Fate and destiny alter scripts, open pathways. Ask T. Natarajan and Washington Sundar.
Considered limited overs specialists, the two were catapulted to Test cricket by a series of injuries to frontline cricketers, the limitations in selection forced by a pandemic, and their own work ethics and ability that impressed the team-management.
And the Tamil Nadu duo, making their Test debut on the same morning, displayed composure when emotions must have been swirling around.
Natarajan and Washington pulled their weight with tidy bowling on day one of the fourth Test at the Gabba. Control was the key as they bowled lengthy spells on a dry surface with some bounce but no moisture on a hot day.
They were among the wickets too. Natarajan consumed Marnus Labuschagne and Matthew Wade with short-pitched deliveries that were slippery in nature and Washington got the big fish, Steve Smith, caught at the leg-trap.
Just consider this. After a strong IPL, Natarajan was slated to travel to Australia as a net bowler and only an injury to Varun Chakravarthy put him in the Twenty20 squad.
And now he has played in all three formats for India! Who would have thought so a few months ago? But then, it was his impressive display in the Twenty20 games and the ODI — he sent down compelling yorkers at will — that opened the door for him in Test cricket.
There is that inborn tenacity, that desire to overcome the odds, that has been the driving force in Natarajan. With abject poverty around him as he grew up, he has faced and conquered so many challenges.
Coach Ravi Shastri, as shrewd as they come, would surely have seen the fighter in Natarajan, that temperament which is so essential for top-flight cricket. He is not quick but makes the most of his ability, bringing into play the left-armer’s angle from over and round the wicket and stringing together variations.
Cool and calm
There is a calmness about Washington that enables him to soak in the pressures of the occasion and focus on the job on hand. Tall and lithe, he essentially bowled a middle and leg line at the ‘Gabba with two men in catching positions.
On a first day wicket, there is only so much a spinner can accomplish, in the absence of any moisture, and Washington did not let his side down. He is in the eleven for the balance he provides with his smooth-stroking left-handed batting. Big days await him.
Indeed, Natarajan and Washington are destiny’s children. This life... it can surprise you.
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