Life lessons from the first England-West Indies Test

‘Positivity’ was probably never as disappointing as it is now. When the whole world could do with some positive thinking, every positive medical test report is having a huge negative impact on the collective psyche of the people. Thankfully, we now have sports to lean on and find comfort — and also lessons.

After football’s successful return and similar attempts by several other sports, cricket also walked out of its isolation ward. With the conclusion of the first Test between hosts England and West Indies at Ageas Bowl in Southampton — the visitors won by 4 wickets — international cricket resumed after a four-month hiatus.

There was obvious excitement among cricket followers. There was hope that life would soon return to normal. There was apprehension, too, about the possible risks of this exercise. Sports fans had a heartbreak recently when Adria Tour tennis tournament, organized by Novak Djokovic, had to be scrapped just after first leg of the scheduled three legs as several players tested positive for the virus, raising safety concerns over the decision to resume play.

But cricket has come out victorious with no such issues in its first attempt, and along the way left some important life lessons that can help us in the times of Covid-19 and beyond.

Be ready for sacrifices
This was the first Test played after the use of saliva was banned by the International Cricket Council (ICC) as a measure to safeguard the players from the risk of contracting the virus. Saliva, carrier of the disease and one of cricket’s delinquencies, is an important part of the sport. It is used to make the ball smoother on one side that in turn accentuates the ball’s sideways movement at greater speeds and makes life difficult for batsmen. It has given cricket some of its more remarkable days on the field. But for cricket to resume amidst the pandemic, the saliva had to be sacrificed. After a bit of whining, everyone accepted the new reality and got behind the bigger idea of resumption of the game. Saliva can be a metaphor for the things we may have to sacrifice at the altar of the new normal. Like cricket, life in the times of coronavirus (maybe even after the pandemic) will require all of us to give up on some things that may seem important but are expendable. It is clear we can’t continue to live the way we were accustomed to.

United we stand

The resumption of international cricket was in itself an occasion for celebration. It required nothing else to be special. Yet, kudos to cricket authorities, the occasion was made more special by lending its support to a worthy cause — Black Lives Matter. The moving speeches by two former Black cricketers – Michael Holding of West Indies and Ebony Rainford-Brent of England — ahead of the match provided the event a perfect start. But the best moment came when both the teams along with their support staff took a knee to mark their protest against widespread racism. Unlike some other sports, like Formula One where some drivers refused to go down on one knee on some phony pretext, cricket exhibited the unity and empathy that is required to fight this age-old menace. Cricket showed the world that however difficult the situation is, one can always stand up for the right cause.

Believe in yourself

Before this match, the West Indies had won just two Test matches in England in the last 20 years, losing 16 in the process. Coming into this series, hardly anyone gave them a chance of winning a match. West Indies legend Brian Lara too doubted Jason Holder-led team’s capabilities going into the first Test. Five days later, the West Indies were one up in the series. What others believe or say about you is not always the true assessment of your abilities.

Try your best

West Indies batsman Jermaine Blackwood played probably the best innings of his life and helped his team win the match from a difficult situation. Yet he was far from perfect. He played many ugly looking shots, some of which could have cost his wicket too. But, he stayed put, focusing on the task at hand and not dwelling on the mistakes. Instead of trying to look good or being perfect, he kept on fighting to take his team past the target. Despite all the imperfections, Blackwood’s innings was memorable in its own unique way. Many, if not all, can identify with Blackwood’s situation. In everyone’s life, there are targets (not necessarily business ones) that need to be achieved, but the current situation has probably made it much more difficult than it used to be. His innings showed that there is no perfect way of achieving targets. You either achieve them or you don’t. The best you can do is try. And try you must.

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