Down Under, India Thunder

Some decades ago when Indian cricket team toured Australia, there were some Indian fans holding a huge banner in the spectator stands showing ‘Down Under India Thunder’. That caption holds good till now. This is more or less an Indian summer in Australia. Cricket experts in Australia never gave Indian team a ray of chance in performing well in test series. They were proved to be right when Indian team was beaten by Aussies in the first test match at Adelaide and faced nightmarish experience when they were bundled out for a paltry 36 in their second innings. Adding insult to injury Indian team was without Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami for the rest of the series, the former on paternity leave and the latter declared not fit with injury. Thereafter most of the cricket experts in Australia and outside predicted a white wash for India in the Border-Gavaskar series.

Then Ajinkya Rahane took over as stand in captain and with match winning Ton trounced Kangaroos at Melbourne, paying the way for the greatest comeback in the series. Thereafter the series continued as Arrogant Australians Vs Spirited Indians. Indian team showed great resilience in saving the third test match at Sydney. There is a saying in cricket that pace bowlers always ‘hunt in pairs’. In India’s case it’s the duo of batsmen Aswin and Hanuma Vihari showcasing grit and determination despite injuries, preventing Aussies snatching a victory at Sydney. Then another duo of Washington Sundar and Thakur produced a partnership of over 100 runs, when the chips were down, to reduce India’s first inning deficit in Brisbane test. In the second innings It was turn of Subhaman Gill to lay the foundation for India’s second innings and later on onslaught by Rishab Pant tamed the mighty Kangaroos in their fortress. What a turnaround for Team India this summer! The team was in ruins when they bowled out for a meager 36 runs in an innings. Exactly after one month the Indian team was on roses after conquering Kangaroos in their own backyard.

Jinks & Co. broke the jinx of Gabba fortress after a gap of 32 years and thereby forcing all Aussie fans into distress. After their dismal performance veteran leg spinner Shane warner predicted huge OZ fallout and some heads will definitely roll out from Australian cricket team. Prior to the Fourth test, Indian dressing room looked like a mini hospital with more than half-a-dozen players in the injury list. There were no replacements to fly in for injured players due to COVID-19 restrictions. All that team management headed by head coach Ravi Shastri, bowling coach Bharat Arun and skipper Rahane could do is to marshal the available resources. At that time Indian team had to fight against adversity to tame it’s adversary in its own den. Mohammed Siraj with two match experience, spearheaded the second string bowling attack of Saini and Natarajan and bagged 5 wicket haul in Aussie second innings. India finally clinched the Border-Gavaskar series with a margin of 2-1. This occasion is more special as it came when the team was bruised, bullied by strong opponents and also taunted racially by certain sections of spectators in the stadium. As the series unrolled young heroes emerged onto the scene one after another.

Ajinkya Rahane who was made stand-in skipper for the rest of the series in the absence of Kohli showed farsighted captaincy skills with brilliant bowling changes and calm attitude. The same situation can be compared to the political arena when Sri. P.V. Narasimha Rao was made as Prime minister after the assassination of then Prime Minister Sri. Rajiv Gandhi. At that time PV with his calm attitude, great political acumen brought many economic reforms thereby placing Indian economy back on track and getting applause from one and all.

Indian team offered to leave Sydney test midway after racial abuse meted out it’s bowlers on two consecutive days. But Rahane refused to abandon the Sydney test midway. By doing so, he lifted the spirit of the billion population of our country and saved Cricket Australia from facing embarrassing moments in International cricket. Credit must be given to all the team members who were in bio-bubble for such a long time, the situation of which was created by the unforeseen COVID-19 pandemic, to gel as a unit.

This young Indian team showed an uncanny knack of raising to the occasion when chips were down by beating the full strength Australian team despite losing the toss in three consecutive test matches. Credit for this Indian bench strength must be given to Rahul Dravid, ‘The Wall’ of Indian cricket not so long ago, for laying the foundation of future Indian cricket, by guiding and training the young lads to play for Under-19 & India-A teams. The Government of India should consider his name for the Dronacharya award. Credit must also be given to BCCI in organising IPL matches to unearth raw talent from nook and corners of the country. The plot discussed in between head coach Ravi Shashi and bowling coach Bharat Arun as early in the July last year itself, to trap Smith and other batsmen with a predominant leg side field, speaks volumes of Indian team  preparation for Australian test series.

The current series victory over Kangaroos is sweeter than the earlier series victories (without Smith and Warner in the Aussie team at that time). More sweeter in the sense the victory we have achieved with the second string Indian team (and perhaps third string bowling attack).

When opportunity knocked on the youngsters they grabbed it with both hands thereby filling the shoes of senior cricketers perfectly. These bunch of players were also aware of the fact that their place in Indian squad was not guaranteed when some of the injured cricketers returned to the team. They made most of the available opportunities without any baggage of fear. Now the stage has set for the forthcoming test series against England in such a way that from now onwards even senior cricketers shouldn’t take their place for granted in International cricket unless they perform. This is one great change that our Indian cricket think-tank were looking for, which augurs well for the future of Indian cricket.

The bunch of ‘net bowlers’ became ‘international stars’  when the opportunities bestowed upon them. The young generation of cricketers exceeded the expectations of Indian cricket fans and certainly the legacy of future Indian cricket will be in their safe hands. The young Indian team has also reiterated one important message to the world :

“Believe in yourself (talent) against all odds, the world will bow at you”.

V. Nagendra Kumar is HVAC (Heating, Ventilation & Air-Conditioning) Engineer