Australia vs India 2020-21 : Reminiscing the Unthinkable

The kind of emotions sports evoke is sometimes hard to comprehend. For someone not bothered with it life goes on unfettered. For the rest, it’s an emotional rollercoaster. Put your skin in the game and you have to bear the risk of its lows… but to get the highs of a win, a series win like in Australia that just lights up your day is an incredible feeling.

It’s time to reminisce the extraordinary performance by Indian team which conspired under such strange times on Aussie shores…

Australia vs India Test Series

The Prologue to Brisbane

Can’t wait to get you to Gabba mate..

Injury after injury meant Indian players vanished like chips at a pub. There was no continuity at all. Only Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane played all four Tests of the series. The decider in Brisbane relied on net bowlers who had been kept on the tour after some white-ball matches in November. The five-bowler attack for that match had four Tests and 11 wickets between them. Australia’s four bowlers had taken more than 1,000. All of this came after having been humiliated in the first Test at Adelaide by being bowled out for 36 to lose from a strong position.

36 All Out Team India

Even after the humiliation in Adelaide, India managed to bounce back in Melbourne against all odds and also managed to draw in Sydney after batting out 5th day, thanks to all round contributions from every member of the team. They may well have even won instead of drawing in Sydney had Vihari and Ashwin not been too injured to move between the wickets for the final couple of hours.

Ajinkya Rahane rises to the occasion to put India on top in Melbourne

This was the context in which India went to a venue where the home team had not lost in 33 years. It felt like Gabba will be the straw that will eventually break the Indian camel’s back. The odds were too stacked against them. Irrespective of the result, an average Indian fan was already satisfied with the results in Melbourne and Sydney given the injury list…

The Miracle of Gabba

India’s bloody-mindedness fired them to historic win in Australia

Despite all the constraints, it was the context in which India bowled out Australia in both innings at the Gabba, something that had happened in two other matches in those decades. And it was the context in which the batting side of India’s operation decided to charge down 328 in the fourth innings to win the match and the series. There had been 18 bigger run chases in 2,403 Tests, but none with the story like this one..

The Brisbane win came via another young operator. Rishabh Pant, the 23-year-old wicketkeeper who did not start this series in the side due to his glovework, chose his moments of aggression and ran the chase with 89 not out. In Sydney, he had made thoughts of a win possible by smashing 97. Both times he had knocked Australia off their pedestal.

Rishabh Pant vs Australia

Of Indian batsmen doing what Pant had done – making 89 or more in the fourth innings while winning or saving a Test – the only ones with multiple instances were Sunil Gavaskar four times, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly twice. Pant has done it twice in a week.

And one certainly cannot discount the efforts of Shubman Gill and Pujara, who laid the platform in their own unique styles to ensure Pant can go for it in the final session…

The Unsung Heroes

New players came into this situation and did not flinch…

The audacity of Rishabh Pant in Brisbane and Sydney was built on his team’s bloody-mindedness. The way he batted after being smashed on the elbow in Sydney, hampering his grip. The way Pujara took blow after blow in Brisbane to make sure Pant had solidity at the other end. The way Rahane took charge of a team at its lowest and lifted it up. The way Vihari and Ashwin battled while injured in Sydney to keep the series alive. The months in hotel isolation, Mohammed Siraj missing his father’s funeral, Natarajan missing his daughter’s birth, in the hope of making an Indian debut. It was all worth it in the end…

The top 2 leading wicket-takers and runs-scorers of the series were all Australians, but even then Team India won the series. The contribution came from almost everyone in the side. Right from Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill at the top to T Natarajan and Mohammed Siraj in the bowling department.

If population and popularity were distilled into on-field success in Cricket, India would not have been beaten since 1948. At the elite level, it is still only 11 against 11. With the in-flow of enormous amount of money in Indian cricket beginning from late ’90s, it was only a matter of time till the up-scaled facilities and infrastructure along with the raw talent makes for the perfect combination.

By the time an Indian player reaches the national XI, he has had an all-round apprenticeship that prepares him to walk into the Indian side with a reasonable chance of success. Rahul Dravid, who is the director of the National Cricket Academy based in Bangalore, devises a program of tours for India A which mirrors tours that India have coming up, or are on, to maximise the learning opportunities for the next generation of players.

Whether they are Cheteshwar Pujara or Rishabh Pant, they have grown up in a confident system that has thrown off the shackles of the past: India is producing not white-ball and red-ball cricketers, simply excellent cricketers.

It’s because of the amount of time and effort and energy invested over the years, even from those of us who watch rather than play. We have lived that experience until the final payoff and in the great contests the payoff is immense…


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