SKY-gazing with infinite possibilities

Sports

SKY-gazing with infinite possibilities

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

There are few sights in the world that give me unparalleled joy, the way sport does. Most recently, a masterclass that you won’t find in any textbook passed down, left me spellbound. No I’m not referring to a 19 year old stunning his own idol in Paris with a gritty display, though that was pretty special. I’m talking about a 32-year-old, across the seas who left me awestruck. More so because it symbolises a shift in the way India has approached sport and is possibly on the path to approach life in general.

Yadav’s canvas is filled with limitless opportunities and more importantly, the rules of modest living and moderate sporting attitudes don’t apply here.

On Sunday, Surya Kumar Yadav told us emphatically why SKY was such an apt nickname for him. Like the blue boundless open space filled with innumerable possibilities, he exhibited just why there are no envelopes he cannot push. Yadav’s canvas is filled with limitless opportunities and more importantly, the rules of modest living and moderate sporting attitudes don’t apply here.

Surya is almost an aberration. Think back to what most of us were told growing up – don’t do this, do it that way, good kids do not say this, you will do well only if you pass your exams. We all grew up with a more than healthy dose of rules, restrictions, ton of caution and of course the sacrosanct conditioning that implies that the ‘normal’ has to simply be accepted. It cannot be questioned, redefined or worse, rejected.

Surya questions this normal. It isn’t ‘normal’ to sweep a fast bowler from way outside off stump to over fine leg for a six at one of the biggest stadiums in the world. It isn’t ‘normal’ to score a half century in just 23 balls. It isn’t ‘normal’ to play the kind of shots he has been playing this year and then say that he never practised any of them. It isn’t ‘normal’ to not really care about the end result and do what you think comes instinctively to you.

The notion this Mumbai lad has re-infused into a cricketing culture and by that extension the overall mindset at large, is fearlessness with an almost charming disregard for rules.

The notion this Mumbai lad has re-infused into a cricketing culture and by that extension the overall mindset at large, is fearlessness with an almost charming disregard for rules. To us who grew through the 80s and 90s, none of this makes sense. Caution was bred into everything we did. We spoke about fearless cricket back when one Kolkata boy, captain of the Indian team, removed his T shirt and swirled it around his head to celebrate an iconic victory in the most stoic and sombre stadiums – Lords. But Surya has spawned another dimension to that sense of fearlessness. That was reactive, this is pure flamboyance.

When a kid attends one of the zillion cricket coaching camps in his or her city, there is a 100% chance of learning the rules of the game and how it’s played, 80% chance of playing some decent cricket, 60% chance of being better than most, 40% probability of making the next level, 20% chance of ascending to the national team, 5% chance of probably being a one-of-a-generation talent, but just 1% or maybe even less chance of unlearning all the technique and textbook shots and go on to create your very own batting dictionary and language of the sport. Surya has just done that.

There have of course been others. Not too long ago AB De Villiers was happily pummeling bowlers around the world. But even his veritable genius stemmed from a sense of control. Surya’s exploits though have managed to rewrite the glossary AB left behind. No surprise then that his batting has left some of the best dumbfounded. ‘You are crazy Surya’ – Jacques Kallis. ‘He is from a different planet’ – Wasim Akram. ‘You have to be kidding me. You can’t do that’- the commentators, as he whipped one unbelievable shot after another.

A late call up has been preceded by failures, battles with the authorities, a streak of hot-headed catastrophes in the domestic circuit and yes runs, lots of it; Sky has lived through it all.T

The cynics would say this fearlessness is fickle, built upon by chance. In a team known to be brutal with performative lapses, a clutch of poor performances will surely give way to caution. But that’s where I believe, with Surya it will be different. He has just started his international career and yet he is already 32. A late call up has been preceded by failures, battles with the authorities, a streak of hot-headed catastrophes in the domestic circuit and yes runs, lots of it; Sky has lived through it all. What’s remained through his journey has been this attitude of not caring about what he’d find at the end of the road. The player you are is an extension of the person you are. Surya sure is wired different, at least in the Indian context.

The T20 format too has essayed its part in prompting cricketers to think outside the box, but how many actually journey away from the tried and tested to stamp their identity on a sport that likes to swear upon tradition and history? Not many. But every now and then there comes along a Surya to tell you it’s doable.

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