The spirit remains the same
15th November 2019
It was 19 December, 2006. An usual winter morning in Delhi. An 18-year-old local boy walks out to bat to save his team from follow-on in a Ranji Trophy match against Karnataka. The young batsman smashed 90 and saved his team.
That 18-year-old and Bengal's budding U23 batsman Ankur Paul are somehow connected in a very similar way. Not by any blood relation but by the dedication towards the game.
Till now it is a good sports page story, a knock to remember for a year maybe except the fact that it's not. This game, the 18-year-old and that knock are remembered as one of the most famous example of girt and commitment to the game in the history of cricket.
That kid has grown up to be the best batsman in the world now, the only batter to amass 20,000 runs in a decade and has 69 international centuries under his belt. If you get the sports pages along with your daily newspaper I hope you have already guessed the name that is Virat Kohli, current India captain.
What turns the above said story in an example is Virat lost his father the night before, from a stroke. But he didn't stop, he didn't think twice and walked out to bat the next morning when his team needed him the most. Delhi didn't win that game, they somehow saved the follow-on but it was commitment and love for the game that took away the crown.
Ankur has somehow been through the same like the legend. The young Bengal batsman who is in superb form this season has lost his father too during the ongoing National Men's U23 One Day Trophy.
"I was in my hotel room when I got the news around 10 pm. We had a match the next day but I had to go home," Ankur recalled 4 November.
When asked about how he dealt with the situation at home the youngster said: "I had to stay strong when I reached home. My mother and brother were devastated but for being the eldest son I had to stay strong."
His father's wish to see him in the National jersey is source of passion and commitment for this young lad. He has scored a half-century in the last game against Mumbai and smashed a century against Kerala also. When asked abouhis goal Ankur said he wants to win this tournament, nothing else for now.
"My father wanted me to play Ranji for Bengal and someday represent my country too. My mom told me to go back and join my team after he passed away. She wanted me to do what my father wanted me to do," he added.
He also said that his co-players, coach, staff and friends all have supported him a lot.
Maybe this is the beauty of this game. It's not about runs, it's not about wickets, it's not about bat or ball. It's about this undying spirit, the commitment to the game that makes people turn into players, a player into a legend.
"Cricket is in the foreground, the rest is in the background," said another legend of the game Sachin Tendulkar, who also incidentally also went back to play cricket after his father's death.
Another legend. Another story. But the spirit remains the same.