The rivalries go beyond the crease; intruding upon the small boundaries that segregate the professional from the personal. The contests reach a crescendo, pushing young aspirants either on the brink of an exit or challenging them towards higher glories. The battles gain a literal meaning, with the conflicts border lining on envy, jealousy and all the cruel traits that young children had been warned about.
Do not allow pride to enter your system, they would say.
Do not let jealousy push you towards meaningless grudges.
Hatred and envy prevail only amidst the “bad guys.” One was taught the values of gallantry and selflessness and with a rigid stance, a youngster promised to carry those lessons with him for life.
Until he was pushed into this very world. When he saw a ten-year old “friend” plucking out his flaws in front of the coach or when the teenager “best friend” refused to let him know of the all-important training camp that could possibly change lives, the innocence evaporated into a silent redundancy; the gullibility into a strange strength.
Bullied into submission and ragged for his failing form, the youngster continued in his path with renewed zeal, boosted by the presence of his aiding elder brother, one who had been aware of the harsh happenings that surround the crazy world of competition. He was no longer the one being bullied; he was in the threshold of becoming a part of the gang that bullied instead, but on being engulfed in the world of flashbacks, all it brought back were days of sorrow and nights of empty tears; noons spent in loneliness and evenings that translated to solitude. Seeing his younger brother in a similar phase caused a rippling effect through his soul, and he was determined to not allow a similar plight befall him. He would be his lone saviour. His guardian angel.
Talks swivelled around the younger days of backyard cricket. Seated on the porch of their coaching school after a tiring day of practice; wherein the younger one had learnt the art of swing bowling and the elder one had perfected the ways to evade the same, the duo sought comfort in each other’s words and wisdom. They had been away from their parents for almost a month now and the financial troubles back at home had meant their foray into a boarding school where their skills in cricket would be perfected and polished.
In a nation where cricket was always prevalent in society, it was but natural that two young boys would snatch hold of a wooden stick, uneven at the edges, and a plastic ball on a hot Sunday afternoon and set foot towards the Maidan across their house. Hours went by. The batting genius was finally dumbfounded by the skills of his younger brother and yes, they did not know where life would take them but secretly they both hoped it would be onwards the cricket field.
Spending hours travelling to and fro their camps. Saving every penny to buy themselves a proper cricketing kit, even if it meant letting go of that orange ice cream that was being relished by the boys all around. Skipping school and hoisting studies out of the window for an additional hour at the ground. Their childhood was different; it was replete with sacrifices and struggles, but it was nonetheless enticing and when surrounded in the familiar sound of the ball whizzing past the ear, it was totally worth it.
Today, the two have made their name in international cricket. When the call-up arrived, it was a moment of intense jubilation and ecstasy. It was a day when tears poured out more than the smiles had formed. As the younger brother held and hugged his elder brother, it culminated the years of toils, dreams and hard work. It ended the days of being secluded and being cast aside by the more “popular” bunch of cricketers. No one could have deciphered their struggles as much and hence, no one could have been happier on this momentous occasion than the comrade.
The other brother, who had not yet received the call for the national team continued in his efforts, increasing the ante much higher. He was over the moon at his brother being selected and performing so very well in the national colours. Fame followed, but it was time to carve a niche of his own.
That is why it is just so emotional when two brothers get to play for their countries together. It was emotional when Ian Chappell and Greg Chappell plotted the downfall of their opponents together. It was ironically mesmerising when the latter instructed his younger brother Trevor to bowl the infamous under-ball in 1981.
When Steven and Mark Waugh dissipated the teams constantly, it not only provided a flair to their ever-increasing aura, but it also brought back riveting stories of their tales of hardship, which helped them gain further respect from all quarters. Mark’s flamboyance eerily contrasted the reserved nature of Steve and it became hard to gulp down the fact that the duo had indeed shared a similar background. While the former’s love for the sunglasses and the big hits do the rounds, the latter’s premonition towards his wicket puts him in stark contrast with his twin brother. However, the passions that unfolded for the other’s performance always filled one with a warm tingly feeling; making one adore our family and our siblings even more.
Grant and Andy Flower showcased precision and focus to make a mark in a country where the sport had never really threatened to bloom higher. But it was their combined love for their game and their determination to stage their skills that to date remains an inspiration. When Grant would remain crestfallen in his youth and was almost ready to give up the game, it was his brother’s inspiring speech that motivated him higher and upwards. Those words never really went amiss even when the duo battled out many wars for Zimbabwe; Grant filled with a bountiful of accolades for his brother’s belief in him.
When Yusuf and Irfan Pathan combined to guide the Indian home to safety against the Sri Lankans in 2009, it not only displayed their sparks of talent but also gave way to a long-cherished dream. A dream where the two would come together and set sail on the turbulent waters and bring their team to safety. Hardik Pandya continues to do just that whilst Krunal Pandya remains seated on the boundary ropes with a tinge of sparkle in his boastful eyes.
As Shaun Marsh watches his younger brother Mitchell Marsh seal a place in the Australian team for the Ashes, his chest pounds up in pride. He knows that it is not only a stamp of approval on his skills, it also is a vindication of the trust that the two had upon each other almost fifteen years ago.
Through tests and trails; through turbulences and obstacles the destination has finally been breached and it could never have been a better moment than to share it with the one who stood as a rock through them all. Teammates might arrive and teammates might change but there will never be a brighter one than the one who was ready to give a solid push when the going had seemed almost impossible.
“Brothers are as close as hands are to feet”, goes an old phrase but on the cricket field, the brothers unite even with their reveries and fancies, spelling doom for their oppositions and making a mark together, just as they had once dreamed.