'Washington is a natural hitter of the ball.'
Soon after IPL 2020 ended, right-arm off-spinner and left-handed batsman Washington Sundar -- who playS for the Royal Challengers Bangalore, captained by Virat Kohli -- left for Australia with Team India. He did not expect to make his Test debut; he was going as a net bowler.
But with India's cricketers getting injured, and COVID-19 quarantine guidelines making it difficult to replace them, opportunity knocked at Washington's door. And the young all-rounder made a fantastic debut.
In his very first Test innings, the 21 year old scored 62 runs (that included 7 fours and a six) and was part of a century stand that helped India close in on Australia's first innings's total. He also took three wickets -- Steven Smith, Cameron Green and Nathan Lyon.
In the second innings, the Chennai lad took David Warner's wicket. During the run chase, he cracked a blistering six that signalled India's aim to win the Test and not play for a draw.
While India's victory at the Gabba was the result of team effort, Washington's contribution was an important factor.
Washington has now been selected by the Chennai Corporation to be their youth icon for the coming assembly election. He will interact with first-time voters and talk to them about ethical voting.
His father M Sundar, who was a Ranji trophy probable for Tamil Nadu, tells A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com, "He was away from home for six months as he went straight from the IPL to Australia. We missed him, but this is the life he has chosen and we are prepared for the fact that he will be travelling for long periods."
Washington would talk to his family every day via video calls. "As we used to see and talk to him every day, it helped bridge the distance," says his father.
Their conversations revolved around the young cricketer's daily routine. "They were in the bio-bubble so we could not ask him about any place he had seen. Our conversation was mostly about cricket. I asked him the difference between bowling with the red ball and the white," Sundar says.
The father would always remind his son, 'You are in the team and you must always be prepared to play.'
"I have been his coach and mentor from a very young age."
When asked about the kind of food Washington ate in Australia, Sundar says he generally had Australian and Japanese cuisine. "He went there to play, not eat; so that is not important."
Washington started playing cricket when he was six years old. He used to play for half-an-hour to 40 minutes with his father and elder sister Shailaja (who now plays for Tamil Nadu) every day.
Washington always played with youngsters older than him, says his father.
"As a person, Washington is shy and soft-spoken. He shows his determination, dedication and courage only when he is playing cricket," he says.
M Sundar was not surprised when his son hit that memorable six during India's second innings at the Gabba.
"He always knew how to hook. He is a natural hook player. He is a strong player. As an opener, he used to start an innings with four boundaries. He is a natural hitter of the ball, so I was not surprised," he says.
Washington is now with the Indian team in a bio-bubble in preparation for the first Test between India and England that will begin on February 5 in Chennai. The second Test, beginning February 13, will also take place in Chennai.
Despite being the same city as his family, it will be video call time again for Washington and his family.
Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com