“If you believe in something, you’ve got to be prepared to die for it.” M. Sundar’s message in his WhatsApp status.
Washington’s father Sundar, a pace bowling all-rounder who was in the Tamil Nadu squad in the 90s, is his inspiration.
“He has gone through so much in life, and is so tough that he has shown the right path for me,” the 21-year-old rising young star told Sportstar on Saturday.
Washington’s performance in the epic Test at the Gabba is heroic. Three wickets in the first innings, including Steve Smith, a fluent 62 when India was in the dumps in the first innings, dismissing David Warner and unlucky not to send back Smith in the second innings, and his game-changing 22 on the final day.
Recalling the decisive moment on day five at the Gabba, Washington said, “It was a tense day and I watched every ball and at that point thought if India batted 98 overs for a draw it would be huge.”
Then, India lost wickets. “I had my pads on and Ajinkya [Rahane] and Rohit [Sharma] started teasing me.”
And then he walked into the cauldron that Gabba was with India still needing more than 60 and the overs gradually running out.
Washington took us right to the heat of the battle when he and Rishabh Pant met for a mid-pitch conversation.
Sundar spending his time at home in Chennai on return in while relishing a memorable Test cap no. 301. – SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT
“‘Who do you think will bowl the next over’ asked Pant. ‘Cummins’ replied Washington. Then Pant said, ‘But he has already bowled so many overs in this spell,” recalled Washington.
The decision to go for victory was “instinctively taken” said Washington. “There were more than 50 runs to go and I thought, if we could get 25-30 runs quickly, then Australia would be under pressure and the rest of the runs would come easily.”
That really was the genesis of India breaching Fortress Gabba.
The left-handed Washington decided to counter-attack Cummins, Australia’s most potent weapon. “I knew Cummins would bowl two bouncers and the rest of the deliveries would be short pitched.”
Cummins landed one short and Washington, light on his feet and quick with his reflexes, hooked him for an audacious six. The next ball was steered for four and the sluice gates were open again. “The plan worked,” said Washington modestly.
Under attack in the pressure-cooker atmosphere, Australia panicked. Washington had decisively swung the match.
He concedes to being a tad nervous before the Test, after bowling coach B. Arun broke the news about him playing. “That night I went to bed around 10.30 p.m. but could not sleep till it was 1.30.”
Once the Test began, his trademark composure was back. He bowled his off-spinners with control, consumed Smith “bowling to a plan.” Then, Washington’s 62, having all of the left-hander’s languid grace, oozed quality.
Washington’s driving through the off-side was brilliant against a high-quality attack. And he flicked Starc with grace. “Starc was fast, Cummins nippy and Hazlewood moved it both ways.”
Here, Washington took us to a little story on the tour. “I was not finding my batting rhythm, not getting my head and body position right during nets. But suddenly it all fell in place when I practised during the Sydney Test. I carried that to Brisbane.”
Asked about the positivity in the Indian camp, Washington said, “Coach Ravi Shastri would tell us youngsters stories of his playing days, and they filled you with belief.”
There are major goals ahead but Washington wants to continue enjoying his game like he did when he was locked in ‘fierce’ battles with his sister Shailaja, also a cricketer, in the backyard of his home or go to the Marina beach where they would have a go at each other with a tennis ball.
While he relishes the game, the combative spirit has never left Washington.