Cameron Green and Josh Hazlewood created history on Friday as they combined for Australia's highest 10th-wicket partnership in Test cricket against New Zealand.
A certain popular, parental bull-headedness drives our schoolboys into cricket academies which engender dreams of Indian Premier League millions, if not a berth in the international game. But those luckily out of the rat race can be fired by greater ambitions than the commonplace ones. You have PV Sindhu, who got into badminton aged eight, in that category, and a few equally exceptional others. Neeraj Chopra has again promised India a 90m javelin throw, saying that he will aim at it in the 2024 Paris Olympics, and there are several track and field experts who do believe he is very close to pulling it off.
The Olympic and world champion has gone on record as saying that there will be two Indians in the 90m club in the future, Kishore Kumar Jena and himself. Jena, truth to tell, compels optimistic attention after the Hangzhou Asian Games, and Chopra’s best till date is 89.94m, recorded in 2022. He has to get better by 6 cm now, as he has said himself very recently. A healthy, competitive relationship will help both. The target has so far proved elusive but it is not Chopra’s admirers who count on him to complete the rest of the journey. Chopra has the urge to keep doing well and the fitness to subject himself to the rigours of a toplevel professional sportsman’s psychological grooming for stardom.
It’s very, very rare in a country like ours where few kids grow up for anything even remotely suggestive of that and if and when they find themselves in situations where they have seniors holding their hand, they only get by. That kind of protective influence is difficult to come by away from team sport. Lone individuals in disciplines where people fend for themselves, as in tennis, find the going hard. It’s harder for girls but it isn’t really a cakewalk for boys.
Chopra has taken a lot in his stride since he decided on a life of athletics, making sure he faced trials and tribulations even when there was lack of friendly shoulders to lean on. There, of course, is an element of wish-fulfilment in this, given that it is as normal as Sunday lunch for Indians to anticipate, savour and celebrate a compatriot’s success in faraway lands.
People expecting Chopra to surmount all hurdles in an index of his country’s unshakable confidence in him. He knows he will have to work on his legs and he will. India’s greatest living cricketers will be bubbling in a mammoth crowd of revellers if and when Chopra goes 90-plus with his throw of the javelin. It may not galvanise the nation to excel in everything attempted with high hopes henceforth but that probably does not happen anywhere. Rare individuals win life’s biggest honours. Chopra’s will be a glory story in its own way.