Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were ruled out of the tour of Australia due to injuries. Virat Kohli flew back to India after the first Test at Adelaide. Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav were injured during the first and second Tests respectively. Ravindra Jadeja broke his thumb during the third Test. Hanuma Vihari’s hamstring went and Ravichandran Ashwin battled a bad back in the same game. Jasprit Bumrah missed the last Test and K.L. Rahul was forced to return to India.
This was all that the Indian team went through in the past few weeks. Were they disappointed as a result? Yes. However, did they allow the spate of injuries to demoralise them? I think we all know the answer.
When India beat Australia in Australia in 2018-19, many people said that beating a side that did not have Steve Smith and David Warner (notwithstanding the fact that the Indian team was not to blame for their absence) was no big deal. I wonder what the same people have to say now. Experience-wise, the Australian team was miles ahead of India.
A look at the cumulative number of Test matches played by the members of both the playing XI at Brisbane will confirm the same. Yet, the inexperienced Indian team prevailed in an epic encounter. The boys could have played for a draw, knowing fully well that they would keep the Border-Gavaskar Trophy if they achieved one. However, they opted to go for a win and conquered the impregnable fortress that was the Gabba at Brisbane. In doing so, they proved that once you cross the boundary line, it is performance that matters, not experience.
This series win was shaped and sculpted by several heroes, some seen, others unseen. Credit should be given to Ravi Shastri, the head coach, and the support staff, for their work behind the scenes. The harmonious atmosphere created by them in the dressing-room, inspired the players to express themselves on the field.
The players took turns to stand up to be counted. It would not have been easy for Mohammed Siraj, who lost his father, to decide to stay back in Australia. He then found himself leading the attack in the final Test at Brisbane. His response was to pick the first of what will surely be many 'five-fors,'in the first innings. Shardul Thakur also grabbed the opportunity he got with both hands, and excelled with bat and ball. Washington Sundar and T. Natarajan would have never expected to play the Tests, but when they did, they were not overawed.
Rishabh Pant has been a revelation. The management, which chose to ignore all those who questioned his place in the team, has been vindicated. His innings at Sydney and Brisbane will be remembered for years to come, as will Shubman Gill’s proficiency in his debut series.
The captain took responsibility and led from the front. Ajinkya Rahane has not had the best of times of late, but he displayed exemplary character when he took over the reins of the side. His move to play five specialist bowlers at Melbourne was rewarded. The batsman in him then complemented the captain, with that splendid innings of 112. He may come across as quiet and reserved, but make no mistake, there is fire in his belly and steel in his nerves.
They say that the quality of a team can be best determined by evaluating the quality of its bench-strength. How the Indian team scores on that count, we all know.
Congratulations, Team India! You did us proud. (The writer if a former Indian spinner)