Indian players face racist slurs at Sydney and Brisbane grounds
Last Tuesday, Australia’s fortress — The Gabba — was finally breached. It took 32 years and two months, but the unthinkable was achieved as an injury-ravaged young Indian team beat Australia by three wickets against all odds in the final Test to take the series 2-1.
The last time a visiting team came out triumphant from the Brisbane Cricket Ground was back in November 1988 when the mighty West Indian outfit under the leadership of Viv Richards thrashed Allan Border’s team by 9 wickets.
Virat Kohli had also returned home after the first Test as he along with his wife Anushka Sharma were expecting the birth of their first child. Kohli announced that they had been blessed with a baby girl on the very day when the Indian team played out of its skin to draw the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
In the first Test against Australia, India was bundled out for 36 and there were many pundits who said the visiting team will face a 4-0 drubbing. But proving every critic wrong, the Ajinkya Rahane-led side registered famous victories in Melbourne and Brisbane. The side also recorded an epic draw in Sydney and at every step, the line-up overcame adversity.
Pep talks to the boys
As India registered an emphatic series win to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Australia, skipper Ajinkya Rahane decided to give a pep talk to all the boys after the series-clinching win at The Gabba. While he praised the boys for performing brilliantly on the field, he even mentioned how Kuldeep Yadav maintained his composure despite not getting any chances in the playing XI.
“This is a massive moment for all of us. What happened in Adelaide, how we came back from Melbourne onwards was really good to see. Everyone did their effort, everyone contributed, it was not about one or two individuals. I just want to mention Kuldeep Yadav and Kartik Tyagi. Kuldeep, I know it was tough for you, you did not play a game here but your attitude was really good. Your time will come, just keep working hard. Kartik you were fantastic,” said Rahane while addressing the Indian team in a video posted on the official website of BCCI on Saturday. Earlier, head coach Ravi Shastri had also given a special speech to laud the efforts of every player and he went on to say that every member of the squad had been outstanding on the tour.
“Guys, the courage, resolve, and spirit you have shown, it is unreal. Not for once, you were down. Injuries, 36 all out, you had the belief. It does not come overnight, it takes a period of time, now you have the self-belief. Just not India, the whole world will stand up and salute you today. Remember what you guys have done today, enjoy as much as you can. Everybody has been outstanding, it started in Melbourne, Sydney was fantastic and the honours were even coming into this Gabba Test,” said Shastri while addressing the Indian team in a video posted on the official website of BCCI.
Planning before games
When India was still under strict lockdown and cricket had just resumed in the post-coronavirus era with the England-West Indies Test series in July, the Indian team management led by coach Ravi Shastri had already devised a plan to knock off Australia on their home soil in the Test series that was to be played in December-January.
India’s bowling coach Bharat Arun on Friday revealed that he had received a call from Shastri way back in July to chalk out a plan to counter Australian batsmen’s strength on the off-side. “Ravi Shastri called me sometime in July and said we need to take the offside out of the Australians. We had our own analysis and we felt that most of the runs that Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne scored were because of cut, pull and on the offside,” Arun said in a virtual press conference on Friday.
“We took a cue from the New Zealand attack. When they bowled to Smith, they just attacked his body and he felt very uncomfortable,” he added.
Arun said the plan was to bowl straight in order to make the hosts’ batsmen play on the leg side. He also said skipper Virat Kohli backed the plan and the team did wonders when it was executed during the four-match Test series.
“Ravi called and said ‘I want you to make a plan where we can eliminate their offside’. We thought about it and decided that we will attack more on the straighter lines and have an on-side field. It becomes very difficult for the batsman to consistently clear the onside field,” said Arun.
Spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has said that having fresh bowlers on the park worked in favour of India in the fourth and final Test against Australia at the Gabba, Brisbane.
“I thought Gabba must be really their fortress or something given the way they were hyping. It was 1000 wickets experience versus our 13 wickets experience. In hindsight, it worked out in our favour, I guess. Fresh bowlers on the park. This is the first time that 20 players have been used to win an overseas series,” Ashwin told fielding coach R Sridhar on his YouTube channel.
Before the fourth Test, Australian media had started reporting that the Indian team does not want to go to Gabba looking at the pitch. During the third Test, Australia skipper Tim Paine also sledged Ashwin, saying that the hosts cannot wait for the Indians to reach Gabba.
“Indian team should not leave the bubble. But 15,000 people will be allowed inside the stadium to watch the match. More like, we are caged animals inside a zoo. The crowd will have a go at us. Then they accuse us of not coming to fortress Gabba. Tim Paine missed the stumping of Pant in the second innings of the Gabba Test. But I started liking him, he invited us, played the perfect hosts by missing the stumping chance, and awarded us the series as well. Can’t say he helped us win 2-1 but yeah, on a sarcastic note, he did,” said Ashwin.
Fielding coach R Sridhar also echoed Ashwin’s sentiment, saying that having fresh bowlers on the park worked in India’s favour. He also said that this series has taught the side the importance of workload management.
“It does not matter even if you are the world’s best, because if you have tired legs, obviously you cannot execute your plans as well you would want to. So, it’s great learning for workload management for all of us,” said Sridhar.
“It is a combination of everything, it is multifunctional. Sydney Test gave us confidence, we batted for 131 overs, we literally tired out their bowlers. But batting first gave them an advantage with an extra day off to their bowlers. But still, we had fresh belief. ‘Mind over matter’, as they say. The boys had the belief that they can do it. I think the whole India sent their good vibes to us,” he added.
A dream debut
Basking in the glory of Border-Gavaskar Trophy win, all-rounder Washington Sundar on Saturday shared a picture with his father and Test debut cap.
Sundar had made his Test debut against Australia in the fourth Test at Gabba, Brisbane and as a result, he became the 301st cricketer to play for India in the longest format. The all-rounder shared a picture on Twitter, in which he is seen standing alongside his father. Sundar’s father was seen flaunting the ‘301’ number Test cap.
Sundar interestingly shares his Test cap number with the telephone area code of Maryland, a portion of the Greater Washington DC.
Sundar’s father M Sundar, a former Ranji probable, had a godfather named PD Washington, who lived just two streets away from his home. He was an avid follower of cricket and had developed a fondness for M Sundar’s game. Realising that he was not financially secure, the retired army officer used to buy him uniforms, pay his school fees, and often used to drop him to the ground in his cycle.
In an unfortunate turn of events, PD passed away in 1999. Shortly thereafter, Sundar’s first son was born. In memory of his late godfather PD Washington, M Sundar decided to name his son after him.
In his debut Test, Sundar had registered scores of 62 and 22. He also went on to take four wickets in the match, including a three-wicket haul in the first innings.