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They hugged, they wept, they won

Ranabir Majumdar | Updated on January 25, 2021

Deep impact: Mohammed Siraj (right) dominated the field both with the ball and his ability to call out racism   -  VIA REUTERS/ STRINGER

The current India team didn’t just clinch a series in Australia. It also tugged at the heartstrings with displays of emotions and humanness

* This was a team that looked out for one another. One that was unafraid to bare their emotions, a team that was comfortable to show empathy at the highest level

* This is why Virat Kohli, leader of the pack, was comfortable to be back home with wife Anushka Sharma for the birth of their first child

* It was emotion that drove a young Mohammed Siraj to cry for his father as the teams lined up for the national anthem before the start of the Sydney Test

* This is a team with players who’ve lost a parent and know what it takes to play on, keep it going, fulfil a dream

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From December 19, 2020, to January 19, 2021, cricket fans in India and across the world, to put it mildly, lived a roller coaster ride. Some may even have considered enhanced medical insurance with extended bouts of pounding hearts, breathlessness, and an adrenaline-rushing recovery of the body and the mind. The series itself — and you can add your own adjectives and platitudes — lifted the mood of a nation, while revealing an intensely powerful EQ-driven team that is hard as nails.

Professional sport, or just being a professional, we are told, demands grit, tenacity, resilience. The ability to look in the eye of the opposition, hold your nerve. Often enough it takes a toll on your body and on your mind. It invades the spaces that are meant for family and friends, even demanding that you keep your emotions aside.

I watched this team with awe and admiration. Not because of what they achieved on the field. But because of who they were off it. And I don’t mean the back stories or the images that have flooded our social media timelines in the past one week. This was a team that looked out for one another. One that was unafraid to bare their emotions, a team that was comfortable to show empathy at the highest level.

This is why Virat Kohli, leader of the pack, was comfortable to be back home with wife Anushka Sharma for the birth of their first child. Did he not know this was the most important bilateral series in world cricket? Of course, he did. But he also knew that his first child moment was not going to be repeated. For a man, who as an 18-year-old was not deterred by his father’s death to return to the ground and produce a match-saving knock for Delhi in a Ranji game, this was a moment of the heart. He flew back knowing two things. One, confident that his place in the side and his captaincy was not at risk. And two, and more important, because he needed to do this.

It was emotion that drove a young Mohammed Siraj to cry for his father as the teams lined up for the national anthem before the start of the Sydney Test on January 6. Playing for your flag is an aspiration, playing to fulfil a dream knowing that the person who helped you craft that will never be around, is a covenant with your loved one. And how beautifully he used the emotion to make it count — both with the ball, and with his ability to withstand and report unsportsmanlike behaviour from the stands.

Test cricket, much like life, is about wrestling with the sessions, winning the moments, and knowing there are people waiting for you across the ropes. Leading the team after his fifer at the Gabba, Siraj got a bear hug from Jasprit Bumrah. Bumrah had lost his father as a seven-year-old. The brotherly hug was an unmistakable display of love and pride. Similar emotions were seen just a day earlier when Ravichandran Ashwin received Washington Sundar after his feisty innings. Ashwin has often spoken about Sundar’s ability as a cricketer, but to wait at the ropes for him as he walked back after that knock, did not come from the cricketing manual. It came from the heart.

The winner takes it all: While the team’s on-field exploits will inspire generations, its approach to emotions has struck a chord with cricket lovers   -  VIA REUTERS/ STRINGER

 

This team and its on-field exploits will undoubtedly inspire generations. It has given us all a moment of glory that will last a lifetime. But it has also given us the opportunity to acknowledge and embrace our emotions. To know that it is okay to cry. To know that it is okay to express and receive love. To know that it is okay to go and be with the one you need to be with.

Great teams produce great results not with talent, but with their heart. This is a team with players who’ve lost a parent and know what it takes to play on, keep it going, fulfil a dream. This is a team that supports its captain to go on paternity leave. This is a team that despite giving its all, and taking all the blows, has kept its humanness intact.

Strong, empathetic individuals do that. Strong, empathetic teams do that.

Ranabir Majumdar is a communications professional based in Gurgaon

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Published on January 25, 2021
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