Monday Motivation – What cricket can teach us about attitude and guts

What makes watching sport an enriching activity?

Is it simply because it causes an adrenaline rush inside us, which we just love? Or is it because, though unbeknownst to us, it teaches us many life lessons? It could probably be a combination of both these factors.

When we watch a sport, we imbibe the spirit of selflessness, perseverance, sacrifice for a common cause, hard work, determination and a single-minded pursuit of success. They are invariably the kind of qualities one needs to learn to be successful in one’s career and, as a natural extension, in one’s life.

With its intricate rules and an inherent trait of throwing up occasions for swift decision making, Cricket is a sport that offers many life lessons, if we are ready to learn them.

How do you react when you are confronted with a difficult problem is what is often called attitude. You watch cricket and you will find many examples of brave men (and women) facing problems or challenges with courage, often risking their reputation and at times even their lives (playing cricket could be life threatening too as was the case with Phil Hughes). Those moments of inspiration would truly lift you and would teach you how one could defy odds, rise above mediocrity and achieve success if one has the right attitude to do it.

This Monday, let us motivate ourselves by looking into three occasions in a cricket field when with right attitude and guts, players rose above their ordinary selves to conquer difficult circumstances and emerge as winners.

Sachin Tendulkar, 2003-04 India’s tour of Australia, SCG, Sydney – When Sachin Tendulkar arrived for the final test of the 2003-04 series at Sydney, he had only made 82 runs from the previous 5 innings in the series. He was terribly out of form and was constantly getting out by edging balls to the wicket-keeper and to the slip cordon. And in that final test he was determined to play a long innings, he offered no shot to the balls that came outside his off stump, and played at only those that were on his pads. Faced with a difficulty, Sachin Tendulkar curbed his natural instincts of driving through the covers and in a harsh display of discipline, balls outside the off stump were left alone, bouncers were negotiated by swaying away or ducking under, yorkers were dug out, and slow balls were defended smoothly. And of course, he made a double hundred there – a great innings of resolve, will power, grit and restricted shot play, made possible by a strong attitude to triumph over adversity.

Colin Cowdrey, 1974-75 Ashes, WACA, Perth – Facing as a batsman the lethal pace attack of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson at their pomp was perhaps the scariest thing to do on a cricket field. And when you are specifically asked to do it at the age of 41, that too, after you have made your international retirement from cricket, it becomes particularly difficult. But it was exactly what was asked of one of England’s greatest batsman, Colin Cowdrey during 1974-75 Ashes in Australia. Batsmen John Edrich and Dennis Amiss were nursing their injury after a bruised hand and fractured hand respectively after facing Lillee and Thomson in the previous matches. Adding to the team’s woes, John Lever, Mike Hendrick and Keith Fletcher were all unable to play due to injury or illness. English Captain Mike Denness was left with no other option but to call Colin Cowdrey who was enjoying his retirement life with family at his home in England. Cowdrey had no second thoughts; he immediately said yes to Denness and flew to Australia to face Lillee and Thomson. 81 minutes into the first session of play on Day 1, Cowdrey was out in the middle to face the music. Lillee and Thomson roared in, but Cowdrey showed his mettle and moved right behind the balls to knock them down, playing only when compelled, otherwise leaving them outside the off stump. He was hit by a Lillee bouncer, but did not flinch. He batted 2 hours and 5 minutes in the first innings, facing the pace of Lillee, Thomson and others before getting out. In the second innings, Cowdrey volunteered to open the innings and face the two fearsome quicks. The opposition and the crowd murmured their admiration of the brave act. Though a Thomson delivery that struck his left forearm shook him, he didn’t retreat and fought on. Finally when he was dismissed, he had heroically batted for 256 minutes in the match, taking many body blows, but never evading the challenge.

MS Dhoni, 2011 World Cup Final, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai – It is strong attitude and guts on display when you go out to take the challenge head on, when you know that if you fail your reputation is in grave danger of disappearing into thin air. However when the circumstances call for a brave act, it is the right attitude that prompt gutsy people to take the bull by its horns. MS Dhoni coming out to bat at No. 5 in 2011 cricket World Cup against Sri Lanka, ahead of the in-form Yuvraj Singh, was one such act. When the third wicket fell, India was 114/3, with Tendulkar, Sehwag and Kohli back in the pavilion. While everyone expected Yuvraj Singh to walk in to join Gautam Gambhir in the middle, it was the Indian captain who walked in, promoting himself one position up. He took the responsibility to take India home, even when the target of 275 was a long way off. Though Dhoni started off slowly picking ones and twos, once he had the measure of the pitch, he was in full swing, punching Muralidharan through the covers and flicking Malinga off his pads. Even when Gambhir fell at the other end, Dhoni stood composed and took India past the target. Had he failed, Dhoni would have been the target of fierce criticism and he would have known that. Still he went out, bravely chased down the target and become the eventual winner. This is what true attitude and guts will do for you.

Cricket throws up many such examples of gutsy players surmounting self-doubt, danger and difficult challenge with the right attitude. On this Monday, let these legends of the game motivate us.

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