What cricket can teach us about surviving pandemics | ESPNcricinfo.com

6:30 AM ISTIan ChappellFormer Australia captain CloseWidely regarded as the best Australian captain of the last 50 years, Ian Chappell moulded a team in his image: tough, positive, and fearless. Even though Chappell sometimes risked defeat playing for a win, Australia did not lose a Test series under him between 1971 and 1975. He was…

6:30 AM IST

  • Ian ChappellFormer Australia captain

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      Widely regarded as the best Australian captain of the last 50 years, Ian
      Chappell moulded a team in his image: tough, positive, and fearless. Even
      though Chappell sometimes risked defeat playing for a win, Australia did not lose a Test series under him between 1971 and 1975. He was an aggressive batsman himself, always ready to hook a bouncer and unafraid to use his feet against the spinners. In 1977 he played a lead role in the defection of a number of Australian players to Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket, which did not endear him to the administrators, who he regarded with contempt in any case. After retirement, he made an easy switch to television, where he has come to be known as a trenchant and fiercely independent voice.

The current testing times are demanding a lot of citizens round the world. I’ve learned that rules that apply to athletes prospering at sport are also helpful in living life.

With the Covid-19 pandemic biting hard, citizens of all countries are being asked to display – among other attributes – patience, determination, and a bit of initiative. These are qualities essential to playing Test cricket at a high level. To highlight the point I’ve chosen two particularly influential innings.

The first one is a Sachin Tendulkar masterpiece in Chennai in 1998. His brilliant second-innings 155 won the Test for India, but it wouldn’t have happened without the initiative displayed by Tendulkar in the lead-up to the series.

Tendulkar asked tall former India allrounder Ravi Shastri how he should cope with champion Australian legspinner Shane Warne if he went round the wicket to bowl into the rough. Shastri’s reply was tinged with common sense. “Because of my long reach,” he replied, “I had a defensive antidote to Warne bowling in the rough, but you don’t. You’ll have to devise an attacking option to combat Warne bowling in the footmarks.”

Following that sound advice, Tendulkar spent time at the MRF nets – where he deliberately scuffed an area outside leg stump – facing the wristspin of former Indian leggie Laxman Sivaramakrishnan.

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Fast forward to the fourth day of a tightly contested match where India are in trouble. Tendulkar, having been dismissed cheaply by Warne in the first innings, strides to the crease with his team two down and only 44 runs in front. The ball is spinning sharply and Warne, boosted by a four-wicket haul in the first innings, is confident.

Tendulkar struggles to assert any authority early on and Warne, sensing his opponent is vulnerable, opts to come round the wicket. It’s rare that a Test match is so finely balanced on the fourth day with the champions of each team doing battle with each other. At that moment the result was on the line.

Tendulkar’s determination and initiative were rewarded when he put his well-thought-out plan into operation. He immediately attacked deliveries pitching in the footmarks, and after a series of electrifying shots reached and cleared the boundary, Warne reluctantly went back over the wicket.

Tendulkar had won the battle and India would go on to win the Test.

The other innings that highlights patience and determination for me was played by Australian opener Ian Redpath at the MCG in 1976.

It was late January, a steaming hot day with temperatures in excess of 38 C, and Redpath was charged with the job of subduing the West Indies pace attack.

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Redpath is around 184 cm and 70 kilos, so he didn’t have any excess weight to shed out in the middle of this steaming cauldron. His team-mates joked that it was easy for him to handle the West Indies bouncers because all he had to do was turn side on and they had virtually no target to hit.

On this occasion Redpath swayed, ducked and bobbed his head to avoid the bouncers. He patiently picked off any loose deliveries and defied the West Indies pacemen for all but the last half-hour’s play. He scored a century and when he was finally dismissed in the shadow of stumps, he was red-faced and exhausted but he had done his job.

Australia were eventually dismissed for a challenging 351. When Redpath scored a follow-up 70 in the second innings the target was too distant even for a strong West Indies batting line-up that included Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards. Australia duly completed the victory.

Redpath claimed the Man-of-the Match award, but more importantly he won the respect of his team-mates for his patience and determination in trying circumstances.

Combine Tendulkar’s initiative and determination with Redpath’s patient courage and you have some of the qualities required to survive this devastating pandemic.

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