Updated: Mar 1, 2021
“Teamwork makes the dream work.”
This had to be done- I could write about over a million things in the world of sport, but if this moment doesn’t receive the credit it deserves from me, am I even an Indian? It is, after all, about a moment that will be remembered as one of the greatest test triumphs over Australia in the history of, if not the world, Indian Cricket. This is a story of how the Indian Cricket team travelled to Australia to defend their honour, and returned glorious in their pursuit.
Let's take it from the top. Team India toured Australia from November 2020 to January 2021, playing three One-Day Internationals, three Twenty20 Internationals and four test matches, in that order. The first two series were rather uneventful, with Australia taking the ODI series 2-1 and India the T20i series with the same score. It all came down to the test matches- the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, titled after Sir Allan Border of Australia and Sunil Gavaskar of India, the first two cricketers to breach the 10000 run mark in test cricket.
The first of the four tests, played in Adelaide, was a nightmare for India. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for them. Despite a strong first innings with India maintaining a lead of just over 50 runs, the Australian bowling line-up absolutely smothered the Indian side, bowling them out for a measly 36. The rest of the match was rather uneventful, as Australia sailed past India after India recorded their worst score in its history.
The next test, however, called for a few changes. First and foremost, the skipper, Virat Kohli, had to leave the team to join his wife, who was expecting their first child. This moved Ajinkya Rahane to the top step to lead the team and with new leadership came a new approach- an aggressive approach. This aggression paved the way for a few exceptional innings, including one from the captain, that helped shape the first victory for the Indian team. Debutante Mohammed Siraj shone as he displayed his ability to cope with the immense pressure experienced while playing against one of the toughest teams in cricket. With this win, India levelled the series 1-1.
The third test was one of the most scintillating performances by a team playing against Australia on their home ground. Throughout the five days, Australia held the upper hand, and India didn’t seem to be able to put up a fight. The match was starting to slip from India’s hands, when two brave men, Ravichandran Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari, fought with all their might to turn a sure loss into a draw, keeping Indian hopes alive. This result, however, did come at a huge cost. Both players were injured, and so was India’s top bowler, Jasprit Bumrah. Something had to be done and something had to be done quickly.
Despite all that had happened, India’s hopes were still afloat. A victory was still in sight, no matter how far fetched it seemed. India called up two more debutants to the team to play the final test. The previous match resulted in quite a few obstacles in the form of player injuries. Six players from the main team were either injured or absent from the team for personal reasons. The task of tackling these obstacles was put in the hands of a rather inexperienced and injured Indian team under the leadership of a relatively new captain, who came onto the field to face a fierce opponent in Australia. Five days later, they emerged victorious.
Now that we’ve got the boring accounts of each match out of the way, let's talk about the significance of this final test victory.
Australia threw everything at India yet it seemed as if anyone could take the match at all times. A couple of marvellous knocks from some of the Indian young guns made the run of play ominous for Australia. India played without six of its key players. Some of them succumbed to injuries as severe as thumb dislocations. Injury adversely affected the Indian team, and the team management had to turn to the promising youth of the nation to fill the shoes of some majorly experienced veterans.
Surprisingly, these additions to the team gave way to what I believe was the perfect amalgamation of experience from the veterans and courage from the youth. By the fourth test, the Indian team had had five debutants in the series, with the combined experience of merely six matches. Despite these drawbacks, these prospering talents received the encouragement, motivation and the will to push forth under the very promising leadership of Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma as captain and vice captain respectively.
Ajinkya Rahane was the catalyst of this transformation throughout the series. He led by example and it was under his leadership that these young, promising talents were given the opportunity and assistance to represent their country and prosper in the process. He deserves a lot of credit for his actions as they've led the Indian team to create history, this time on the opponent’s turf.
This victory was, however, a team effort, and it would be unfair to hand all credit only to the captain. A number of players showed resilience throughout the series. Cheteshwar Pujara, one of India’s best test batsmen, was dubbed “The Wall” for displaying immense courage and keeping his calm throughout the series. He received about a dozen serious blows to the body from a hard leather ball approaching him at speeds over 140 kmph. Rishabh Pant was another notable player throughout the series. Despite facing a ton of criticism, Rishabh hit a couple of mind-blowing knocks, including the boundary that won India the series.
I believe our young bowlers deserve more credit than anyone. With an average age of just over 26 years, these young stars took on one of the most competitive teams in international cricket and managed to subdue them. One notable performance was from a debutante in that series, Mohammed Siraj. Siraj was subjected to a lot of racial abuses and degrading comments from the Australian fans during the series. Shockingly, he flourished under pressure and took 5 wickets in an innings in only his third test match, a rather respectable achievement for any bowler in the sport. Overall, these five bowlers displayed patience and maturity well above their age and gave hope of a promising future for Indian cricket.
This series witnessed it all- from the lowest score in the history of Indian cricket to a historic win at the Gabba- a ground on which Australia have been undefeated for over 30 years. The actions of the Indian team have brought pride and honour to our country. They have given us a reason to rejoice in these challenging times. This was your typical David vs Goliath tale. The underdogs emerged victorious, just like a phoenix rising from the ashes.
Personally, this series has had a notable impact on me and on how I perceive challenging situations. This was the first series that I avidly followed, largely because I am finally at that age where my patience has developed enough to watch two batsmen sometimes spend over thirty minutes just to make a single run. I didn’t expect much from the Indian side this series, partly due to the fact that Australia are a really tough team to beat in their home country, and have a very intimidating style of play. This Indian team has proven me wrong every step of the way, converting losses into draws, and turning draws into victories. Life will surely knock us down, but we can choose whether or not to get back up again. India faced many such knocks throughout the series, in the form of poor performances, an intimidating opposition, injuries, and also racial insults. Despite these challenges, not once did they fail to play in the spirit of true sportsmanship and remind us what this beautiful sport of cricket stands for. The Indian team entered the pitch amidst a global pandemic, short of their best players. They faced insults and ignorance. And yet, from all that chaos, they made a shooting star. These are some of the life lessons that our Indian Cricket team unknowingly taught us. They kept their heads down, and gave us a reason to hold our heads high.