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Mighty India might be the LA Lakers of cricket. Filthy rich and boasting the most talent – just like those glitzy NBA defending champs – can make them easily cast as villains. India are cricket’s goliath and pretty much run the sport through their governing body’s stranglehold.
But after their miraculous three-wicket victory on Tuesday over a stunned Australia to overhaul the 329-run target and win the series 2-1 in one of the great upsets, India are the toast of the cricket world. You just can’t dislike this group of warriors who play with so much spirit and skill. A group of mostly young, fringe players who overcame adversity and a full-strength Australia.
They did it without their captain and best batsman Virat Kohli, who was just 16 days old the last time Australia lost a Test at the Gabba in Brisbane. It’s simply India’s greatest ever Test series triumph.
This unforgettable series between cricket superpowers India and Australia was an all-timer. This remarkably gallant India – a touring team that will be remembered for the ages - emerged as victors but perhaps even more startlingly won the hearts of a hard-bitten Australian public.
Fittingly, it came down to the last hour of the series decider with all four results a possibility. Rarely do Tests these days thrillingly go down to the wire in Australia but somehow we had two in succession.
An increasingly confident India – perhaps fueled by youthful exuberance – were undaunted even though no team had successfully chased more than 236 at the Gabba, a ground Australia had not lost a Test since 1988.
They sensed a flagging Australia – which boasted the same attack all series – were wilting and had been left frustrated after being unable to bury India’s resistance. Experienced spinner Nathan Lyon had been effectively blunted, while mercurial left-armer Mitchell Starc just couldn’t get it together as often his bane.
It was left to the indefatigable Pat Cummins, who bowled unwavering in the shadows to ensure a nerve-jangling finish but the audacious Rishabh Pant – who signifies so much about this cavalier Indian team – proved too good and fittingly finished it off with a boundary to spark memorable celebrations.
The recriminations for a patchy Australia – marked by Tim Paine’s uninspired captaincy on the final day – will come in a country that demands success but this is India’s crowning moment. An inexperienced and injury-ravaged India were not meant to be competing against home-strong Australia but they never stopped believing – as cliché as that sounds, it’s entirely true.
Their resolve and passion makes you fall in love with Test cricket all over again, even though it is so easy to be dismissive of a product where the big countries of India, England and Australia mainly just want to play each other on a loop.
It can feel almost condescending when traditionalists exult Test cricket endlessly but they might have a point after this never-ending drama. This was genuine and visceral, so compelling that you couldn’t turn away.
There were a treasure trove of memories in a four-match series that has been compared to such classics as India-Australia 2001 and the ultimate – Ashes 2005.
But this was India’s summer and far exceeded their historic victory in 2018-19 and a drawn series in 2003-04 against Steve Waugh’s impregnable men.
Both those Australian teams were weakened and the dreaded asterisk is often affixed in the record books. Certainly not this time. Somehow, someway India just kept fighting against favored Australia, who are so difficult to beat on home terrain.
No one will ever forget Mohammed Siraj relentlessly bounding in, playing with so much heart. He missed his father’s funeral while on tour and had to endure alleged crowd racism in Sydney but continued to play with enthusiasm and superbly led a second-string attack in Brisbane.
Ajinkya Rahane’s composed captaincy – a contrast to Kohli’s firebrand leadership – will live on but he also summoned the necessary steel to ensure India kept believing. Who needs Kohli after all? One wonders what cricket’s richest and most influential player was thinking watching it all unfold.
The exuberance of precocious Pant and Shubman Gill – who thrillingly counterattacked after lunch on day 5 to fuel India’s victory – demonstrated the brashness of a new generation weaned on the crash and bash of the Indian Premier League – cricket’s biggest and richest spectacle.
In Brisbane, a shorthanded India overcame Australia against all the odds. It spoke of India’s reservoir of talent and perhaps foreshadowed their inevitable dominance of international cricket.
With their huge populace, sheer fandom and deep resources, India should really dominate cricket across the formats something akin to the U.S. in basketball.
Through professionalism, pathways and financial heft, India has steadily become the undisputed force off-field but not quite on-field despite varying degrees of success in the last two decades. This could well prove a harbinger moment for India.
A cricket-mad nation of a billion will celebrate for a long time to come.
Turnarounds can never be predicted. Which is why they are called turnarounds. Indian lower order did a magnificent turnaround today that will go straight into history books.
This is our Test to lose from hereon. If we win here, this will be the greatest turnaround after the 2001 India-Australia Test Series. It will be a gigantic moment in India’s cricketing history.
What is interesting to see is that the guys who were involved in the turnaround in this Test - they have scripted amazing turnarounds in their real lives too.
Natarajan is the son of a loom worker who had no money for luxuries like cricket gear and shoes. For many years, Natarajan had to think a hundred times before investing in new shoes. His mother cried when she saw him representing India on TV. His wife gave birth to their son when Natarajan was playing IPL in UAE. He hasn’t even seen him yet because he went straight to Australia in a bio bubble.
Shardul Thakur battled obesity to play for Mumbai and thereafter IPL. No less than Sachin Tendulkar advised him to lose weight for a great cricketing career ahead of him.
Siraj rose to become India’s new ball bowler despite being born to a poor rickshaw driver. His father died and he couldn’t perform his last rites as he was in Australia on national duty.
Washington Sundar’s father - Sundar, was a talented cricketer who was sponsored by his rich neighbour throughout his local cricketing life. His name was Washington. The man passed away just before Sundar’s second son was born. Sundar named his son Washington as a tribute to his benefactor.
Navdeep Saini’s father was a government driver and could not afford expensive cricket coaching for his son. So Saini played exhibition matches on tennis ball at Rs.300 a match to fund his dreams.
All these guys came together as debutants and have turned this match over its head. All their lives they were waiting for this moment in their cricketing career. All their failures, all their struggles, all their doubts and all their insecurities - all that was settled once and for all in this Test match. When presented with an opportunity, they fired themselves up and attacked Australia with all guns blazing.
In this series, more than any other Test series I have seen in my life, the Indian Cricket team has proven their naysayers wrong. They have sustained tremendous pressure and taken hard knocks all over their bodies against one of the best Australian attack ever. And by doing so, they have made us realise that while 5 hour IPL matches can create instant celebrities, Test Cricket, which stretches over five days, creates real heroes.
Celebrities sign autographs, but heroes continue to inspire the nation decades after they retire.
Thank you Team India 🇮🇳
#TeamIndia #INDvAUS #bleedblue #indiancricket👍🏏