Nicholas Pooran, all of 19, stares blankly at his plaster wrapped legs. He’s been in a car accident and broken both. A promising career, on the cusp of taking off, is now in danger of being nipped in the bud. Those wounded legs aren’t the most wretched bit of the photo though. Focus your attention instead on Pooran’s eyes. His blank gaze is fixated in the direction of his crushed legs but appears distant. Lost. Forlorn. It is the gaze of a man who has lost all hope, whose dreams lie crushed.
On coming around, the first question Pooran asks his doctors is what any young athlete in his position would – “Will I be able to play cricket again?”
They can’t assure him yet he will. They can’t inject that all important ingredient that keeps an athlete going through their darkest turmoil - Hope.
It is a funny old thing this hope. It confronts logic. It takes on sense. It encourages madness. It is an ally.
Two surgeries and months of dreary therapy later, Pooran is rebuilt. He is strong again. His legs retain their vitality and his stupendous talent starts to sparkle around the world. Just like his first gingerly jog after the procedures, he learnt gradually to hope again. He has been rewarded.
On Sunday night in Sharjah, those same legs carry Pooran in the direction of a ball that seems destined to land across the boundary. Pooran has learnt though that hope can deliver miracles so he chases in its direction. Those same legs that five years ago lay listless and immobile now rapidly propel him forward. And then he leaps, trusting so fully in those restored legs, with no more than hope to cling to scupper what appears a certain six runs.
Millions watching around the world let out a collective swoon. A human body, once nearly decapitated, is nearly horizontal to the ground. As it starts to land clasping the white ball that has fallen from the night sky and hurls it back in play, hope has won again over collective doom. In a little moment, a certainty, an inevitability has been overturned. And only because a man whose life has taught him to cling to hope when all appears lost, ran in the direction of the ball, with little else but hope as his ally.
Look at Pooran’s gaze to his colleague on the field after his gravity defying effort. A wry smile, an almost cheeky sparkle as they bump fists.
“Hey man,” he appears to be telling him. “I was only hoping for the best.”
On this utterly insane Sunday night, hope would light up another young man’s universe. Rahul Tewatia is in the cauldron and it isn’t going well. Try as he might, the skill he knows he possesses, the skill his team knows he possesses has deserted him. As delivery after delivery passes his helpless wafts, in his dugout, within his partner, hope starts to dissipate. Barely over his unrecognised career has Tewatia ever known the spotlight to shine so bright. Yet, under its brightness, he is crumbling. The mockery has already begun, the knives already sharpened.
Yet, among the cacophony, like a man on a log of wood in the open sea, Tewatia hasn’t given up on the one ingredient that keeps the contest alive in his mind. While everyone around him have forsaken it, Tewatia holds on to hope. He tells his possibly skeptical skipper, “When they bowl Cottrell and Shami, I can hit them for sixes.”
51 are needed in 18. Tewatia has made a miserable 17 in 23 so far. He is now confronted with two men who play regularly for their national teams. Tewatia is often left out of his state team. And so it begins. Hope against logic. Hope against sense. Hope against reality. Hope, well if you were being totally honest at the time, against all hope.
What follows is a scintillating sequence that produces a passage of play that will long linger in memory. Tewatia slaps and swings, connects and dismembers. Six sixes blast out of his bat in the next seven deliveries. He has believed, he has clung to hope, he has won the day.
Oftentimes we watch sport merely to count off victory and defeat, and cold numbers dictate the analysis that follows. However, every day on the fields or in lonely hospital rooms, its practitioners teach us about believing, trusting, hoping. Whether broken legs or impossible chases, those that embrace hope, quite often find a way past wretchedness. In Sharjah, Pooran and Tewatia grabbed those of us by the collar that often resign to a seemingly persistent helplessness to believe. And to hope. It was their gift to us on this magical night.
In the Netflix series “Away” about a mission to Mars, the astronauts learn that there is a slight chance on the basis of a sonic boom they hear that a craft with provisions sent ahead of them may have landed on the planet, though it has lost contact with ground control and assumed destroyed. The decision they have to make is whether to carry on towards Mars where in the absence of the provisions craft, certain death awaits them, or abandon the mission and head home.
“The sonic boom,” commander Emma Green tells her crew, “gives us a very faint and dangerous hope.”
“And that’s all this mission is,” responds astronaut Lu Wang. “And when did you forget that? Where is the woman who stood on the moon and asked the whole world to believe in impossible things? Who leapt off the side of a spaceship with nothing to cling to…but hope?”
“Emma,” Wang goes on to implore moments later to her teary eyed commander. “I don’t want to die, but I am willing to die for hope.”
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