India vs Australia Test series: A review
As soon as Rishabh Pant’s drive off Josh Hazlewood reached the long-off boundary in the Australian afternoon at the fortress of Gabba, 19th January became a red-letter day for Indian cricket. India did not only beat Australia back-to-back at their own background or breach the legend of Gabba where Australia was last beaten 32 years back.
But they also showed how a young Indian team could rise like a phoenix from the ashes by overcoming all the self-doubts and challenges on and off the field thrown out to them by their biggest cricketing adversary as well as the current pandemic situation.
India started strongly at Adelaide and even took 53 runs to lead in the first innings. But then came the disaster of 36 as Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood ran through the Indians on a freak performance giving Australia an 8-wicket victory. Indians were already without key bowler like Ishant Sharma.
By the end of the series, they were without more key players, including Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, and Hanuma Vihari. Not only on-field challenges, but the visiting side also had to deal with off-field obstacles throughout the series.
Most of the players have been inside the bio-buddle for last six months. They were playing an important Test series amid pandemic after months. They made it to the headlines for all the wrong reasons- issues with hotels, racist comments, and whatnot. The journey was never smooth. Especially for a side with so many young players, it was never an easy task.
It is a fantasy like no other that a cricket team who lost the first Test while getting bowled out for the lowest score in their cricketing history, losing their captain and most charismatic batsman for next three matches due to family reasons, and losing at least seven more first team players due to injuries could make a fairy tale like come back to win the Test series 2-1.
New heroes at every corner
During this journey, they had to depend on their monk-like stand-in captain to score a 100 in a Boxing Day Test match, the biggest sporting event in any Australian summer. Ajinkya Rahane owns an interesting record of not losing any of the five Test matches captained by him. They unleashed a young boy of 21 in Shubman Gill to open against the world’s best bowling attack and saw him grow and play shots that only he can play.
They saw two men refusing to give up-one with a torn hamstring and another man with a stiff back. Ravinchandran Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari batted out close to 43 overs or half a day to take India to a desperate draw to keep the series alive. A young fast bowler decided to stay back and let go his father’s funeral for the team’s sake.
Mohammed Siraj made his debut and grabbed the chance to become the pack leader within a period of three matches. A couple of bowlers were only there to provide practice to their batsmen during the net sessions but ended up making their debuts. Chennai duo T Natarajan and Washington Sundar were never in the reckoning for the Test XI before the series but ended up making significant contributions in the final victory.
Finally, they had two most contrasting but equally discussed individuals. Cheteshwar Pujara regularly gets criticised for playing too slow and not showing enough intent, but his 271 runs came in 928 balls, equivalent to more than 150 overs throughout the series. His long stay in the wicket provided the comfort to his fellow countrymen and tired out the Australian bowlers who kept targeting his body but still could not remove him soon enough.
On the other hand, Rishabh Pant was questioned repeatedly for his temperament and shot selection, dropped after a poor IPL, and even had questions raised on his fitness. But the 23-year-old has proved everyone wrong and showed his class as one of the true match-winner in Indian cricket.
Even people who have bashed him earlier will never forget his contribution to one of India’s greatest Test wins. Rishabh Pant’s 89* helped him became the fastest Indian to reach 1000 Test runs (27 innings). He is the only Indian wicketkeeper with three 50+ scores in Test matches in Down Under.
Numbers at a glance
- Last time Australia lost at the Gabba was in 1988 against the West Indies. Since then, they have remained unbeaten for 31 Test matches since then in Brisbane. Karachi was the only venue apart from this to witness a longer streak than this where Pakistan remained undefeated for 34 Tests between 1955 and 2000.
- Only one team has previously lost the first Test in Australian and eventually won the series. England achieved the feat thrice in 1882-83, 1911-12 and 1954-55). India became the second one to do the unimaginable.
- Indians have won two series in Australia since their first-ever Test match which was also played at the Gabba. Among the subcontinent teams, only Indians have won a series in Australia. Moreover, the Indian cricket team is the only fourth visiting team to have sealed consecutive Test series wins in Australia (2018-19 and 2020-21). England, West Indies, and South Africa are the other nations to have recorded the same.
- Indians have played a total of seven Test matches in Brisbane including the latest one. They lost five, managed one draw in 2003 and finally won one. With this victory in Brisbane, Indians have registered victories in all five Australian venues where they have played two or more Test matches. They have four wins at Melbourne Cricket Ground, two at Adelaide, one at Sydney Cricket Ground, one at WACA Perth, and one at Gabba.
- India used 20 players in the series – the most by any team in an away series. Siraj, Shardul Thakur, T Natarajan, and Sundar have a combined experience of nine Test matches whereas the Australian bowling attack has an overall experience of playing more than 250 Test matches.
- Mohammed Siraj became the fifth Indian bowler to have recorded a 5-wicket haul in Brisbane. Erstwhile names like Erapalli Prasanna (6/104 in 1968), Bishan Singh Bedi (5/55 in 1977), Madan Lal (5/72 in 1977), and Zaheer Khan (5/95 in 2003) featured in the star-studded chart. Siraj took five wickets for 73 runs and helped India to bowl out Australia in both innings of a Test match only for the third time in Brisbane after 1968 and 1977.
- Cheteshwar Pujara faced 928 balls in this Test series, the fifth-most by a visiting batsman in Australia in four or fewer Tests. Currently, Pujara is the only Indian to have played nine 200+ ball innings against Australia. The elite list includes Sunil Gavaskar (8), Tendulkar (7), and Virat Kohli (6).
- Washington Sundar is the fifth Indian to score fifty on debut Test at 7th position in the Indian cricket team’s history. He is also only the second player to score a half-century after taking three wickets in the first innings of his debut Test match with the former being Dattu Phadkar (1947).