Ajinkya Rahane, the leader who instilled belief in the young Indian side that they have what it takes to defeat one of the best teams in the world in their own den, returned home to Mumbai. He received a grand welcome on his arrival. People chanted 'Ala re ala, Ajinkya ala' and danced to the beats of dhol celebrating the star's grand victory. They also showered Rahane and his family with flower petals.
Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Shardul Thakur, Prithi Shaw and Ravi Shastri landed in Mumbai on Monday after claiming the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Rahane cut a cake as soon as he arrived marking a beginning to the celebrations. All Indian players have been advised by the board to stay in home quarantine for at least 7 days.
The love that India's interim captain received on arrival shows how enormous the victory in Australia was. Ajinkya Rahane started the series as the vice captain of the Indian Test side. However, it was clear from the beginning that Virat Kohli will leave for India after the first Test leaving Rahane as the commander in chief.
Rahane scored 42 in the first innings of the Border-Gavaskar trophy but Indian fans were extremely critical of him as his wrong call led to the fall of Kohli's wicket who was looking to take the game away from Australia.
One big mistake
India never recovered after the fall of Kohli's wicket and what happened to India in the second innings at Adelaide will go down in history books as one of the most dreadful performance by India in Tests.
With Kohli leaving after the first test and Prithvi Shaw finding it difficult to handle the Australian quicks at the top, the Indian team was by all means 'cornered' by the Aussies. Rahane led the Indian team into the second test at Melbourne and what transpired there was nothing short of historic.
India bundled out the Aussies for just 195 in the first innings but the highlight of the Test was the 112 by Rahane in the first innings. Even after losing Umesh to an injury as soon as India came out to bowl in the second innings, India won the Test by 8 wickets.
Bruised and battered Indian team was not helped by the restaurant controversy before the 3rd Test began. Australian media was very critical of the Indian team and accused five Indian players of breaking Covid protocols. However, all of them tested negative for Covid.
In the third Test, Rohit Sharma replaced the out of form Mayank Agarwal but Umesh's injury forced India to play the inexperienced Navdeep Saini. India was looking down and out of the Test after Australia piled up 338 runs in the first innings and India was restricted to just 244.
Smith returned to form
Steve Smith scored a hundred in the first innings and followed it by another half century which meant that India was chasing more than 400 in the fourth innings. With more than a 100 overs left in the game, it appeared that Australia is going to win this one. But the Indian contingent had other ideas. Cheteshwar Pujara, Rishabh Pant, Hanuma Vihari and Ravichandran Ashwin batted for hours and defied Australia of what should have been an easy win.
Rahane's men were resolute and determined but with Ashwin, Jadeja, Bumrah and Hanuma Vihari out of the team, India was severely short of experienced players going into the deciding Test of the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
The Siraj Factor
Mohammed Siraj led the Indian bowling attack and restricted Australia to 369, which at one point seemed to be going over 400. But India lost Navdeep Saini early in the contest due to a hamstring injury. Again down to 10 men, India looked out of the competition after losing 6 wickets for just 186 runs. But the debutant Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur had other ideas.
Both the all-rounders smashed their maiden half centuries in Tests and took India to 336. Australia still had the advantage but Rahane's inspired bowling changes restricted Australia to 294. However, chasing 328 on a tricky Day 5 pitch was never going to be easy.
Captain Rahane's approach when he came down to bat made it clear that India was playing for a win. Rahane made a quickfire 24 of 22 balls before edging one to Paine. What happened after that was nothing short of a fairytale for India.
Pant's heroics, Pujara's determination, Shubman's class and Rahane's captaincy paved the way for India's most memorable series win on foreign soil. India retained the Border-Gavaskar trophy despite all odds.
Ajinkya Rahane played a pivotal role in team India's incredible overseas triumph. Ajinkya and all of Indian team deserves all the accolades after delivering an unforgettable performance down under.