The New Year has marked a new beginning with a new Indian cricket team scripting a new history on Australian soil. Team India scripted a fairy tale on the final day of the Test at Gabba on Tuesday clinching the Test series by defeating the mighty Australian team packed with star cricketers. This was Indian’s second Test series win in Australia. Gabba is considered an impregnable fortress for the Australians who have not lost a single match on this ground since the last 32 years.
The young Indian team changed history and rewrote records displaying incredible grit and determination. Opened Shubhman Gill’s 91 runs, classic Cheteshwar Pujara’s 56 runs and dynamic Rishabh Pant’s 89 not out forged India’s historic victory. On the last day of the Test, Team India had a huge target of 328 runs. Normally it is difficult to score so many runs on the last day, because the pitch witnesses wear and tear, with big cracks and the ball carries an uneven bounce.
Moreover, few could imagine the team coming out victorious facing the world-class fast bowlers of Australia on such a pitch. The young, brave Indian cricketers not only surmounted all obstacles but also dominated last day’s play. The commentators were busy throwing up words like determination, fearless cricket, intent and resilience for the Indian team. That too, for a team sans senior and experienced cricketers.
Players like Jasprit Bumrah, R. Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja and Hanuma Vihari were injured, sitting in the pavilion, while captain Virat Kohli was busy at home. Hardik Pandya too was absent. The players who faced Australia were mostly those who were playing their first Test, there were bowlers who had been kept during the Australian tour for net practice. The hopes of these players being inducted into the playing Eleven was almost nil. This young team went to the ground, not in order to save the match, neither make a try for a draw, but went ahead with the zeal to win.
Since social media is hyperactive nowadays, cricket fans took to Twitter, Facebook and other platforms to pan those who had written off the Indian team after the “36 all out” fiasco at Adelaide. Many of the commentators and former cricketers, mostly from abroad, had described the Indian team as second-rated, some had predicted that there was no chance of the Indian team taking home the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Virat Kohli had returned to India after the Adelaide fiasco.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan had predicted a 4-0 whitewash for India. Former Aussie batsman Mark Waugh had given a similar opinion. Another former Australian cricketer Michael Clarke had said that the Indian team without Virat Kohli did not stand a chance in batting. Now that the Indian team has demolished Australia on its own soil, these and other former players like Ricky Ponting will have to eat their words. India had defeated Australia on their soil in 2018-19 and have now repeated the same in 2021.
On Tuesday morning, as I watched the final day’s play, I felt as if I was watching a Bollywood thriller rolling out on the screen. People were cheering the Indians for each run and each boundary. And when the brave young Indian players lifted the trophy, waved the Tricolour and jogged around the stadium, it looked as if a miracle has occurred. The kangaroos have been beaten, thoroughly.
The hero of the match was wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant, the player about whom many had said unkind words in the recent past. Some said he lacked potential, some others said he should be more disciplined, but the 23-year-old player showed with his performances at Sydney and Brisbane that he has the capability to turn a match around on its head.
When Cheteshwar Pujara was out for 56, it appeared as if Team India would now struggle for a draw. When Mayank Agrawal left, it looked as if the team could either win, lose or draw. But Rishabh Pant had come with a plan in his mind. He had decided that he would stay on the pitch, come what may, till the team wins. He carried on with his attacking game. Pant did a 53-run partnership with Washington Sundar, and now the win was a mere formality. But when Sundar and Shardul Thakur left one after another, it looked as if the entire weight would now fall on Pant. Sundar and Shardul had done a miraculous 123-run partnership in the first innings. Pant continued to stay on the pitch and remained 89 not out, and ultimately got the Man of The Match award.
It was head coach Ravi Shastri who later summed up how Team India came through the ordeal by fire. He said, it was a huge task to face Australia on its soil, Indian players had to go into quarantine, were injured, were out for 36 in Adelaide for their lowest total in history, and then they made the comeback and played like champions. It was unbelievable, he said.
Never in Brisbane’s cricketing history had any team successfully chased a score of more than 300 runs. Team India accomplished that within a day. Shardul Thakur and Mohammed Siraj played vital roles. Siraj lost his father when he was playing in Australia, but considering the lack of good bowlers, he decided to stay back. In Sydney and Brisbane, he had to face the torment of listening to racial abuses from some Australian bigots. He gave his reply with his sterling performances.
On Tuesday morning, I never dreamed that Team India would win. Rohit Sharma was already out for 7, World No. 1 Virat Kohli, known as the run machine, was not in the team, but when opener Shubhman Gill started playing well-timed shots and made 91 runs, it appeared as if the team could win. Cheteshwar Pujara stood like a wall, he was hit six times, once on his chest and once on his thumb. When I saw him crying out in pain, lying on the ground, I thought the match was almost lost. But he stood up, made 56 runs facing 211 balls, and pierced the Australian bowling wall.
When Mayank Agrawal failed, chances of a win almost collapsed. Rishabh Pant was holding the fort. He had not done well in the series, had played only one good inning. But Lady Luck was in his favour this time. He spanked the Australian spinners and there was a clear sign of a win on the horizon.
Pant proved that he was a batsman who can indeed turn a match around. As he played boundaries, the Australian players were aghast and they lost their morale. World-class players like Warner and Smith looked quite sad. They could not believe their eyes that their team was being roasted by rookies. Most of the players in the Indian team were playing their debut Test match.
One can hardly express admiration for the young Indian team in words. It was made quite clear on the Gabba pitch today that the future of the Indian cricket team is, indeed, bright. These young players must nurture the adulation that they will receive with modesty and care. The grit and determination that our young cricketers displayed today shall always remain a shining example for all budding players.
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