Uphill battle ahead for Team India
Uphill battle ahead for Team India
1947 – Lost by an innings and 226 runs
1968 – Lost by 39 runs
1977 – Lost by 16 runs
1991 – Lost by 10 Wickets
2003 – Draw
2014 – Lost by 4 Wickets
The above is India’s record in Brisbane since their first tour Down Under in 1947-48. To summarize, 5 losses out of the 6 instances when India played a Test match at the Gabba. The Woolloongabba or popularly known as Gabba is one of Australia’s most preferred hunting ground at home. Not only they have a 64.51% success rate in this ground, but they are also unbeaten in this venue since 1988.
They were beaten last time at Gabba by a West Indies side, slowly fading from their former glory. The Australian teams over the years loved to play in this ground. On many occasions, Cricket Australia organised the first match of the series at Gabba to ensure that the visitors remained at the backfoot from the very beginning. Although this time, it is the last match of the series as the first Test of the ongoing Border Gavaskar Trophy was a Day-Night one in Adelaide.
Battle in 2001
Not many people remember that during the epic India-Australia series in 2001, India had a depleted attack. Anil Kumble was ruled out even before the series started. Javagal Srinath and Ajit Agarkar joined him after the first Test and Venkatesh Prasad after the second Test. In the third Test, India’s bowling attack included Harbhajan Singh (10 Test matches), Zaheer Khan (3 Test matches), Nilesh Kulkarni (2 Test matches), and Sairaj Bahutule (making his debut). During the same year, some more injuries forced India to play with three debutant seam bowlers against England including Tinu Yohannan, Iqbal Siddiqui, and Sanjay Bangar. India won both times, once thanks to Harbhajan Singh and another time because of the legend Anil Kumble.
The above matches are certainly in discussion as India potentially can field a team with even less experienced compared to the above two squads. With Jasprit Bumrah joining the big list of injured players, Indian team management needs to find replacements for Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja, and Hanuma Vihari from the third Test first eleven. Even the fitness of Ravichandran Ashwin is in doubt and if the Tamil Nadu off-spinner fails to get fit from his back issues before 15th Jan India will only have options like Kuldeep Yadav (6 Test matches), Mohammed Siraj (2 Test matches), Navdeep Saini (1 Test Match), Shardul Thakur (1 Test match), and T Natarajan (to make his debut). Even if they want to decide to pick from their net bowling options that also includes potential debutants like Washington Sundar and Kartik Tyagi.
After the disastrous 36 all out in the first Test, not many people thought that India would reach Brisbane with a 1-1 scoreline, keeping the series alive. But the Indian team showed unbelievable grit, determination, and heart to make a strong comeback with a win at the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne and an unbelievable draw at Sydney which gave a very good account of their fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude.
However, now they have an uphill task at their hand. At least 8 of their first-choice players will be out including all the 4 members of their first-choice pace bowling attack on a ground that generally helps the fast bowlers and where Australia’s superior record is already highlighted above.
After reaching so far, India cannot stop trying till the last ball of the Brisbane Test. Especially, the understanding that even a draw will help them to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy should give them some extra motivation. They should look to their captain for some inspiration as well.
In recent years, India’s Test captains generally have a ‘larger-than-life’ kind of aura which was obvious for both Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli. One of them was a World Cup-winning captain and the other one is regarded as the best batsman of the contemporary cricket world. Despite having two completely opposite types of characteristics, at times it looked like the entire team’s attitude was driven by their respective captain’s actions.
Interestingly, Ajinkya Rahane, India’s stop-gap captain has a different kind of story to tell. With a calm persona, Rahane likes to stay out of the flashlights and focuses on keep doing his work. He has already shown his captaincy skills with his strategy, bowling changes, and even with the captain’s knock at the MCG while keeping his cool during all his actions.
Over the last few years, Rahane has not always been in the best position in his career. He is not regular in India’s limited over set up, the lost captaincy of his IPL team, hardly got any chance after being traded to another franchise and even his test spot was often questioned. Nevertheless, Rahane kept his cool throughout.
He kept doing his job, tried to make contributions for the team whenever possible with whatever capacity the team expected him to do. The youngsters in the team also can take a leaf out of Rahane’s life and look to contribute to whatever responsibility given to them.
Rahane will also have the support of three more senior members of the team. Rohit Sharma with a proven captaincy record in ODIs and the Indian Premier League is in the 14th year of his international career. Cheteshwar Pujara with experience of 80 Test matches and 6,000 plus runs behind him, and Ravi Ashwin, if he is fit.
With these comrades, Rahane may look to create a leadership group for the fourth match to motivate and guide the youngsters like Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant, and Mohammed Siraj to deliver their best.
During this memorable tour, the Indian team provided a couple of fairy-tale moments in Melbourne and Sydney for their fans. They would know that the odds are heavily against them and no one would expect another miracle from them, not even their die-hard fans. Then if they can bring their resolve and deliver one last fighting display then this Test match has the potential to take a permanent spot at the long list of Indian cricket’s folklore.