48. Test Match Cricket and Research

My favourite sport to watch is test match cricket. It has the ebb and flow of a long drawn, thoughtful contest where temperament is as important as skills. This was evident in the century innings of Rohit Sharma. Although I could not watch the innings live, I did catch up on the highlights, and as expected Rohit’s batting was sublime.

In limited over cricket, Rohit is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished batter ever, with two double centuries in one day internationals. He also is one of the most stylish batter who can score runs on any continent. Unfortunately, he has not accomplished the same reputation in test match cricket. But in the ongoing tour of England, there are some interesting developments. He has taken the initiative to stay at the crease for a long period, and has tightened his game which has let him to score runs as an opener. Mind you, opening batting in overcast English conditions is never an easy task, and it is a remarkable achievement that he has been able to do so with reasonable success.

Coming back to yesterday’s innings Rohit occupied the crease for more than five hours, and played out more than 200 balls, which does require skill and concentration. This undoubtedly lead to fruitful result in him scoring 100. What more, his first hundred overseas came up with a spectacular six.

Now, what lessons, especially in the context of research, can we extract from Rohit success in England?

First and the foremost is the consistency. Many a times, in research, good ideas emerge after consistently working on a particular area. A quote attributed to Linus Pauling puts it well on the lines : “to have a good idea you need to have many ideas”. Rohit has been playing for a long time, and his experience has indeed helped him to adapt on this tour to be consistent.

Second, no matter how skilled or talented you are, you cannot accomplish big things without the right temperament and perseverance. Research and test match cricket is very similar in that way. Compare Rohit’s limited over cricket record versus the test record.

Third, there is enough room in the chosen area of research to be creative. All researchers need not do the same kind of work, and there is enough room for individuality in the kind of research one can do. Rohit doesn’t play like Virat or Pujara, but still contributes in his own way.

Finally, the right ecosystem to flourish. Generally in research, the most important aspect is the people – students, colleagues and staff. Next comes the infrastructure and funding. The order that I have chosen to mention this is deliberate, because having the right people, with right mindset, is more important than having more money. Indian cricket has always been quite rich in finances, but over the last 15 years or so, a lot of professional people, like Dravid, have taken up the supporting rule, which has made a positive difference.

Whether India will win the series or not, we will have to see. But the fact that even during the pandemic we are entertained with high quality test match cricket is a tribute to the sporting spirit of the players. In many ways, it also motivates us to do good research.

Long live test match cricket !

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