Rocky Balboa and The Shawshank Redemption at The Gabba

For any film lover, it is easy to keep going back to Rocky (1976) and The Shawshank Redemption (1994). Both are stories about underdogs. The lead character in each film strives against significantly higher odds and intimidating opponents. Rocky Balboa and Andy Dufresne both are mocked and ridiculed, and but their struggles make them memorable, stirring characters. That’s partly why “The Shawshank Redemption” is the top-rated film on IMDb’s Top-250 list. And why Rocky became such a massive sleeper hit.

Like Rocky Balboa, people found it easy to mock Mohammed Siraj for his less-than-stellar white-ball record. He kept throwing those 8-fers in FC cricket for fun, but did anyone really care? Wasn’t he carted for 50 runs every third IPL match?

Like Andy Dufresne, Shardul Thakur was pulled down by life before he’d even realised the joy of his Test debut. In an age when India have a fast bowling assembly line, he could have been forgiven for thinking that he was never going to get another chance at Test cricket.

Siraj’s story of rags-to-riches is well-documented by now. If you’re still unaware, watch this video below.

I’ve followed Siraj’s exploits in the Ranji Trophy and A tours, albeit only superficially. It’s hard not to get excited when a young fast bowler picks up cartful of wickets in First Class matches for fun, against both domestic and international opponents. Then Pat Cummins broke Mohammad Shami’s arm, and Siraj, the Rocky Balboa of this story, got his big break against the Apollo Creed that is facing Australia on home soil.

It’s a funny thing, in a way. The man Siraj replaced, Shami, has his own story of struggle. In India, given the craze for cricket and the millions in pursuit of limited opportunities, it’s hard not to come across stories of struggle every now and often.

Siraj’s partner-in-crime today, Shardul Thakur, he of the swinging ball and the slap-drive to Mitchell Starc, used to shuttle 70 kilometres one way on a daily basis at one time. And when his chance at Test cricket was taken away, like Andy Dufresne’s at a peaceful life, feeling let down could’ve been easy for him. But look what his perseverance, with a stroke of luck, has done so far.

Together, a bowler in only his third Test and another in basically his first, bowled Australia out on their own turf almost on their own.

99.999% of us will never be in either of their shoes, will never get anywhere close to the Indian team, but that doesn’t mean we can’t see the beauty of the moment. You don’t even need to be a cricket fan to enjoy their stories.

The underdog’s tale doesn’t always have a happy ending, but that’s beyond the point. On this tour, Team India have made a habit of providing us uplifting stories. Like every great story of grit and redemption, the team had to fall first. And like every such story, it fought back. But the clincher is, this story has a dozen Shawshank Redemptions. Tomorrow, one way or the other, this story will end. If the weather holds fair, Australia are favourites to win. This pitch is trickier than the Sydney strip. But who’s to say India won’t draw the match, or, or, do the unthinkable?

After all, who thought Rocky Balboa or Andy Dufresne could finally do what either of them did?

Images courtesy.

Thanks for reading.

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