Mitchell Starc’s excellent Ashes return to form has been given the ultimate reward, the fast bowler claiming a shock Allan Border Medal.
We are almost there.
The dates for the India versus Australia series have been finalised and we expect a crowd of 25,000 at the MCG on the boxing day.
It is one of the most highly anticipated series in recent memories.
The last time India visited Australia they dominated the Aussies, which is unheard of, especially on Australian soil. When was the last time Australia lost an ODI and a Test series at home? Keep thinking about it.
But there’s a sub-plot that will be grabbing all the attention. Yes, you have got it right, it’s the Steven Smith versus Virat Kohli battle. In the 2018 series, Smith and David Warner were not part of the team, and when India won the series people started arguing whether India would have won against a Smith-led Australia.
In 2014 Virat Kohli, at the peak of his power, went toe to toe with Steve Smith, scoring 692 to Smith’s 769. They have smashed records all over the globe and we don’t need to mention numbers here to show how good they are. Both of them stand head and shoulders above the rest.
Why are they better than others?
How many times have we pinched ourselves to see if we are not dreaming when Kohli has pulled off chases that seemed impossible to be done? More amazingly, he is like a mathematician at work, calculating every run, ball and over.
So why is Virat so good at chasing and batting in general? Does he work harder than the rest? Is he really that good at mathematics, or can’t the rest do simple math?
Steven Smith against England was on another level, a level we call Bradman-esque. So why is it that no other Australian has teased England like Smith? And the same questions: does he work harder than the rest and so on. Let’s break it down.
The hardest worker in the room argument
I have always asked myself why some people work harder than the rest? It’s a legitimate question. Because hard work is not easy. If it were easy, everybody would have done it. Putting time in the gym should be equally frustrating for both Kohli and Smith like everybody else.
Here is what I think. Some people are naturally gifted and there’s something about their mindset that differs from the rest. Imran Khan would call that mindset nerves of steel. No matter what happens, the only reasonable outcome in Kohli and Smith’s minds is success, failure is not an option.
I am not talking about when they were at the peak of their powers, I am talking about the time when they were kids playing in the streets, pretending to be Sachin Tendulkar or Ricky Ponting.
When they were playing at the U19 level or when they started playing at the international level. How often have we seen players labelled “talented” succumb to the pressures of the international arena?
Players like Sohaib Maqsood, the fittest player in Pakistan cricket and probably internationally, put in the hard yards. But those players can not rise to the occasion consistently like Smith and Virat.
Apart from cricket, people like Elon Musk, Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton did not have to work hard for the ideas to come to mind. Although they had to work hard to work on the ideas, once you know you are doing something special, work becomes easy.
If Smith is practising even after everyone has left, that’s because he is getting the rewards easier than the rest. If Kohli is hitting the gym after scoring 150+ in a day, that’s because he enjoys it. I do not deny the fact that hard work is essential, I believe for that some work is more fun because it comes naturally to them.
What the rest needs to do
Athletes like Roger Federer, Leo Messi or Khabib Nurmagomedov can make you feel helpless. I often think of the opposition when the match is over and they have seen something special. What does that do their ego, knowing that they can not be as good?
Imran Khan once said: “When passion and talent go toe to toe, passion will come out victorious.” For the rest, if they are not as naturally talented but have the burning desires, they can compete with the best by sheer will and hard work.
Success at the elite level does not come easy. It will grind you to the very core, and we have seen that throughout our lifetime how athletes fall. But that’s life.
What we, the common people, can learn
I have not yet found a talent in me or something that keeps me up at night. But I learnt the hard way that if you want to succeed in life, you need to utilise the capacity and capability you are blessed with to the fullest.
Hard work does pay off, and once you start getting rewards even if you don’t love what you are doing, but at least like it, you can go a long way. Like the French philosopher Albert Camus preached about the myth of Sisyphus, life is a relentless struggle, find a way to enjoy it.