Team India completed the most incredible turnaround in recent memory in the 2020/21 Border Gavaskar series. The side had suffered a humiliating loss to Australia in Adelaide in the first Test as it was bowled out on 36, but made a magnificent comeback to defeat the hosts 2-1 in the four-match series.
India defeated Australia in the second Test in Melbourne, then held the hosts to a draw in Sydney before registering a miraculous victory in the final Test in Brisbane. The side achieved it all despite losing many of their key members throughout the series, including captain Virat Kohli and the entirety of the first-choice bowling attack.
Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, in a conversation with fielding coach R Sridhar, has now revealed the behind-the-scenes work after the Adelaide Test which triggered the comeback.
Sridhar revealed that how the Indian team management, including captain Virat Kohli and stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane, plotted strategic moves after the Adelaide Test.
"It was midnight, around 12.30am, the night we lost the Adelaide Test. Virat Kohli messaged me: 'What are you doing?' I was shocked. I thought 'why is he messaging at this time?' I told him 'head coach (Ravi Shastri), myself, Bharat Arun and Vikram Rathour are sitting together'," Sridhar told Ashwin.
"He said, 'I'll also join you'. I said, 'no problem, come over.' He came there and all of us started discussing. That's where 'Mission Melbourne' began. Shastri made a point there: 'This 36, wear it like a badge! This 36 is what will make this team great'."
Virat Kohli was to leave the Indian team the next day, as he had already taken a paternity leave.
"We were slightly confused but then we started talking about the decisions we'd have to take. Then Virat called Ajinkya the next morning and we had a very good discussion. After a 36 all-out, usually teams would strengthen their batting. But Ravi Shastri, Virat and Ajinkya decided to strengthen the bowling. That's how we replaced Virat with Ravindra Jadeja, and it was a masterstroke," Sridhar further said.
"Shastri wanted to have more left-handers. He felt because of the presence of only right-handers, the Australians kept bowling at that one spot, so if we bring in a left-hander, their lines may vary, and it may work for us tactically. So, most of the decisions were taken there and it was decided that we'll go in with five of our best bowlers."
In the second Test in Melbourne, India brought left-handers Ravindra Jadeja and Rishabh Pant in the XI.
"We also decided not to over practice, so we gave the boys an off day and called for a team dinner. We arranged some games because negativity will creep in when you're alone at the room."
Ashwin also revealed that the team indulged in fun activitie to relieve stress after the Adelaide Test.
"Yes, we played dumb charades - Bollywood movies, Hollywood movies and cricketers. The culmination of that event was Ravi Shastri enacting a player's name and the entire team burst out in laughter. Everyone left in good spirits," said Ashwin.