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All is in Our Hands

*M. Ashwin Kumar

In the final test between India and England, during India's first innings, Washington Sundar ran out of partners and was stranded at 96 and missed out on a well-deserved century.

India was seven-down, but Washington Sundar, along with Axar Patel, had added 106 runs. Axar was batting comfortably at 43, and everything suggested that Washington Sundar was well on the course to get his maiden century in test cricket.

It was a low full-toss by Joe Root. Washington Sundar on 96 could have hit that ball anywhere he would have wanted to, but hit it straight to mid-on. Axar Patel, on the other end, did not see where the ball went and strolled for a non-existing single. He was sent back by Washington, but Axar failed to make it back in time.

Axar, who himself was away from his maiden half-century in Test cricket, got out most bizarrely when everything seemed to be in control. India was now eight-down. It was the last ball of that over. So, the new batsman, Ishant Sharma, was on strike for the next over.

Ishant Sharma, in this circumstance, had to do only one task, give Washington Sundar the strike. But that did not happen. The very first ball he faced from Ben Stokes was whole, straight onto the stumps. Ishant shuffled across his crease and missed the ball completely to be trapped plumb in front. India lost its ninth wicket now, and with just one wicket remaining, Washington at the non-striker's end was suddenly in danger of missing out on the century.

However, there was still some hope for him. It was Mohammad Siraj the new batsman. It was Siraj, who hung around with Ravichandran Ashwin in the third test when Ashwin went on to score his century. All that Washington would have hoped for was that either Siraj gave him the strike or saw through the over.

Siraj survived the next two balls but missed the line of the next ball completely and got bowled. India was all out and that left Washington Sundar stranded at 96. These five balls must have been the most difficult balls he had seen in this innings. This was happening for the second time in his brief test career and that too in the same series when he ran out of partners after getting closer to the century.

What are the lessons that we can learn from the episode above? Here are a few that I believe I have.

  1. It might seem that everything is under control, and we may seem to be in control, but it may take just a few minutes for things to go wrong. Both Axar and Washington were batting on 43 and 96, respectively. They had stitched a partnership of 106. All signs that things were under control. All of a sudden, within a span of 5 balls, everything went downhill for Washington Sundar.

  2. The worst thing, it may not be even your fault. It was not that Washington got out at 96. It was Axar, Ishant and Siraj. The result was that Washington could not score the century he deserved.

  3. Things could go the wrong way in the unlikeliest form. The bowlers were struggling to break the partnership. Both batsmen were very comfortable. The last thing that both batsmen would have imagined was a run-out then.

  4. You may have a lot of faith in the other person (your partner, friend, spouse, parents, colleague, etc). They may have the best of the intention for you. They may have a stake themselves in the situation. But even they could lose focus, which may prove detrimental to you. Axar was on the verge of a milestone himself. He would have never wanted Washington to miss his century. But a sudden lapse in his concentration not only led to him missing his milestone but also that of Washington's.

  5. A person could be your well-wisher. But their ability might prevent them from helping you in the way you want them to. Both Ishant and Siraj have hung in there in the past, but that is not their strength. Even when they would not have liked to get out then, their skills were not good enough.

  6. The circumstances could unfold in such a way that you may find yourself helpless and unable to take any action. Axar got out on the last ball of the over, and since Washington was at the striker's end at that time, for the next over he was not facing the ball. When both Ishant and Siraj were batting, Washington could only hope that they take a single and give him the strike. Washington could not do much in this situation.

  7. Despite all the learning above, the main takeaway is that the control is always in our hands, provided we seize the opportunity at the right time. If we leave things later or procrastinate, we may end up in an undesirable situation. Washington Sundar faced the first ball of Joe Root's over when he was at 95. He had all the six balls at his disposal to get the five runs he needed. The first ball was a dot ball; on the second ball, he took a single. On the third ball, Axar took a single giving back him the strike. He had three more balls in the over, and he was just one strike away from the century. He did not score in the successive two balls. The final ball of the over was a low full toss. He could have hit that ball anywhere he would have liked, but he hit it straight to the fielder. By waiting for the right time, he missed the time that could have been his.

Here I am reminded of Virender Sehwag's statement during a game show. Saurav Ganguly asked him why he always chose to hit a six to get to a 100 or 200 or 300 when he was on 95 or 195 or 295, respectively? He had an interesting response to that. He said, "If I had to reach those milestones with singles, then I would have had to take five singles, and it meant that there is a possibility of me getting out five times. To hit a six, you just need one ball, and the risk is worth it. When you have reached 295, you know the conditions very well, and you have that confidence in anything you want to do."

It is easy to point out others, circumstances, etc., for not achieving what we deserve. But we have to remember that control always lies with us. We should show the same confidence in ourselves that we offer in others or the circumstances. We have everything in our power, and we should be attentive to all that is happening within us and surrounding us.

Sport is an excellent teacher in every aspect. It has several life lessons for us to learn, and we have to be attentive to what it has to offer us. I took this example from the recent event in the sport because it is straightforward for us to feel sorry for Washington Sundar not achieving a well-deserved milestone. Empathy being one lesson, to feel for what Washington Sundar could not achieve. Similarly, there are other lessons too to understand what Washington Sundar could have achieved and how he could have achieved.

It is all about perspective. The right perspective will launch us on the appropriate journey.

*The author is a cricket umpire.

(Image used here is for representational purposes only)


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