CHENNAI: In March 2021, Washington Sundar was at the top of the world. An unlikely hero in the historic series victory in Australia, followed by a dominant performance in the home Test series against England had shot his credentials through the roof. So much so that the then skipper Virat Kohli came out and said that Washington will be their first-choice spinner in T20Is going forward. “WashiT20ngton has been doing really well for us, so you can’t have two players of the same discipline playing in one squad,” Kohli had said.
Washington played in T20Is against England, the first-leg of IPL, was a part of the contingent that travelled for the World Test Championship final. When it looked like Washington could play a role in the five Tests against England, things took a U-turn.
A finger injury, sustained during the tour match where he played for County XI, ruled the off-spinner out of the series. Things got worse as he had to be out of action for weeks, missing the second-leg of IPL and the T20 World Cup. When Washington returned to action for Tamil Nadu in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, both him and the team management were keen not to overbowl him.
The 22-year-old was trying out different grips in the nets to avoid the injury in the bowling finger. “I kept inquiring about his bowling group and trying to protect his workload because he is coming back after a period of time. We didn’t want to strain his finger,” said Tamil Nadu head coach R Venkataramana. Applauding Washington’s trust in the process and work ethic, he added, “He has the hunger to improve. I know if he gets on the field he’ll definitely do well.”
After a successful Vijay Hazare, 16 wickets in eight matches, he returned to the India side for South Africa ODIs, but this time, he was struck by Covid. As he watched India lose the Tests and ODIs, Washington wanted to focus on things that he could control. And that is exactly what he did on his India comeback in the first ODI against West Indies on Sunday. Handed the ball in the first power play, the off-spinner picked up from where he left against England at the same venue eleven months ago. He choked the run rate and sent back two top-order bats, setting up the game for the middle-overs.
Speaking about his time away from the team, “Yes, there will always be challenges, that’s something that I have realised especially in the last couple of years. But what matters is how I push myself, keep getting better at the aspects that I want to and keep improving myself as a cricketer. I’ve tried to focus on it and doing that has kept me in good stead,” he said after taking three wickets for just 30 runs.
Despite the disappointment of missing the 2021 edition, Washington has an exciting road ahead with a T20 and ODI World Cup in next 18 months, especially with the team management trying to figure out their spin combinations.
While focussing on prepping for the global events, he wants to stay in the present and take one game at a time. “More than anything, I have always wanted to be in the present and keep getting better as a cricketer. If I do that, there would be a lot of opportunities and also the fact that I would be able to perform a lot better. I have loved to stay in the present and enjoy the game,” he said.