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Gabba Test and a Piece of Cricket History

The tour has belonged to the unheralded, Gill, Natarajan, Sundar, Thakur and of course Rishabh Pant.

Updated
Cricket
4 min read
The Indian cricket team celebrate retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy at the Gabba. 
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Miracles do happen.

If you have lived through the dramatic 2000-01 Test series win over Australia at home, you would believe in that dictum.

But no one told us that it would happen once again, almost two decades later.

Only this time it is much grander, as it happened in Australia, a country which we have come close to conquering in the past, but have fallen by the wayside.

That this series win comes after almost the entire first-choice bowling attack was out injured and the best batsman back in Mumbai, means this is perhaps India’s greatest Test series win ever.

This is also because Australia had not been beaten at the Gabba in Brisbane since 1988-89. That defeat for Australia came at the hands of the champion West Indies side, this has come from a New Incredible India.

The similarities with the 2000-01 series ends with the fact that then India came back from the dead thanks to the resolve of the champions of that generation, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Harbhajan Singh. Something similar happened this time, only this time, these young men were not even the first choice picks in the XI.

Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath had been injured then, a country had lost faith in cricket because of the match-fixing scandal. The resources were at their weakest for India then.

This time around the magnitude of the triumph is much bigger because of the surreal times that we live in. COVID-19, hard quarantine, soft quarantine, being locked up in hotel rooms, no crowds at times. Then to add to it, the capitulation for 36 in the first Test at Adelaide you would have been pardoned if you thought this team would roll over and die.

The steely resolve of the team comes from the top, captain Ajinkya Rahane, who now remains an unbeaten Test captain. He will no doubt move back into the ranks in the next Test series, but this feat is simply incredible to have been achieved, when lesser men would have caved in without a fight. Rahane set the tone for the revival with a splendid hundred and the aggressive approach on the final day in Gabba.

Ajinkya Rahane acknowledges the applause after completing his century on Day 2 of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne.
Ajinkya Rahane acknowledges the applause after completing his century on Day 2 of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne.
Image: PTI
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India has come close in the past to winning Test series in Australia. In 1977-78, a side ravaged by Kerry Packer circus awaited India, but they still lost 2-3. Then in 1985-86, an Australian side facing desertions in the form of rebel tours held a much-fancied Indian side 0-0 thanks to weather and poor umpiring. In 2003-04, came India’s best-ever chance to force a win on the final day at the Sydney, the swansong of Steve Waugh, but it was not to be the series ended 1-1.

Those Indian sides had champions who are still revered as the greatest to have played the game for the country. But what this Indian side had in plenty was resolve and the courage to fight.

Look no further than Cheteshwar Pujara who was battered and bruised by all the blows he received. He had hardly played a game before the tour started. For him to stand steadfast in the face of the greatest Test attack currently in operation was simply superb.

But the tour has belonged to the unheralded, Shubman Gill, T Natarajan, Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur and of course Rishabh Pant. Virat Kohli spoke of New India at the start of the tour. This ladies and gentlemen - New India.

This band of young men, some of whom were not meant to play any Test, showed plenty of resolve and character to script the unbelievable.

In particular the arrival of Gill and Pant shows that the next generation of Indian batsmen are here. Gill has already been earmarked as future superstar. Pant on the other hand, divides opinions and frustrates you at times. But the way Pant batted in the final innings of the series showed that he needs to be left alone and he too needs to leave social media alone. With this knock Pant has effectively ended the debate of whether he the better batsman should play or Wriddhiman Saha the better ‘keeper should play. Ofcourse there may come a time in the future that Pant could play as a pure batsman even in Test cricket.

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Natarajan, Siraj, Thakur make up quite possibly the unlikeliest of Test attacks possible in the history of the format. But together they do deserve praise for stalling the Australian line-up including the likes of David Warner, Marnus Labuschange and Steven Smith.

Last time around when India won the Test series in Australia in 2018-19, you did hear taunts about the absence of Warner and Smith. Possibly for the first time an undermanned India got the better of a first-choice Australia in Australia, because usually it is the other way around.

This Test series win will have as much impact on India like that famous 2000-1 win did. Last time it rekindled the faith in the sport, this time it will reignite the passion for Test match cricket.

Last time India won in Australia, Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri called it bigger than a World Cup triumph. Well, this time it is bigger than the last series win, because of the world we are now inhabiting.

A Test series win away from home is always much more special if you have lived through the dry spell in 1980s and the horrible 1990s for Indian cricket.

And before we forget credit is also due to the coaching staff led by Shastri. We were quick to call for his head post the Adelaide debacle. But if he deserves ridicule for that, he and his staff certainly deserve credit for the series triumph.

On a final note, since miracles do happen, without sounding greedy, can we also request for a bowler who can knock the tail over quickly?  Will find out soon if that wish is granted too.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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