While it may not have been a great summer for Australian cricketers, it has been a pretty good one for fans of the game. Over the course of the past few weeks we have seen moments of individual brilliance and a contest that was in the balance at a number of times, despite the final scoreline.
Bait and Switch
Even the sledging was entertaining, avoiding the modern trend of substituting crudeness for wit. The banter between the respective wicket keepers was particularly entertaining, as was seeing the way that they behaved outside the games and showed their sense of humour. It was a far cry from the acrimony of previous tours and showed that you can be competitive without being graceless.
We were also treated to the spectacle of some old fashioned Test batting and reminded that there is still a place for players who don’t fit the Twenty 20 mould. Not that there was any shortage of big hitting, but the difference between the teams was found in an unexpected.
No One Man Band
Leading up to the series, everyone’s eyes were on Indian captain Virat Kohli. In many ways, Kohli represents the platonic ideal of the perfect modern cricketer. He is aggressive, an electric fielder, and has all the shots in the book plus plenty that aren’t. While you couldn’t fault his captaincy, he would probably be the first to admit that he didn’t have the best series with the bat.
Unlike Indian teams of the past, though, the fortunes of this group were not tied to one star player’s performance, rising or falling on his fate. A number of younger players took their opportunity to show they were not intimidated by foreign crowds and aggressive bowlers in the moments that mattered. However, it was one of the senior players who broke Australia and did more than anyone else to set up a historic series victory.
Retro is In
It’s the manner in which Cheteshwar Pujara went about burying Australia’s hope which would have most pleased the lovers of Test cricket watching. Throughout his career, Pujara has consistently been criticised for his style of play. Harking back to years past, he seems unfazed by run rates, happy to occupy the crease for as long as needed in his own bubble. It’s been called boring, it’s even been called selfish, but in the end you can’t argue with the results.
While flashier players perished trying to force shots or hit every ball out of the park, he just kept piling up the runs and grinding down the opposition, and giving the rest of his team an anchor to bat around. If he were soaking up time and then going out without passing double digits, or was unable to switch to offence when a bad ball came along, then it might be a problem. But, again and again, he turns starts in to big scores and creates the opportunity for victory.
Be True to Thyself
Regardless of kind of batsman they are, there’s a lot to learn from the way he has done this. When everyone around you is telling you that you need to change the way you do things or that there is no place for that kind of player, it must have been hard to stick to your guns and believe in yourself. It’s also about being true to yourself, and being the best “you”, rather than a poor imitation of someone else.
Like most of us, Pujara would probably like to be able to hit every ball for six or four but while those players get the cheers, what he does is in many ways harder—and more valuable. It’s easy for teams to find players who thrive on batting paradises, but players like Pujara seem to be a dying breed.
The Self Examined Life
Like many aspects of cricket, there’s life lessons to be found in watching Pujara, and it’s not just elite athletes who might benefit from following his example. In every part of life, self knowledge is valuable. There is nothing wrong in admitting we are not as good at some things as others, that’s what make us unique.
Being born with incredible natural talent in a field doesn’t guarantee success. How many times do we talk about wasted potential and wonder what might have been if someone had made the most of their gifts? When you haven’t had to work hard to acquire a skill or talent, it’s easy to take it for granted knowing you can get by simply by doing the bare minimum.
Less Sweat, Less Value
Those who have to work at it often make the most of their abilities, and keep getting better instead of hitting a plateau, because they keep pushing themselves to squeeze every last drop of their potential. That’s true in any vocation, not just sports, from writing to music.
There are players like Kohli for whom the immense natural talent they were born with is simply a foundation to build on, and never stop trying to reach the next level. It’s that path that produces greatness, but it’s a road littered with those who fell short and squandered what they were given.
Controlling the Controllables
While we can’t control the gifts we are born with, we can control what we do with them. There is a reason we admire those with lesser gifts who choose to make the most of them, and look down on those with sublime gifts who squander them. That’s why when people look back Pujara’s career they won’t be talking about all the things he didn’t do or who he wasn’t, they will remember someone who was the best version of himself rather than a second copy of someone else—and by doing so created history.
Photo - Cricket Art - Where they run - Tronson du Coudray, hanging in Qld Cricket
David Goodwin is the former Editor of The Salvation Army’s magazine,War Cry. He is also a cricket tragic, and an unapologetic geek.
David Goodwin archive of articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/david-goodwin.html