Faiz Fazal and the relentless pursuit of goals come rain or shine
In a country with 1.3 billion people, where almost every other kid harbours the dream of becoming the next Sachin Tendulkar, it doesn't take long for dreams to shatter like a house of cards. But then, some are not driven by rewards in their life. There are a handful who personify the never-say-die attitude with unparalleled expertise. There are a select few who marry their dreams with an indomitable fighting spirit and unconditional commitment. And yet, life remains cruel to them. Faiz Fazal's tale is probably an exemplar of the same.
It was 2004 when an 18-year-old boy was on the cusp of donning India colours in the Under-19 World Cup. However, just when the going looked good, life decided to throw a twist in the tale. A last-minute injury ruled Fazal out of the tournament and eventually, a dream was crushed. Sounds disappointing, right? And so, had we been in his shoes at that moment, most of us would have cribbed and cried for what went wrong. But, the youngster accepted this bitter call of destiny and decided to keep his face to the sunshine than seeing the shadow. He grew through the disappointment rather than simply going through it.
"To be honest, I always look at it in a way that if I had played that tournament and not performed well then I would have been nowhere. So I always thought that there is something good in it, he had told the author in an interview."
The first hard lesson of his career was learnt. A hiccup quite early in his life was big enough to prepare him for the bumpy ride ahead. Soon, he brushed off the disappointment, toiled hard in the domestic circuit and progressed through the ranks of Vidarbha cricket.
Over the years, more often than not he was among the runs, but hardly in the news, because it was always players from states like Mumbai, Delhi and Karnataka who made the headlines. But, eventually, as they say- Hard work never goes in vain, the moment of reckoning did arrive in 2016. 12 years of relentless efforts in front of empty stadiums finally reaped rewards as the southpaw was called to play for a second-string Indian side against Zimbabwe.
And he did not harm his reputation, as he scored an unbeaten 55 in the lone opportunity he was given in the three-match series. This knock should have been enough to create a definite impression in the selector's minds, but then, life has always found crazy ways to surprise the left-handed opener as he was never called back again to don the national colours.
Sounds cruel, right? But, for the fighter that he has been throughout his career and having lived through all the disappointments, quitting has never even been a thought. In fact, in an era where youngsters are pleased by displaying their flamboyance in T20 cricket, it is the gruelling longest format which has been Fazal's eternal favourite. So much so that, after his IPL snub in 2012, he did not sit back mulling over another disappointment in his life. Rather he started training harder and in a bid to hone his skills he decided to play league cricket in the challenging English conditions.
India cap was followed by a different task at hand. He was appointed captain of Vidarbha, who were an unknown entity in Indian cricket then. A team which always had the talent but lacked in the department of self-belief. But, the gentleman from Nagpur has always been someone who has embraced challenges with an open heart and indomitable spirit.
Within a year after he was handed over the role of a skipper, Vidarbha went on to win the Ranji Trophy and Irani Cup titles in 2017-18 and successfully defended it in the next season. They are only the third side, after the elite Mumbai and Karnataka teams, to achieve this commendable feat. Their sheer dominance can be established from the fact that they are yet to taste a defeat after going down against Maharashtra in 2016.
However, more often than not the win has been attributed to the influence of Chandrakant Pandit's coaching and Wasim Jaffer's presence in the dressing room rather than the southpaw's captaincy skills.
Of course, they have played a significant role but no success is possible without a leader who leads by example and still sidelines his achievements for the sake of the side. In fact, the left-hander has been a run machine for them over the last couple of seasons amassing a total of 1780 runs in the longer format. And yet, in every other media interaction, he shifts the attention towards the side rather than talking about his personal achievements.
Faiz bhai as he is commonly known among his teammates, dons the hat of a tough leader, friend or a mentor depending upon the situation.
His commitment towards his team and belief in his bunch is what makes him a successful leader. Even as a journalist, every single time you happen to meet him, he will greet you with a big smile and ask about your well-being. Whether on or off the field, his actions speak for the values he carries in his life.
And when asked about what keeps him going in spite of constant ignorance of his performances, this is what he has to say, "The game itself is the biggest motivation in my life. I don’t look at the things which have happened over the years as a hardship. If you love something then you have to accept whatever comes along with it, whether it is good or bad.
"Of course I want to play Test cricket, but selection is something which is not in my control. All I can do is go out there, express myself and keep performing. At times I am disappointed but never discouraged, and that's what I've been taught from a young age."
He may have turned 34 and people may go on to say that age is not on his side. However, his passion, patience and perseverance towards his goals has a life lesson for all of us. But then, to imbibe it is not everyone's cup of tea because BEING FAIZ FAZAL IS AN ART!
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