The summer of 36 will not be forgotten, but will certainly be forgiven. Though the nature of the implosion was shocking for a team of proven pedigree and credentials, and would remain an all-time low, none of the 11 players would be condemned by what would be the equivalent of the devil’s number in Indian cricket. It would be a memory that would be tough to erase from the mind of these cricketers as well as the audience, there would be frequent reminders in the form of banter, sledge or genuine malice, but it would cease to be a crushing burden as time rolls on. It would haunt them, but would not define their career or life.
The batch of 36 could take lessons from the class of 42. It was no ordinary batting line-up that England skittled out in London, featuring as it did Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Viswanath, Farokh Engineer and Ajit Wadekar. But decades later, when their careers are assessed, that hour of ignominy is seldom recalled. Gavaskar went onto become an all-time great most reputed for his all-condition technique. Viswanath is often remembered as the most aesthetic of Indian batsmen, a match-winner on difficult tracks. Engineer made England his home and went on to become a county legend. Wadekar’s leadership skills are still praised and he later enjoyed successful stints as India coach.
Sport, thus, forgets and forgives. It offers a chance for redemption. There are numerous examples. Stuart Broad was struck for six sixes in an over by Yuvraj Singh, yet he is set to end up as one of the all-time great bowlers, scaling more heights than Yuvraj could even imagine. Usain Bolt was eliminated in the first round of the Athens Games, before he clocked the Olympic record in Beijing four years later. Shane Warne was plundered for 150 runs in his debut Test against India, but went on to pick 708 wickets. So India could take lessons from history and fight back.
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