Author: Durgesh Bhende
“Heart wants what it wants!!!”
Cricket fans never want to see their team lose. Especially when the fans are from a country where the game is worshiped religiously.
Smith, Warner, and Bancroft were shunned off for “SandPaper Gate” for two years and the Australian team went in gallows. With the new Captain in and self-confidence shattered, there began a new era of losing matches, away and home, complimented by boos and banners in the stands. The fear of getting whitewashed of the ’90s and 2000s were gone and the opposition fought Aussies with equal aggression where latter ended up as a loser was becoming a regular affair.
When India went down-under tour in 2019, there were gossips of India facing the weakest Australian team in 70 years. With Smith and Warner absent, Australia was still a strong team but not in confidence. With the oldies of cricket mellowed in the memories of their cricket journey in deference to their current generation are always apt to say “You will never see the likes of so-and-so again” and when India won the Adelaide Test, the so-called cricket pundits wrote off Aussies, but they bounced back in the Perth Test with their new spearhead in action, Pat Cummins. Though they were not enough to breach the new “Wall” of Test cricket, ‘Che’, that’s what they called Pujara who piled up 600 runs in the series by hitting three scintillating tons. Aussies were down 2-1 and India created history by becoming the first Asian team to beat Australia in their den and win the series.
Return of the Greats
As the kangaroos in the stands missed Smithie and Warnie, the lores of their historic heroics echoed among the Aussie fans. Soon Australia was to travel to England for Ashes and both the heroes were welcomed grandly by English Barmy Army. Amidst the deafening cacophony of boos and derisive taunts, Warner and Smith took the field with their heads down, and ears all open. It could be seen hurting the heart of every Australian cricket fan present in the stands.
But as it is said, “You don’t ask for respect, you earn it”. Smith started with grand centuries in both the innings amidst the boos. Double ton at Old Trafford and Smith entered a new record of making 776 runs in a series. Confidence in one’s ability is perhaps the main requisite for success. But heroics of Stokes in Headingley and Archer in London brought back England and Australia were back to square one but this time Warner and Smith at their side.
With the so-called strong Australian team back in form, the cricket gossips of India vs Australia gained impetus again, but the fact that the star Indian batsman, Kohli, was only available for the first test, the Australian mind games entered the arena by branding Kohli as “King” and the unprecedented tweets by the cricket legends writing off India after the first Test made the news. Many were even sure about India losing 4-0 to Aussies.
Beginning with Adelaide, the first Day/night test match in the down-under tour seemed to be turning in favor of India, but Adelaide as said, is known for the second innings collapse. Tables turned around and India was demolished by the mighty bowling attack of Hazelwood and Cummins as they met embarrassment on 36 all out.
With Kohli gone, Shami injured and Ishant absent, India was on the back foot. Mind games started making news all over. By branding Kohli as the only strength and writing India off from the series, tweets by the cricket legends and pundits expected to pile up pressure on stand-in Captain “Rahane”. But rather the biggest turnaround of cricket history of Australia came forth when Rahane led his team with a sublime century. Australia was decimated by the Indian Speedsters only to win the Boxing Day test match and India roared up by squaring the series.
Sydney is a city every Indian cricketer loves, for Sydney has a good record for Indian batsmen, has a spinning track, and suits the Indian spinners. Also known as “Sachin’s Cricket Ground” by Indian cricket fans, for scoring 3 centuries and maximum runs than any other Indian Batsman, Sydney holds a special place in the hearts of all Indians.
Including the southpaws and 2 would-be stars of Indian cricket, Gill, and Siraj, after the injured Umesh Yadav was ruled out and Rohit Sharma, the star Indian senior batsman back in the team, India still looked like a strong team for the contest.
And when India was set a herculean target of 407, the question was, “Can India repeat Trinidad, 1976?” “Who will play Gavaskar and Vishwanath for India?”
There are abiding memories of the run chase India has successfully executed but this one was going to be more challenging. Becoming the first Asian team to make a comeback after losing the first Test had piled up the expectations of the fans present in the stands and one billion supporters back at home glued to their television sets.
Philip of Macedonia in a message to Sparta read, ” You’re advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people and raze your city”
Sparta’s reply was: “If.”
Injured, abused, bruised, and fatigued, the last recognizing pair of batsmen held the fort for 48 overs only to bring frustrations out of Australian fieldsmen. But it is in this subservience of the personal to the impersonal, sacrificing the ego of the human impulse to the demands of the situation brings that classicism in you. India brought impossible smiles on the faces of Indian fans after successfully holding the fort of Sydney. Ajinkya Rahane remained invincible again.
Breach of Fortress
Everything went towards Brisbane, The Gabba, and a fort that was never breached for 32 years. Gabba was unpleasant for India. Bounce and pace on the first two days, turning track with cracks on the last three. Saviours of Sydney Test were out, India was without the services of Jadeja, Ashwin, and Vihari, but “Jinks” the stand-in captain believed in his young team. This brought in Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar and Australia was going to compete with the ‘India A’ team.
Their openers walked at the crease imperiously, knowing they have to face an inexperienced pace attack of India. But soon the pictures turned around and then, three S’s of India, Siraj, Shardul, and Sudar orchestrated the majestic collapse of the Australian team. The worst for Aussies was yet to come for India. Surpassing the total in the first innings suddenly seemed a formidable target for India as the team was left stranded with a deficit of 185 runs.
But two extremely calm, inexperienced youngsters of India refused to give in to the pressure and crafted magnificent innings of respective fifties and took India to a respectable total, conceding only 33 runs to Australia. Right when it seemed that Australia would win this by a big margin, Siraj shattered their dreams in the second innings by bowling swiftly on the seam and decimated Australia by taking 5 for, only to chase the target of 328 runs. Australia was bowled out in both innings.
With Rohit falling cheaply on the early morning of the fifth day, the win seemed a distant affair and hearts & minds again switched to a “draw”. Shubhman gill played a scintillating knock of 91 runs unfortunately falling short of 9 to what could have been the most memorable century of Indian Cricket History.
“This thing Can be Done”
It reminded me of “The Devil” Spofforth, who in 1882 defended a target of 85 runs by continuously directing his mind in believing “This thing can be done”. It all seemed real again in Gabba. The young chaps with a leader who believed in them had nothing to lose. It seemed they were following Spofforth.
With the ball turning viciously with the help of the cracks and Tim Paine chirping “Nice One Garry” from behind the stumps to Nathan Lyon, who was playing his 100th test and was only 3 wickets far from 400, it seemed Aussies were not giving in so easily and who earlier were watchful and waiting for their prey to enter the trap were now scurrying around, clapping and calling each other, responding to the alacrity of Paine’s constant adjustments.
But nothing worked against the immovable and stubborn “Che”. When Cummins removed Che with a new ball, it all looked difficult again. The heartbeat again got hold of itself as if it knew the Indian art of self-destruction. As the score progressed, Indian fans started praying as if they had hindsight of “Commentator’s curse” becoming true.
But it was the yet-to-bloom Pant, who was known for playing irresponsible shots, held the innings by building the crescendo till the end and became the third Indian player to hit the winning runs in Australia. Pant sent the spectators and the players in the dressing room for rhapsodies after hitting that red cherry down the ground. Rishabh Pant, the impatient hard hitter, had played the most sensible and responsible knock off the “long-to-go” career and India created history by becoming the second team and first Asian team to come back losing the first test and win the series in Australia.
Gabba, the fortress held for 32 years, was breached. Days with the fear of getting white-washed were gone and seemed distant now, the scars of losing terribly in Australia were now healed.
Answers to “Can’t wait to see you in Gabba” were given by “We won’t bow down to the best bowling attack of the world either”.
“HEART WANTS, WHAT IT WANTS”
To sum up the scenes it reminded me of the chorus by Bharat Army
“He will hit you for a six and babysit your kids, we got Rishabh Pant”