After our loss to Mumbai Indians on Wednesday, my good friend and India teammate Harbhajan Singh tweeted: “It’s not how u start the race, what matter(s) is how u finish the race.”
I have heard this before and at an even grimmer phase of my life. It’s a story of my life that not many are aware of.
I was in class 10 and a more than decent cricketer but slightly above average student. My life was revolving around cricket and academics were slowly being pushed to the background. I was in my own world.
Numbers on the scoreboard meant a lot more than the ones on the progress report. I felt like a king at school when I was praised as the next big thing in cricket.
I use to look forward to the morning assemblies where my name was regularly announced for my cricketing exploits.
I won’t say there was swagger in my walk but I sensed I was gaining on the popularity charts. And those were the days of American comedy series “The Wonder Years”.
Suddenly the balloon burst. I had flunked in Class 10th. My world came crashing down. I was distraught. Suddenly the “next big thing” was facing the prospect of sharing the class room with juniors. I was devastated.
That was when I got perhaps one of the best advices of my life. My mother and my mama (maternal uncle) are avid readers. My mama especially is the pillar of my life, my world in every sense.
Both he and mom used to tell me something similar to what Bhajji tweeted: “it is not about the first lap but about the final one.” After the recent losses that message came ringing back.
I was young but got the message loud and clear. Trust me, for a young boy studying at Modern School, Delhi, things can be intimidating. But clutching at straws I re-grouped.
Today when I look back I feel, maybe it was God’s way of preparing me for adversities. Since that day I have made numerous comebacks.
Another delicate comeback happened under the grey English skies. It was India’s tour of England in 2007.
As Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik used to open in Tests, I got to know more about how to make energy drinks rather than scoring runs! Nothing was going right. I got 3 in the first one-dayer at Southampton. I feared my time was up.
Holding my own
Second ODI was on September 2, 2007, Leeds. It was overcast and we were put to bat first. I was slated at three. As I waited, doubts kept me company.
Suddenly a voice whispered. “This could be your last chance Gautam. Bahut mushkil sey team mein dalwaya hai.” It was a member of the selection panel. The timing couldn’t have been worse as Tendulkar got out and it was my turn.
For the first few minutes I felt like being in a washing machine —twisting, turning, stretching and what not.
Then, I composed myself and scored one of the most important half centuries of my life. A 47 followed and from there on the T20 World Cup in South Africa. The rest is history.
For me the string of losses are a sign that God is testing me again. It is time to bring back the words of mom and mama and of course now Bhajji’s as well.
Kaizen media solution
The writer is KKR skipper