India on Tuesday moved to the top of the ICC World Test Championship (WTC) standings — both on percentage points and points — following their remarkable 2-1 series win over Australia in the four-match Border-Gavaskar series. India now have 71.7 percentage points won and 430 points. Percentage points determine the final placings rather than total points won after a change to the points system owing to the Covid-19 disruption of the global cricket schedule.
The victory comes as a special surprise to Indian fans as several players suffered injuries, senior players were not playing. However, the young squad braved all odds and steered India to move up the second spot on ICC rankings. “Young India has done it,” said the legendary Sunil Gavaskar, terming the historic 2-1 come-from-behind Test series win over Australia as a “magical moment for Indian cricket”.
Some youngsters who have emerged heroes in the series are Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, T Natarajan, Shardul Thakur, and Washington Sundar. These stars have their share of stories of humble backgrounds and hard work which make them stand out.
Soon after India’s win over Australia, a WhatsApp forward started doing the rounds. The message started with ‘The story of 5 turnarounds which were instrumental in today’s turnaround’. “All these guys came together as debutants and have turned this match over its head. All their lives they were waiting for this moment in their cricketing career. All their failures, all their struggles, all their doubts and all their insecurities – all that was settled once and for all in this Test match. When presented with an opportunity, they fired themselves up and attacked Australia with all guns blazing,” read the WhatsApp message.
Mohammed Siraj: This young bowler first hit the headlines when his images of breaking into tears during the national anthem went viral. He later said that it was the thought of his late father that he broke down during the national anthem. Siraj’s father, who worked as a rickshaw driver, died on November 20 as India prepared for the start of their tour. The bowler, who also plays for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League, stayed in the team’s secure bubble despite an offer to fly home. The 26-year-old, who made a startling debut in the second Test victory when he took five wickets, made the tough decision to stay with the Indian squad after his father died in November.
Navdeep Saini: Born in Karnal city of Haryana, Saini comes from a humble middle-class Sikh family who gave him a grounded upbringing. His father was a driver with the Government of Haryana. His grandfather was a part of the Indian National Army as an independence activist. His love for cricket blossomed at the tender age of five when he asked for a ball from his father. Due to their restricted means, his father bought him a plastic ball. He played many cricket tournaments for local teams of his district during his school days even though his family wasn’t much keen about his cricketing career.
Shardul Thakur: The young lad was once obese and by no means would have cleared the fitness test had he not been guided by the right people, which includes God of Indian cricket Sachin Tendulkar. “My seniors helped me a lot. Abhishek Nayar, Rohit Sharma, Zaheer Khan, Wasim Jaffer and even Sachin Tendulkar. They guided me from time to time whenever I sought their advice,” Thakur once said in an interview. Once his fitness was on track, he was picked by the Mumbai Indians team and his great show on the field helped him secure his position in team India.
T Natarajan: From playing tennis ball cricket in Chinnapampatti, a village near Salem in Tamil Nadu, while battling poverty to becoming the 232nd One-Day International player for India. Natarajan’s dream journey in cricket took another huge step forward as he was handed the India ODI cap in the third game against Australia in Canberra in December 2020. His father Thangarasu is a power loom worker and mother Shantha was running a road-side shop in her village.
Washington Sundar: His name has attracted a lot of attention ever since he played for the IPL few years back. His father’s interest in cricket was appreciated by a neighbour named PD Washington who would buy him uniform, pay his fees and encouraged him every little way that he could. The two had an affectionate bond and when Washington passed away, Sundar’s father decided to name his son after him.