Karun Nair, by his own admission, had a lot of things going on in his mind as he got closer to his triple ton, but when the moment actually unfolded, he went blank and the historic occasion passed without any spontaneous, sentimental garnish about it coming from the youngster. It seemed as if he wasn’t ready to express himself. As if he was keeping his emotions on a leash for still mightier moments to happen.
The show of modesty on the part of the youngster looked deceptively simple on Monday, but on Tuesday, as he took a one-handed catch to dismiss Jake Ball, dashed to the wicket to grab a stump and unleashed a power sprint to celebrate the victory with a big smile spread across his face hint at the hidden plan he had about the right time to let loose his emotion.
An Indian push for a 4-0 series win getting aborted for want of time lost in granting the extra overs for Karun to reach his personal milestone may have forever cast a shadow on his triple hundred, but now that the disturbing ‘if’ has been taken out of the equation, the 303 runs looks as awesome as it should.
The third man ever to convert a maiden Test hundred into a triple ton and book his space of immortality on cricket’s wall of fame where he would now be in the company of Gary Sobers and Bob Simpson had to deal with a mortal world at the end of play on day four: “Did you know how to swim?”
In a post-match chat with the man of the day, Ravi Shastri was referring to a tragedy on July 17 that killed two persons and spared 90-odd others, including Karun, on the snakeboat that sunk in the middle of the Pampa river in the south Indian state of Kerala. Karun was rescued by the locals.
He clung to the boat and asked the rescuers to help others first, according to an official in charge of the famous snakeboat feast at Aranmula Temple where Karun was to make an offering that day.
Here was an opportunity for the young man to unveil a rare story of courage and unselfishness even in the face of death, and put a fabulous coat of non-cricketing gloss on his moment of glory. If we needed further proof that every inch of Karun’s 168cm frame is modesty personified, this was it.
The three centuries he scored in a single day stand out for the will to survive and the skill to innovate in equal measure displayed by a young man playing his first Test series. The centuries grab our attention for a complete absence of even the necessary frills. Seldom have we seen a cricketer scoring a maiden Test century and almost not celebrating it, especially a batsman who would have been on the chopping block had he failed again after the first two uninspiring outings had fetched him little chance to extend his Test life.
On Monday when Karun sliced Ben Stokes behind point for a four, it was his first Test century that came in the third Test. Twenty-one overs later he took his personal score to 150 to make an impressive hint that he could deal with the excitement associated with a hundred without throwing away his wicket. That was a perfect time for anybody to be loud a bit, but not Karun. Then came the 200, with a cover-drive for four, and the 250, with a gentle flick for a single to square leg, but the man in focus remained modest about his landmarks. He did raise his hands, point his bat to the dressing room and acknowledge the cheering crowds.
That was it. No drama, no fuss. Not even the mandatory garnish.
The cut through point brought him immortality in the 191st over, becoming the second Indian to reach the triple ton milestone, after Virender Sehwag. That’s a spot of eternity even the ‘god’ cricket Sachin Tendulkar couldn’t buy for himself in almost a quarter of a century of his avatar.
That was a moment Karun could have allowed himself to lose his sanity for a split second. Instead, he now owns the moment in a way that’s simple yet brilliant, with such an understatement of emotion that will be difficult to repeat for anyone else who may get to the hallowed spot in the future.
Apart from the raising of the bat, the pointing of the bat towards the dressing room and the crowds and allowing a hint of a smile to momentarily light up his face, there was one small step that was extra on the historic occasion. A little long gaze towards the Pattabhiraman Gate End from where his parents, Kaladharan and Prema Nair, were soaking in the moment, perhaps in a clear message to his mother, who had always preferred to stay away from his games, that she need not be superstitious anymore.
What a beautiful way to inspire and empower a mother.
Karun Nair, as we know about him now, is a new-gen batsman who plays the modern shots — the sweeps, the slogs and the upper cuts — blended with drives and cuts of classical purity. The arrogance with which he plays his sweeps is a stunning contrast to his other side: a picture of unfailing modesty even at the summit of achievement.
This is when and how boring gets inspiring.
(The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman)