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Why Is The Brisbane Test Victory So Important For Indian Cricket?
On the 19th of January 2021 at the Gabba in Brisbane, the dying moments of the fifth and final day of the fourth cricket test match between Indian and Australia, India accomplished the most improbable by defeating the shell-shocked hosts by 3 wickets. Set a daunting target of 328 runs for a win the visitors replied at 4/0 at stumps on the fourth day which meant India had to get 324 runs on the last day for victory. The Indian team, already written off by many an expert after the catastrophic 36 runs all out in the first test in Sydney thus conceding an easy win for Australia, had a tough job ahead on an unpredictable last-day pitch facing arguably the best bowling attack of the world. Most importantly, the ground is popularly known as Gabbatoir for Australia where the home team never lost a test match against any cricket team since the last 32 years with an unbelievable tally of 24-0 wins. Therefore, at best, most of the cricket experts and fans expected India to somehow save the match by standing out the day and draw the Series. Against a forecast of rains the weather cleared up in the morning, perhaps to witness one contest of immense proportions.
Cricket lovers across the globe were to stand witness to one of the most incredible chapters of world test cricket. Mixing caution with aggression the Indian batsmen launched a campaign for outright victory, despite losing all-stars opener Rohit Sharma very early. Rock-solid Cheteshwar Pujara (56) acted as the anchor at one end while the other opener Subhman Gill (91) and captain Ajinkya Rahane, although briefly for 24 runs, carried on with their attack on the Aussie bowlers from the other end. Pujara held the fort till the arrival of the player-of-the-match Rishabh Pant whose talent has been discussed widely by cricket experts and fans for more than a year with almost no concomitant results, delivered, after a glorious 97 runs in the drawn third test in Sydney, the final blow hitting the winning four with just about 2 of the mandatory overs left in his unforgettable individual score of 89 runs not out.
And India breached the Gabbatoir, after 32 years, proving amply that Australia is never invincible even in their favorite fortresses. They had retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy winning the Test Series 2-1 coming after Virat Kohli’s first-ever test series victory in Australia against Australia in their 2018-19 tour. Shell-shocked, indeed, is the word that described the reactions of the Australian team, the Australian media and their cricket experts. We have already seen the tremendous importance of this victory for all stakeholders concerned. However, there are several other crucial takeaways from this memorable match that we mention as below:
- The Gabba victory along with the four-test Series victory marks one of the most resilient comebacks for any team in the history of world test cricket. All odds were stacked against India after losing the first test in Sydney and the making of that 36 runs all out in their second innings. Then the exit of the regular captain Virat Kohli, called as disastrous by most Australian commentators/experts, put the team in the tightest of corners possible as they had to overcome the ignominy of the 36-run-all-out syndrome and had to carry on without their history-defining captain. Defying all predictions Team India regrouped under the calm-but-aggressive and the strategic stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane: gave a fitting reply to the hosts winning the second test in Melbourne convincingly by 8 wickets, and going on to stage the historic save of the third test in Sydney by keeping the ferocious Aussie pace bowlers at bay for nearly one and half days.
- Before the start of the final test at the Gabba chips went still downhill for India with nearly half of their team members down and out with injuries, mostly from the body blows they suffered in that Sydney save, that included the main strike bowlers. They drafted in their youngsters, most of them featuring only in one or two test matches earlier and some downright first-timers. And, they breached the Gabbatoir.
- India have discovered their incredibly talented bench-strength that would not have come into limelight without the injuries suffered by their mainstay. This is likely to prove era-defining for the future of Indian Cricket, giving the national selectors the run for their money to choose the ‘best’ team. This would also prove to be very helpful considering the fact that players tend to suffer injuries in ferociously competitive international cricket.
- The victory also marks a significant departure from having players in the national team mostly from mega-cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata or others, because most of the gifted rookies like Mohammad Siraj, Natarajan, Shardul Thakur, Washington Sundar and others have come from small towns or villages with humble backgrounds, often from the grip of poverty.
- India has proved again and again that super teams like Australia, England and the West Indies are never invincible, even on their home turfs, once the team has the resolution and self-belief in their abilities under any circumstances. Particularly concerning Australia, Sourav Ganguly’s India ended the world-record streak of 16 consecutive Test victories by Aussie skipper Steve Waugh in the Kolkata Test in March 2001 in Australia’s tour of India and Anil Kumble’s India ended Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting’s streak of 16 Test victories without a single loss in Perth in January, 2008, in their Australia tour of 2007-08. Not to speak of the away test series victories against the West Indies and England in 1971, and halting the juggernaut called the West Indies in the 1983 ICC World Cup.
- Team India has also suffered spells of racial abuse from some of the stands during this tour, and sledging by the desperate-to-win Australian players. However, they have managed to come out trumps in this regard too.
- It’s been proved again how strong is the game of cricket as a unifying force in times of the divisive strategies the world over and the horrors of the year-long pandemic. Simply, there is not a soul left in the Indian Republic who has stopped smiling since that unforgettable day of the 19th January 2021, and they are going to smile a lot for a long time to come.
Long live the game of cricket! Let the spirit of competition of cricket conquer us again and again from the narrow horizons of divisiveness and communalism!
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