Cricket: Battered, bruised, injured and abused Indian team battle like Gladiators at Sydney

The Indian cricket team fought back, after every setback, to draw the Sydney test match, despite injuries, absentees and controversies (both on and off the field – ranging from Steve Smith scratching the pitch on the fifth day, Captain Paine chattering when Ashwin is about to face a ball – karma made him drop three catches – to racist calls ‘big monkey’ and ‘brown dog’ from crowds on Indian players). My key observations:

NEVER GIVE UP ON THIS INDIAN UNIT

1. The big lesson from this test match is in peak sports encounters, it’s best to enjoy the game than jumping to conclusions. Umpteen number of times in this match, India were battered, bruised and injured (few key players), but kept coming back again and again.

(a) Rishabh Pant was a villain after Day 1 of the test (for dropping easy catches) but ended Day 5 as a massive hero. This despite batting with an injury, unfit to make him keep wickets, but enough to score a battling and brave 97. Pant re-surged like a resolute.

(b) On Day 3, most Indian fans criticized Cheteshwar Pujara for hanging on. On Day 5, each of those fans wanted Pujara to hang on! Pujara batted 380 balls in this test match which will now go down as one the best stonewalling overseas drawn tests for India. Pujara was resolute every day and every ball, after poor returns in first two tests. The gladiator in him re-surged.

(c) Hanuma Vihari was battling for his test career when he came out to bat today. Another flop and was likely to make him sit out of the team for eternity. But his paltry score of 23 not out hides the 161 demonic balls he faced with an injured hamstring. Rarely would have a score of 23 not out resurrect a batsman’s flailing career as this one will do to Vihari. He re-surged like a resolute.

(d) Last week Ajinkya Rahane was toast of the nation, with Maharashtrian & South Indian media (and social media) going berserk with comments ranging from how Wada Pav diet and calm demeanor can also win matches (all theories intended to make sick mocks at Virat Kohli). All this hero worshiping after one Melbourne test win. By end of the Sydney test, captain Rahane stands the biggest flop of the game. So all that jingoism was out of place. The captain was down and out this test match… but who can bet against him scripting a victory at Brisbane? You count out this Indian team at your own risk.

(e) At start of this tour, Ravichandran Ashwin had question marks hanging over effectiveness of his batting and bowling on Australian soil. Twenty days down, he has won a test match with his bowling and drawn a match from jaws of defeat with his dour batting. Not just that, the best cricketer of 2016, then refused to take strike when Tim Paine was constantly chattering and disturbing him. that helped lose time and, in turn, frustrate the Aussies instead. No, you don’t discount any member of this team ever.

THE OPENING SPARK

2. There was another huge silver lining in the way Indian openers got starts of 70/0 and 71/0 in both innings. This hasn’t happened for a long time. Had India lost this test match, I bet it may have been the first time, in modern history, that a top team loses a game after such solid starts in both innings.

NEVER DISCOUNT THE INDIAN TEAM TALENT POOL

3. Ravindra Jadeja’s injury is a massive loss for the upcoming England series. However since an effective talent pool has been nurtured over the years, Kuldeep Yadav will walk in and not diminish India’s chances, for that series. Navdeep Saini impressed with four wickets this Sydney test match, although I personally wanted Shardul Thakur to play the game. Shardul has done the hard yards over many years in the domestic cricket circuit, he deserves his chance. It’s that effective talent pool we are talking again!

BLEAK AT BRISBANE?

4. Do India have a chance at Brisbane? With Virat, Ishant, Shami, Bhuvi, Umesh, Jadeja, Vihari, Rahul out and Pant (at best) to play only as a batsman? That also reminds me, pray for all the yo-yo tests and a long Covid induced break from cricket, how could so many Indian players fall to injuries, so soon? History says the chances to win at Brisbane are very bleak, but I cannot dare to conclude here. Not with this team. The Brisbane test chances look as bleak as it was, when India entered the Melbourne test. Most Aussie pundits had predicted that India will be blown away after that 36 all out. Even they will not dare to count this Indian team (even if it’s an A team that will take the field) out, ever!

CAN’T WAIT FOR FRIDAY 530am IST

After the first two tests, the Aussies had doubts on their batting. After the Sydney test, they will have doubts over their bowling too. My gut feel is Indian pacers will come to the party at Brisbane, and it is very much a 50:50 game.

FOOTNOTE

Kudos to Mohammed Siraj for standing up and protesting against racist calls. Racism exists and will continue to exist for people who are habituated in taking it or assume that as a perk for settling overseas. It was proud moment to see the Indian team stand up and fight for racist targeting of a fellow Indian.


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AVIJIT DAS PATNAIK

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