Trying to find a Hollywood connection was futile. Movies are not keenly followed in the Sundar household. Washington Sundar got his name because his father M Sundar wanted to extend his gratitude to his mentor PD Washington. “He (PD Washington) had helped me a great deal in my career. My son was born only a few months after his death. So I decided to name my son after him as a mark of respect,” Sundar Sr was speaking to The Indian Express at Jadavpur University’s Salt Lake Campus ground on Tuesday.
Out there in the middle, his son was anchoring India Under-19’s chase against Bangladesh colts. He reached his half-century but soon got out, going for a wild heave and holing out to a skier. By then, the hosts were within touching distance of victory that would confirm their place in the tri-series final.
It was the only false stroke that Washington played during his 75-ball stay at the crease. But his father was not satisfied. He has always told his son to follow the Sunil Gavaskar school of batting. Indiscretion made him agitated. “I will talk to him tonight.”
After the match, Washington admitted that he shouldn’t have played that stroke. “Yes, that was a poor shot. I should have stayed there till the end.”
It’s a little unusual for a 16-year-old boy to mould his cricket the Gavaskar way, especially in this age of limited-overs proliferation where improvisations seem to have become the name of the game. “See, you got to have a solid foundation. If you’ve a good technique, then you can improvise as well. I was a cricketer myself who worshipped Gavaskar. Not that I prevent Washington from trying out different things. He plays shots like reverse sweep very well. But to become a proper batsman, you need to have your basics right. You need to follow Gavaskar and Dravid,” Sundar Sr explained.
He had made it to the Tamil Nadu Ranji Trophy probables but couldn’t go beyond. He wanted to make up for it by getting into coaching — running a cricket academy where Washington went for the first time when he was six years old. The Chennai boy now plays his club cricket for MRF.
India once again rotated the squad. Ricky Bhui made way for Virat Singh to lead the side. But Washington survived the experiment. He’s the only player to feature in all three matches that India have played in this tournament. In the first two games he opened the innings, scoring 34 and 2, respectively. Today he came at No. 6.
“I was informed last evening that I would be playing at No. 6. So I had enough time to prepare myself. I’m basically an opener, but I didn’t find it difficult to adjust to the change. Message from Rahul sir was simple, ‘play as per situation’. He always tells us that. He makes things easier for us,” the young man spoke with reverence.
India were off to a flyer, chasing 223 for victory. Rishabh Pant’s 26-ball 51 (9×4, 2×6) had provided the early impetus. But four wickets fell in quick succession and Washington came to bat under a bit of pressure. A decent partnership was required and the left-hander started to build one with Amandeep Khare (41). They added 69 runs for the fifth wicket and India trudged towards safety. Washington offered a calming presence and helped his partner grow in confidence. He had earlier taken 2/25 in six overs, bowling right-arm off-spin.
“My son thinks about the game 24/7. He represents a strong cricket culture. My daughter MS Shailaja plays for the Tamil Nadu women’s team. But there’s no father-son relationship when he practises under me. I’m a hard taskmaster and Washington is ready to put in the hard yards. I hope he will make steady progress,” said Sundar Sr, an Income Tax officer by profession.
Brief scores: Bangladesh U-19 222/7 in 50 overs (Mehidy Hassan 87; Washington Sundar 2/25) lost to India U-19 223/6 in 48.4 overs (Rishabh Pant 51, Washington Sundar 50) by 4 wickets.