The Indian cricket team’s 2-1 series win against Australia and particularly the January 19 triumph at Brisbane’s Gabba cricket ground on which no visiting team has won a match since 1988, was indeed a famous victory. Especially after the visiting Indian team was bowled out for 36 in the first test match in Adelaide, the lowest ever test match score in the history of Indian cricket. This amazing turnaround is attributed to a score and more virtues of the team’s leadership and grit, determination, fortitude and pride, not to speak of excellent skills.
Nevertheless the rise of Indian cricket in the international firmament is attributable to a deeper socio-economic phenomenon — steady expansion of the middle class after the process of liberalisation and deregulation of the Indian economy began in the 1980s. In the final analysis, courage, conviction, goal-setting and continuous learning and self-correction are essentially middle class virtues. And it should also be borne in mind that cricket — the most sophisticated game ever invented, according to historian Ramachandra Guha — is an expensive middle class game. A half-decent cricket bat costs Rs.5,000 and a leather cricket ball Rs.600. Add a pair of batting gloves, leg pads, boots and paraphernalia and the bill of a complete cricket kit mounts up to Rs.25,000. Little wonder that Thangarasu Natarajan (29), a village lad who played a stellar role in India’s victory at the Gabba, had never bowled a genuine cricket ball until age 19.
The moral of this story of triumph over adversity is that quality, holistic education — integrating co-curricular and sports education — is the prerequisite of attaining middle class status which in turn is the precondition of success in sports arenas and playing fields of the world. Unfortunately there’s little awareness of this connectivity within the neta-babu brotherhood which frames public policy, or indeed within parents obsessed with academic swotting.