Team India pulled off their second successive Test series triumph in Australia following the record-breaking win at the Gabba. The victory was quite in contrast to the one achieved Down Under in 2018-19 though. The triumph in the previous series was diluted to the forced absence of David Warner and Steve Smith in the opposition camp, as they were serving their ball-tampering bans. India had most of their big guns in Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah and, above all, Cheteshwar Pujara, delivering.
This time around, it was India who were on the back foot. Routed at Adelaide, they were to lose their prolific captain for the rest of the three Tests, as Virat Kohli had taken paternity leave. To make matters worse, they were also to be without the services of their key strike bowler Mohammed Shami, who hurt himself while batting at Adelaide. As the series progressed, Umesh Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari were to join the injured list. How on earth then did India pull off a win for the ages Down Under? The answer lies in their resolve, the shrewdness of skipper Ajinkya Rahane and, above all, the youngsters who put their hands in times of extreme adversity.
As India rejoice in the glory of their famous triumph Down Under, here’s a tribute to the young heroes, who made the unthinkable possible.
1. Rishabh Pant: Fearless to the core
When India headed to Australia no one expected Rishabh Pant to return a hero. The fact that he will is a testimonial to the youngster’s belief in his own ability. Rishabh Pant didn’t seem to be in the scheme of things when India began the Test series at Adelaide. However, the disaster in the first Test forced the Indian think-tank to place their faith in Pant. And the 23-year-old did not disappoint. With 274 runs at an average of 68.50, including two fifties, the left-hander was India’s leading run-getter. Beyond the runs, it was the exuberance with which he took on Australia that made the difference, catching the Australian’s off-guard. The hosts, despite possessing a wealth of experience in their bowling attack, were clueless against a rampant Pant. The southpaw gave Aussies a real scare at the SCG before going the extra mile and sinking them at the Gabba.
2. Shubman Gill: Conquering the ‘open’ challenge
In the wake of Prithvi Shaw’s unimaginable struggles at Adelaide, India were forced to bring in Shubman Gill to open at the MCG, as Rohit Sharma was still in quarantine. What was a stop-gap arrangement became a full-time solution, at least till the end of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, as Gill stood up to be counted in the Boxing Day Test. Although he registered middling scores of 45 and 35 not out, the assurance with which he batted at the MCG gave India the confidence to pick him ahead of the out-of-form Mayank Agarwal, even after Rohit was back in the mix for the last two Tests. Gill lived up to the expectations, and how! After registering his maiden fifty at the SCG, the 2018 U-19 World Cup star laid the foundation for India’s historic chase of 328 at the Gabba with his sublime knock of 91. Although he could not finish the job, without his contribution India could not have breached Australia’s fortress.
3. Mohammed Siraj: Making an instant impact
When pacer Mohammed Siraj stayed back in Australia, despite his father’s demise at the very start of the tour, his only aim was to fulfil his dad’s dream of playing for the country. By the time the Test series ended, Siraj’s father would have been proudly beaming in heaven at his son’s success. The 26-year-old medium pacer made his debut at the MCG, in place of the injured Shami, and made an instant impact. He strangled Australia’s top-scorer Marnus Labuschagne courtesy a brilliant catch by fellow debutant Gill, and later trapped Cameron Green lbw with a pacy delivery that nipped back in. In the second innings, he grabbed three key wickets to restrict the Aussies and set up a famous fightback win. By the time, India arrived at the Gabba, Siraj was forced into the lead role courtesy injuries to Jasprit Bumrah and Ravichandran Ashwin. Instead of wilting under pressure, he pounced on the golden opportunity, and claimed a five-for in the second innings. Siraj’s victims included Australia’s two best batsmen, Labuschagne and Steve Smith, both of whom were undone by Siraj’s fiery deliveries. The son of an auto driver, Siraj had well and truly arrived on the big stage, making his late father, and the whole of India, proud.
4. Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur and T. Natarajan: Terrific trio
Although they featured in only the final Test at the Gabba, the trio of Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur and T. Natarajan, the first and last making their debuts, made a significant impact in India’s historic triumph at the Gabba. Before Gill and Pant’s last-day heroics, Sundar, Thakur and Natarajan combined to keep India in the game. The trio shared the spoils with three scalps each in their first innings after which Sundar and Thakur rescued India with the bat, featuring in an unexpected century stand for the seventh wicket. While his dad wasn’t satisfied with Sundar’s 62, Thakur’s top-score of 67 received no such complaints. Though Natarajan went wicketless in Australia’s second innings, Thakur and Sundar weren’t done yet. The medium-pacer grabbed four key wickets to play the perfect foil to Siraj’s five-for. Sundar trapped the dangerous David Warner lbw for 48 and then contributed a key 22 in India’s record chase of 328.
The success of India’s young guns in Australia, defying all odds, exemplifies the New India we should all be proud of.