Cricket at its best epitomizes life! More often than not, players are faced with the most daunting of circumstances. More often than not, they face situations of adversity which can demoralize and make a mockery of one's self confidence and attitude. Most players buckle under pressure. They fail to handle the stress and sustained pressure that the opposition puts on them.
But some players have a steely resolve to fight through that troubled period. With single minded determination and discipline, they rise like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes to lead a scarcely believable resurgence that will go on to become the stuff of legend.
Let’s look at a few such instances where testing circumstances brought the best out of some players and elevated the sport to a different level.
#1. Brendon McCullum v India, 2nd Test, India vs NZ, Wellington 2014
Brendon McCullum has always been known for his blazing strokeplay and he carried that aggression into his captaincy. The result was a dramatic resurgence in New Zealand's test fortunes and they became world beaters in multiple formats, with the exception of an ICC silverware.
But people always held the view that he was not the one to look up to in pressure situations. He had often been criticized for his extravagant shot selection in situations which required him to put his head down. The man just couldn't shelve his natural strokeplay, it seemed.
During the final test match of India's tour of New Zealand in 2014, Newzealand were shot out for 192 in the first innings and saw India score 438 to take a significantly rich lead of 246. They found themselves 94/5 in the second innings and with Taylor absent injured and Williamson back in the pavilion, surely an imminent defeat was in cards.
BJ Watling joined McCullum in the crease and then what followed was a partnership fit for the gods. The two put on 352 runs off 738 deliveries, and took their team from a very difficult position to a scarcely believable match winning one. Though BJ Watling deserves special mention for his selfless display of dogged resistance, the star of the show was undoubtedly McCullum.
Battling a dodgy back and his own natural attacking instinct, he put up an amazing display of relentless application and a single minded pursuit of survival. In an innings of gigantic proportions, He made 302 runs off 559 balls, batting and battling for 775 minutes, close to a scarcely believable 13 hours!
From requiring 152 runs to make India bat again, with just 5 wickets remaining, to set India an improbable target of 435 in just over 2 sessions, it was a triumph of mind over matter.
The match was saved! The series was won! More significantly, a national great had staked his claim of being counted as one of the all-time greats.