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Dreams come true when you hold on to them against the odds


One is a war veteran’s son who threatened to run away from home if his father didn’t buy him a kit and allow him to play cricket; another, in effect, did run away and started out in another city. A third sold pani puri off a cart, a fourth spoke delicately about how “things weren’t financially strong at home.” They are, respectively, Dhruv Jurel, Akash Deep, Yashasvi Jaiswal, and Sarfaraz Khan who played key roles in India’s victory against England.

There’s more. Aged five, Jurel had an accident that required plastic surgery. A decade later, his mother had to sell off her gold ornament to get him a kit bag. Deep lost his father and a brother in a span of six months and left home because he “didn’t have anything to lose.”

What is sport without stories of valour and spirit, heroism and gallantry? What is a turning pitch or a wrong leg before decision when compared to the days and months of despondency guided by nothing more than hope and a belief in ultimate redemption? What are the odds of finally making it in a country of over a billion people? How many Jaiswals and Jurels have fallen by the wayside because they lacked the guidance or the single-mindedness of these two, and their ability to hold on to their dreams?

There are too stories of the kindness of relatives and coaches, and of the good fortune of having talent spotted and worked on by those willing to back their judgement. Above all, there is the discipline, the hard work and unwillingness to give up by the Generation Next of Indian cricket.

Elements fitting together

So many elements have to fit together snugly like Lego pieces, before success, inevitable and consistent, is achieved. Some little thing going wrong somewhere at an early stage can have a disastrous final effect. When things work out, it is nothing short of a miracle; the butterfly effect can ruin dreams.

Not so long ago our best players came from the cities and traditional centres: Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai. For a little over a generation now, they have emerged from the old backwaters. This continues. Jurel is from Agra, Jaiswal was born in Bhadohi, UP, Akash Deep in Sasaram in Bihar, where, he says, “playing cricket was a crime.”

In recent years, cricketers have emerged from Roorkee (Rishabh Pant), Unnao (Kuldeep Yadav), Chinnampatti (T. Natarajan), Kakarkhund (Mukesh Kumar). Economic migration has seen the sons of brick kiln workers, auto drivers, taxi drivers, weavers and craftsmen change the family fortunes. If English cricket is identified with Bazball, a style of play and a philosophy, Indian cricket today is best represented by Jaisball, after the poster boy of the new generation.

Reminiscent of Tendulkar

Jaiswal’s two double centuries, his compact defence and his confidence is reminiscent of the young Sachin Tendulkar. Jurel’s ability to read a match situation and change gears has something of Virat Kohli about it. When the future existed in the past, there is comfort in the continuity.

Shubhman Gill, already a captain-in-waiting, batted himself out of a slump, with a vital half-century in the chase. Like a comedian who makes you cry in a serious role or vice versa, Gill played against his grain to see India through. The number three slot seems to be his for the foreseeable future.

If the successful transfer of T20 techniques into Test cricket has shown one thing, it is that sometimes a big heart is more important than a perfect forward defence. It is easy to pick holes in the techniques of some of the young batters; old timers will cavil at the manner in which the front leg is sometimes moved away from the line of the ball rather than towards it, but it has worked. The short-pitched ball might be an issue, but here too the heart can triumph over the head.

There are two tests that Indian players have to pass before they can be accepted into the company of the best. The first, and easier one is their record at home. Then there is the record in countries represented by the acronym SANE: South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and England, on pitches where pace, bounce, swing and seam rule.

India tour Australia at the end of the year, and some reputations will be consolidated then. But whatever happens, the initial hurdle-clearing will always remain an inspiration.



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