India’s cricketers scripted a fairytale on a dramatic, emotionally exhausting final hour of the final day of the final Test of an already unforgettable series, beating Australia by 3 wickets to win back-to-back Test series on Australian soil. In the process, they became the first ever Asian side to win a Test at the Gabba.
India won with a bowling attack with a combined experience of 4 Tests coming into Brisbane. They won in spite of having to use 20 players in the series. They won when the world had written off their batting abilities. They won in spite of their bowlers falling like dominoes. They believed, obstinately and vehemently.
India needed only a draw to retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy. That would have been a minor miracle in itself, given that injuries had ravaged the team and forced the management to field players who had only stayed behind to bowl in the nets.
Nobody seriously expected India to go for a steep target of 329 on a fifth day pitch at the Gabba. But the extremely talented Rishabh Pant, a flag-waver for the next-gen Indian cricketer who hasn’t yet learnt to take a backward step, had other plans. ‘New India’ played to win and succeeded, marking an important line in the sand.
Along with the steely Cheteshwar Pujara and the sensational Shubman Gill, whom ABC commentators kept gushing about, India timed a tall, seemingly impossible chase to perfection. Earlier, stellar performances from Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, Mohd Siraj had set up the win.
These heroics allowed a second-string, novice bunch, choking from a months-long, seemingly endless life in quarantine, to pull off a memorable heist.
This was arguably India’s greatest Test win overseas and definitely their finest series victory ever. The result was accomplished against a best-in-the-world Australian bowling attack by a bunch of bravehearts who had come straight off the bench. Just three Tests ago, India had plumbed the depths of 36 all out in the first Test.
From that drubbing in Adelaide to victories in Melbourne and at the Gabba, and a resolute draw in Sydney where Pant again nearly pulled off the impossible, is a turnaround that will go down as one of the greatest underdog stories in modern sport.
“You don’t just play and love Test cricket for nothing,” tweeted the great Vivian Richards.
You don’t just play & love test cricket for nothing. Brilliant game. Congratulations India on the win, & Australi… https://t.co/KiIiMUErkk
— Sir Vivian Richards (@ivivianrichards) 1611043572000
A battered, bruised India lacked nearly all of their key personnel and complained vehemently about suffocating lifestyle restrictions coming into this Test. At one point, it looked as if the ‘Battle of Brisbane’ wouldn’t even happen, thanks to the pandemic.
Yet, brilliantly led by a calm, astute stand-in captain in Ajinkya Rahane, running on net bowlers, youthful adrenaline and the audacity of hope, ‘New India’ raided the ‘Gabbatoir’, a fortress which hasn’t been breached by any visiting side since 1988.
India did so by scoring 329 runs in the fourth innings, 325 of those on Tuesday, the fourth most ever scored on a wearing final-day pitch by a winning side.
“Young India is showing they are not afraid,” gushed former captain Sunil Gavaskar, while coach Ravi Shastri explained how this squad wasn’t built in a day, but was instead a multi-year process in building bench strength and keeping the faith in budding talent.
IN PICS: India win Gabba thriller, claim Test series 2-1
Rishabh Pant unleashed a Twenty20-style batting assault to blast India to an incredible three-wicket win in the fourth Test decider on Tuesday. (Getty Images)
Regular captain Virat Kohli may have been absent after Adelaide, but his “New India” jibe before the series doesn’t sound so cheeky now. Some of his famed fearlessness has rubbed off on this team. Shastri too was a dogged cricketer, and his presence seems to have helped.
Shane Warne dubbed India’s win “cricket’s version of the ‘Thrilla in Manilla’”, the memorable Ali-Frazier 1975 heavyweight boxing bout. Indeed, the image of a courageous Pujara, who played 928 balls in this series, soaking up multiple blows to the head, fingers, knuckles, ribs and forearms like a sponge and still coming back for more defined India’s campaign.
Any other side would have thrown in the towel a long time ago. But India never stopped believing. From staying alive to keeping the faith, they covered an odyssey in which boys became men and stars became legends. And they showed us that it’s okay to dream. Because sometimes, fairytales do come true.