“Nobody loves you when you are down and out” - John Lennon
The entire Indian team would have been feeling this post the debacle at Adelaide. With the unavailability of Virat Kohli, the team not only lost its captain but also the best batsman. Many former Australian greats had already written off the Indian team and the fans back home in India were worried about what to expect next.
The people who still stood by the team were in minority and such fans had to face the ridicule of the masses. These loyal fans prayed hard and as a Christmas present, they might have asked Santa to just avoid a humiliating loss. Frankly, victory wasn’t on their minds, but what they got in return was nothing short of remarkable.
Boxing Day brings joy
Boxing Day brought a bit of joy to the fans as the home side was bowled out for 195. Well, a good start had been made, but the scars of 36 all-out were still fresh in everyone’s mind. So, when the Indians ended Day One with the same dreaded score of 36, but with the loss of just one wicket, everyone heaved a sigh of relief.
And the Indian fans, many thousand miles away from Melbourne had set up an early alarm on the last Sunday of 2020. The start was promising with debutant Shubham Gill looking in fine form, but when Cheteshwar Pujara and he got out in quick succession, it didn’t seem that good an idea to wake up early.
However, the stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane playing his 67th Test had other ideas. True to his character, he went quietly and slowly with his business stitching valuable partnerships with Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja. Rahane scored his 12th century and Jadeja scored crucial 57 runs.
“It is one of the best that I have seen in his career”
As per the former Indian cricketer Karsan Ghavri, who had played a crucial role in India’s victory at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in 1981, Rahane’s century was the defining moment. “The circumstances in which he got the runs was important, it was a tough situation against quality fast bowlers. It is one of the best that I have seen in his career, choosing which deliveries to hit and which ones to leave. He got good support from Shubham Gill and Ravindra Jadeja”, he said.
Banking on Rahane’s century and Jadeja’s half-century, the Indians took a substantial lead of 131. Now it was left to the bowlers to capitalize on the initiative and they didn’t disappoint. Despite an injury to Umesh Yadav, the Indian bowled the Aussies for 200. Apart from Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin and Jadeja, debutant Mohammad Siraj caught everyone’s attention.
The Indian batsmen ensured that were no further surprises in the match and the target of 70 was achieved with ease to bring a famous victory. Heaping praise on the entire team Ghavri added, “It was one of the most remarkable victory as far as the Indian team is concerned. Psychologically 36 all out can play in everyone’s mind. All credits to the team in the way in which they bounced back. Big time congratulations to Ajinkya Rahane and his team. Each one played to the role assigned to them. Saare taarif ke qabil hain (All of them deserve accolades).”
On the evolution of fast bowlers, a proud Ghavri said, “Now we have to choose among the fast bowlers, earlier there was no question of choosing. Today there are six-seven who can be picked. Mohammad Shami and Yadav are injured, but we have got a replacement for them.”
Brought back happy memories from the 1981 Test
This match did bring back happy memories for Ghavri who had taken four wickets in the victory in 1981. Reminiscing that match, he said, “Australia was chasing 143 and wicket was a terrible one. There were so many cracks. You just needed to pitch it up and you didn’t know where the ball will go. The wicket was like a beautiful woman, which way it will go, nobody knew. It was a very tough wicket to score runs.”
And talking about toughness, that’s what the Indian team should expect in the remaining two Tests, be it in the type of wicket or the Australian players. As per Ghavri, the Indians will have to be on their toes and fight harder in upcoming matches as nothing is going to be easy in Australia. He also recommended few team changes like getting KL Rahul in place of Mayank Agarwal (subject to Rohit Sharma’s availability) and T Natarajan for the injured Umesh Yadav.
But for now, the Indian team has earned all the rights to celebrate and welcome 2021 with big smiles on their faces. May we remain ‘Ajinkya’ in the New Year!