India vs Australia: From Mumbai to Chennai, families of unlikely heroes rejoice in victory
While the drama unfolded in Brisbane, back in Chennai, Washington Sundar’s family was drowning in a sea of phone calls. From well-wishers to journalists, everyone wanted to hear from them. The 21-year-old Sundar was one of the many unlikely heroes of an implausible win. It was also the off-spinning all-rounder’s Test debut, elevated straight from net-bowler status to match-winner, in a Test where he picked up four wickets, including the prize scalps of Steve Smith and David Warner and scored a sparkling 62 in his first foray with the bat at that level.
Sundar’s father Mani had dreamt that he would make his debut in this series.
“Perhaps because he is living his dream through Washington,” says sister Shailaja, a Tamil Nadu state cricketer herself. “My father was a Ranji trophy probable in the early 90’s. But there were many established players like WV Raman, Krish Srikkanth, L Sivaramakrishnan, so he didn’t get his chance. He told Washi, when he called to wish Dad on his birthday on Jan 4, that he would get to play a test on the tour.”
Sundar is already a star in the IPL, but a Test debut is bigger than the league’s multi-crore deal and high-octane action.
Also watching the action with pride was Chitra Ravichandran, R Ashwin’s mother, even though India’s frontline spinner was ruled out with an injury and replaced by Sundar for the final Test.
“I could feel in Ashwin’s voice when I would speak with him during the matches this time. I have never seen him so happy,” said Chitra. “He has always given everything, played with pain, planned meticulously. It’s very satisfying to see him achieve something that can really be called an outstanding result.”
Before the final Test, Ashwin had topped an outstanding series with the ball with a heroic stand with Hanuma Vihari, with both batsmen battling injuries, to deny a rampaging Australia a win in the third Test.
At Brisbane, another player thrown into the deep end was Shardul Thakur. For all practical purposes, this was his Test debut. In the only Test he played before this, he had bowled 10 balls before hobbling off the field. Like with Sundar, Thakur’s father Narendra had seen adulation for his cricketer son before in the IPL, but this was something else.
“It felt like you get real respect after Test victories. I saw all of Shardul’s runs as well as wickets,” he said.
Thakur’s family lives near Kelva beach, 111 km from Mumbai, where they are farmers. Growing up, Thakur made a 7-hour journey to Mumbai and back from this house to play matches in the city.
“I can’t wait to make home-made chicken and mutton for him,” said his mother Hansa.
“His diet permitting,” said Narendra.
Perhaps the family to whom this series victory means the most belongs to Mohammed Siraj, who made his debut in the victory in the second Test in Melbourne and found himself the leader of the bowling attack in the fourth Test.
Siraj’s father, who drove an auto-rickshaw all his life and pushed his son to pursue cricket, passed away while the white-ball leg of the tour was on. Siraj was given a chance to go back to India, but chose to stay on to honour his father’s dreams. He bowled the most overs for India through the series (131.2) and took the most wickets (13) and led the attack with his maiden five-wicket haul at the Gabba.
“I wish our father was there to see him do so well,” his brother Ismail had said during the match. Siraj had looked to the heavens after his fifer and spoken a few words. At the end of match, he was one of the band of unlikely heroes doing a victory lap with the tricolour.
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- “India’s 2007 T20 World Cup and 2011 ODI World Cup winner Yusuf Pathan announces his retirement from all forms of cricket,” tweeted ICC after Pathan made the announcement on Twitter.
- Pathan made a name for himself in the Indian Premier League while playing for franchises like Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders, before having a successful stint with the national team.