Even in the midst of high praise for the manner in which an injured hampered Indian team fought off the Australian aggressiveness, there has been a shocking charge levelled against the intent of team India.
Team India were a euphoric bunch at the end of the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). Although they did not get the win to take the lead down under in the four-Test match Border Gavaskar series, they rallied despite injuries and Australia’s underhand tactics to play out the better part of a day and then some sessions to ensure India did not cede the hard work it had put in in the second Test to bring the series on an even keel.
It was a tantalizing prospect, chasing 400 plus runs in the fourth innings. However, India had trouble on their hands. Ravindra Jadeja retired with a broken thumb. Hanuma Vihari was battling a hamstring injury and Ravichandran Ashwin was reportedly under the weather with a bad back. In the end, it took a Herculean effort for India to bat out the overs, much to the anguish of Australia who could not take advantage of India’s growing concerns on the injury front.
What seemed like pressure enough to crack open a team battling so many physical injuries to their players, the Indian cricket team batted valiantly, Rishabh Pant providing initiative, and Vihari batting out time and overs to make sure India were unbeaten in the end. That kind of batting would require restraint, defensiveness and also, discipline, not quality that makes for belligerent batting.
That became the criticism for team India on the flip side of that incredible draw. Questioning the slow, ‘boring’ match on the show, there were questions raised from certain quarters about India’s intent to win the match. Speaking of a lack of initiative to take the target on, sections of the cricket fraternity, including some from India, questioned if India even had the will to win.
It is a scathing criticism, picking bones for what has been a rather heartening performance from the Indian cricket team since Virat Kohli flew back home for the birth of his first child. Without their mainstay captain and batsman, team India under Ajinkya Rahane not only managed to take the sting out of Australia’s tail by pulling up a series-levelling win in the second Test but also, denied Australia the opportunity to go ahead with a final Test remaining by tiring them out on the field and forcing them to resort to unbecoming antics.
Those that are questioning what has been an absorbing fourth innings of the match are clearly not acquainted with the nuances of Test cricket and the performance and versatility of cricketers which allowed India to keep the game interesting and riveting all through day five.