12th March 2001. Close of Day 2. The Indian team had put in a meek response at 128/8 to the invincible Aussie’s (16 wins on the trot before this match) first innings score of 445. The next day, they had folded up for 171. 1-0 behind in the series and forced to follow-on with a deficit of 274 runs, a meek surrender looked imminent. In the entire history of Test cricket, only twice before had a team secured a victory after following -on. The previous instance was in 1981.
When Sachin and Sourav got out leaving India at 232/4 in the second innings, the little hopes an ever-optimistic Indian cricket fan like me had, of salvaging a face-saving draw seemed to be fading way. Warne, Gillespie, Kasprowicz and McGrath just needed one more wicket to get into the Indian tail. Just one more wicket…. Rahul Dravid had come in at an unfamiliar no.6 to join the in-form VVS Laxman who had already scored a century by then. Close of Day 3- India’s score was 254/4. Decent fightback but definitely didn’t look good enough.
It all looked way too familiar. Lot of promise but not enough to get a positive result. Before the start of the series, India were supposed to give a tough fight to the Aussies and prevent them from conquering the Final Frontier. It had been 30 years since an Aussie team had won a Test Series on Indian soil. As expected, the Aussies were right on top and chipping away. Just one wicket separated them from getting close to a series victory. India’s bowling attack in the series was severely depleted with Srinath and Kumble out injured. Venkatapathy Raju and a rookie Harbhajan Singh and were leading the spin attack. So there seemed to be no way India could manage a draw. A victory was out of the question. If someone would have asked Sourav Ganguly at end of day 3, on how his team planned to win this match, I am sure he wouldn’t have had a ready answer.
Just one wicket and it was game, set, match and series the next day for the Aussies. Except that the elusive wicket never came on Day 4 for the Aussies. Session after session, VVS and Dravid took the attack back to the Aussies. They didn’t offer a single chance. They did one thing – stuck their neck out and refused to give up even when everything seemed lost. It was not just talent and technique, but also about resilience and determination. McGrath, Warne and co were sent on a leather hunt for the entire day. How many times in the history of cricket have we witnessed 0 wickets on Day 4 of a Test match, with a team following on? 254/4 at end of day 3 became 589/4 at end of day 4.
Let’s pause here for a moment. At the end of day 3, various things would have been going through the minds of these two gentlemen. VVS in his autobiography 281 & Beyond talks about how he and Dravid had planned the next day..or rather not planned the next day. They just decided to take it session by session, without thinking about the outcome. And in the end, the outcome became a part of history. That partnership gave confidence and the Aussies cracked under pressure. They couldn’t last 75 overs on Day 5 and India went on to win the series. That partnership was the turning point of the match, series and paved the way for a resurrection for Indian cricket after all the lows of the match fixing scandal a few months back. Under Ganguly, the Indian team reached new highs – winning matches on foreign soil and playing a fearless brand of aggressive cricket.
Day 4, Eden Gardens , 15th March 2001 became a turning point for Indian cricket. More importantly, VVS and Dravid had converted a crisis into a turning point from which there was no looking back.
Have you had a turning point moment in your life/ career already? Look back and reflect. If the answer is yes, you have already become a hero. Look back at what worked for you and feel proud. Share it with me if you are comfortable doing so. Would love to feature some of these in subsequent blogs.
If no, even better. You will soon have an opportunity to become a hero like VVS and Dravid.If you are currently in a crisis situation, think of Day 4 – Eden 2001. Just don’t worry about the situation or the outcome. Easier said than done, especially in an Indian context where since childhood, highest emphasis has generally been given on outcomes over processes and learnings. I must confess even I have found this tough to implement. One hack is to keep yourself distracted in chores, activities, movies, work, exercise, learning , music etc so that you don’t have time to think about outcomes.
There is another additional thing you can do – you can just hang in there without giving up. The law of averages and outcomes will be forced to favour you eventually if you don’t give up. One session, hour, day at a time. The current pandemic is being harsh on everybody, in different capacities – personal and professional. But this can also become a turning point for each of us to become heroes in our own way. The measure and method of success for this can only be decided by you alone – without the need for external validation.
Standing in the hall of fame
And the world’s gonna know your name
‘Cause you burn with the brightest flame
And the world’s gonna know your name
Listen to this song “Hall of Fame” by The Script if you haven’t.
Be a champion. Be resilient. The world is yours for the taking.