13 October 2020

‘Possible’: the single-word lesson


There is a song released on January 13, 1964. The lyrics obviously were composed before that. Sanju Samson was born 30 year later. And 26 years after that, he played an innings which was akin to offering proof of a prediction embedded in the song.

The song: ‘The times they are a-changing.’ The lyricist and singer: Bob Dylan. The line: ‘the slow one now will later be fast.’

Well, times have changed since 1964 as far as cricket is concerned. No ODIs, no World Cups, no T-20s, no Dilschoops or switch-hits, no third umpires or match referees.

Now we’ve seen amazing performances with bat and ball over the past 56 years. Stand out performances. All time ‘greats’ if you will. Amazing turnarounds such as Kusal Janith Perera’s innings-of-a-century 153* against South Africa in the Durban test, January 2019. We have seen one-gem wonders too. Nevertheless, the gems do shine and their luster fades slowly.  

And so we have Samson. The 9th match of the current IPL. Kings XI Punjab had amassed 226/6 on the back of a 183 run opening stand between K.L. Rahul (69) and M.A.Agarwal (106). A stiff target for the Rajasthan Royals, but gettable given the short boundaries. They were 100/2 after 9 overs. Skipper Steve Smith had just got out for 50 but Samson was on 43 off 22 balls.

Then came the slump. Between overs 9 and 15, Samson facing 21 of the 36 balls just manages a paltry 15 runs. The required run rate had soared from 11.27/over to 16.80/over!

Samson then carted Glenn Maxwell for 21 runs inclusive of three sixers. Over No 16 turned everything upside down, or it seemed that way, but he’s out the first ball of the next over and it is heartbreaking, obviously, for the Rajasthan Royals. Despite two boundaries by Robin Uthappa in the last two deliveries, the asking rate had climbed back to 17.00/over.

At this time, Rahul Tewatia had scored just 17 off 23. A slow one  a la Bob Dylan.

Over No 18. Tewatia clobbers Sheldon Cottrell for 30 inclusive of five sixers! The ‘slow one’ had gotten ‘fast.’ The asking rate was now a highly manageable 10.53/over. The Rajasthan Royals made it with three balls to spare, Tewatia finishing with 53 off 31.

The ‘how’ of it is of course a question that lends itself to multiple answers. Maybe they were ‘slowly’ getting a measure of the bowlers and the wicket. Maybe they were pinned down by good bowling one over and allowed to vent by wayward stuff in the next. Maybe Samson (and later Tewatia) went mad or, put another way, Maxwell (and later Cottrell) lost their minds.

Whatever it is, this much can be said: Tewatia and Samson put up quite a show. Not one that deserves the tag ‘one for the ages,’ for these kinds of fireworks can be seen at least a couple of times in any IPL tournament.

What’s important, perhaps, is the ‘it is possible’ element in all this. The ‘never give up,’ and, as far as the other side is concerned, ‘never be complacent,’ viz the old adage ‘it’s never over until it is over.’

At some level there has to be self-belief. At some level there has to be something in the team at the receiving end that makes it possible to stem the tide. There are resources that players themselves are unaware they are endowed with. Until they ‘go mad.’

Crazy. Crazy cricket. Crazy sports. Unbelievable. For all the downs of commercialization, the sourness of performance enhancing drugs and match-fixing, we have the occasional Samson and Tewatia. We feel good. As spectators. For aspiring cricketers and indeed aspiring sportsmen and sportswomen, there’s a lesson here.

It’s a single-word lesson. Possible.

Other articles in the series titled 'The Interception' [published in 'The Morning']

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