CHENNAI: By nature Washington Sundar is a quiet person. He doesn’t speak until spoken to. He loves his solitary walks. He lives in his own world and comes across as a soft person. On the cricket field, he changes like those mutants in movies. The bat and ball in handwork as weapons with a strong mind that refuses to give up, even under extreme pressure. During his maiden Test against Australia at the Gabba, he was in his elements.
Washington’s childhood coach, M Senthilnathan, succinctly reveals the other side. “He doesn’t express much (on and off the field) but deep down, he tells himself not to give up,” said the MRF Pace Foundation director. “Even at state-level competitions, he doesn’t throw away his wicket. That’s something which will keep him in good stead, moving forward.”
Facing Australian bowlers is not alien to him. According to Senthilnathan, he faced a few Aussie quickies during exposure trips at the foundation. Another facet that Senthilnathan emphasised was his strong basics. This enabled him to play solid knocks of 62 off 144 balls and 22 off 29 in the historic fourth Test at Brisbane. He also picked up a four wicket-haul on his debut.
The 21-year-old’s coach felt it was the time he spent at the MRF foundation that helped him to negotiate the world-class Australian attack in Brisbane. As a teenager, he would spend endless hours facing quality fast bowlers on bouncy wickets at the academy and then play spin on turning tracks all over Chennai in the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association’s division league matches.
“He is gritty,” Senthilnathan recalled. “At 13-14 years of age, he started practicing on wickets that were bouncy and conducive to fast bowling. He faced quality fast bowlers as a teen. Automatically, he was able to put his technique to best use and negotiate the pace of the quicks in his debut match. He was not surprised because he is used to that kind of speed at the academy. This experience, back home, came in handy in Brisbane.” To many, his knock was a surprise but not to Senthilnathan because ‘he has nailed the basics’.