hamstring tear had forced them out of the final game. Jasprit Bumrah was also likely to drop out of the series-decider due to an abdominal strain. So, the next question was – what would the team do in the next match without Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja? Half of the first-choice players are injured, the rest half are unprepared.

However, the team defied all odds. Newcomers including Mohammed Siraj, Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur and T Natarajan were some surprise packages. Shubman Gill, whose test debut this was, played like a dream. Pant put his best foot forward but only when needed, and led India to a win with a fearless, off-driven boundary. Let us not forget, Cricket is also a game of mental presence. M Siraj, who played a crucial by taking 5 wickets in the last match, lost his father while he was on the tour. His dedication to the game even during the tough times when he was allowed to return to India, is held in high regard. 

Who could have thought that a team like ‘India A’, with most of its key players injured would be able to defeat the strong Aussies. Well, I believe, it was the magic of youth. The youngsters in the team ended the series in a blaze of glory. As batting legend Sunil Gavaskar said, “This series win is even more magnificent because this time Australia had their full-strength team.”

After the historic win, Australia head coach Justin Langer termed the series as an incredible one. While praising the Indian cricket team he said, “You cannot take anything for granted, never ever underestimate the Indians. 1.5 billion [people in India] and you play in the senior team, you have to be really tough. I couldn’t appreciate India enough.”

A fine coach has a crucial role in how a team performs. Despite their age or experience, Ravi Shastri’s trust in his squad was visible in the free-spirited game they played. The confidence in the youngsters is a testament to the coach’s confidence in them. For every youngster on the field, the credit also goes to Rahul Dravid for his impeccable grooming and initiatives for younger players in the Indian cricket team.

I couldn’t agree more with what Shoaib Akhtar said: “Teams are made in the dressing room. No matter how much you criticise him (Ravi Shastri), he won a series in Australia without his key players. He allowed the youngsters to shine. And these youngsters were made available by the system. India’s kids won this. They showed that their investment, their system is so solid, that they can win even with all odds stacked against them.” 

After the 1983 World Cup final, Adelaide Oval Test 2003, 2011 World Cup final and ICC World 20-20 Super 10, this win against Australia is the proudest moment for the Indian cricket team. Every Indian fan like me who was keen on waking up at 5 AM every day, be it during school or college time, during test matches with only one wish to see Indian win, is over the moon today.

Be it the field, the boardroom, the parliament or any sphere of life – people’s grit and passion trump ‘expert’ opinions and predictions as well. Statistics and prediction depend on the past – it is the human spirit that defines the future.

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