India breach Australia’s Brisbane stronghold to seal epic series win

India came to the Gabba, Brisbane to play the deciding fourth Test with nine down to injuries but completely healed from the Adelaide debacle, thanks to the Melbourne win and the famous Sydney draw. A team which finished the first Test batting to a miserable 36/9 to go one down in the series had a huge uphill and impossible task on hand.

Rishabh Pant turned match winner at the Gabba to hand India a famous series win and signpost the future of India’s Test cricket

India’s never say die attitude and the heroics in the last couple of weeks ensured they rewrote history by scripting a nerve wracking chase to confine the Aussies to only their second loss on this ground in the last 32 years. It was the West Indies who last beat them here, way back in 1988.

Excepting Pujara’s stubborn resistance and his able support to first Gill and then Pant, the other two senior batsmen, Rohit and Rahane failed to rise to the occasion here. This will surely be one of the India-Australia Tests to be remembered for centuries to come after the epic Kolkata win almost a couple of decades ago.  If India’s fortunes on the pitch took a plunge before that comeback script then, it was India’s woes off the field this time around.

With a combined experience of only four Tests, the pace quartet laid the foundation for India in style. No one gave a chance to the Indians before they arrived here and even last night, a draw appeared a huge achievement enabling India to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. But the young brigade surely had different ideas and their own strategy. Probably a draw was never in their mind at all.

The progressive increase in the absence of the seniors throughout the series never deterred this bunch. They had nothing to lose, only the opportunity to ensure a long Test career. Long after the emergence of fearless India under the leadership of Sourav Ganguly against this very same Aussies, a team which has seized every opportunity coming their way has shown that a new India is born again.

Ganguly must be the happiest and proudest man watching this team display immense self-belief, positive attitude, character and temperament. Today, this Test win has destroyed the myth that the Aussies are unbeatable at the Gabba. The young Indians rose to the challenge and once again reaffirmed why Test cricket is so special and unique. This series win would have surely inspired 100’s of millions of young Indians once again to take up to cricket and that too as a career. In fact, this 2-1 victory has surely removed the shorter formats of the game from the limelight and confined them to the background for now, much to the pride of every proud Indian.

Australia hadn’t lost at the Gabba since 1988

A two digit total in the beginning of an overseas series earlier would have made the players believe all is lost, eventually giving up without putting up a fight. But just to look at a few instances, it is stunning to see how this team has turned their fortunes around throughout. In fact, the Aussies would have never got or will never get a better chance to have pocketed the series 4-0 after the battering they administered to India in Adelaide and more so, every match seeing a bunch of players, especially seniors getting sidelined one after the other due to injuries. Every true cricket fan around the world will surely savour this inspirational comeback series win against all odds. Having begun playing Tests in 1932, Indian cricket has today come a long way and it is incredible considering how the shorter formats have played a spoilsport many a time to the longest version of the game. This is India’s third highest ever successful chase in the 4th innings of a Test match and only the first ever above 300 chase in Australia. With this, they have won against the Aussies in a chasing cause for the second time in Australia and for the fifth time overall.

The youngsters stunned the cricketing world with numerous stellar performances in all the four Tests with quite a few turning points. If Rahane had set the tone and led from the front with his ton at Melbourne, it was the debutants and the Test cricket novices who took charge of delivering blow after blow to the Aussies. To begin with, it was the spare pace engine rising to the occasion. The batting achievements will stand up and has spoken volumes about the courage displayed, especially against the unchanged, power packed pace attack of the Aussies and the ever testing spin of Nathan Lyon. The batting has been sheer podium stuff with Gill and Pant turning the apples of the eye for Team India. Pant might have scored a huge ton in Sydney in the earlier tour, but surely, his consistent, timely and crucial knocks in succession nailed the final coffin on the Aussies’ prospects.

Not just for their bowling, but one can only admire in awe, the record partnership between Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur in the first innings of this Test.  Surely, that was the turning point which ensured the Aussie lead was kept to the minimum, thereby increasing the chances of a chase within 400 and the rest is history now. Despite the dismissals of Pujara and Mayank Aggarwal at a crucial juncture, the Indian dressing room was quite cool knowing well the boys will deliver this time, unlike on most of the previous occasions in a 4th inning chase. One can now say with confidence that players like Gill, Pant, Sundar, Shardul, Siraj, Saini and Natarajan have arrived and have well cemented their place on the Indian bench.

The return of seniors in the near future will surely be a cause for dilemma for the selectors but this young bunch cannot be brushed aside under the carpet going forward in the long run. It is also great to note that Gill was the highest scorer for India for the series till the last hour of the match before Pant rightfully overtook him to emerge with the highest total. This is the new Indian cricket now.

It is a matter of pride that this proud team has retained the prestigious trophy not just with a draw, but with a record 4th Test win at Brisbane as well as the much deserved repeat series win in Australia and will rightfully hold their respective heads high. Way back in Kolkata, the BCCI President Sourav Ganguly must be surely smiling and recalling his historic trips downunder. Way back in 1971, a young batsman who debuted for India in the West Indies made history, taking the cricketing world by storm and holding fort of the Indian batting for a couple of decades thereafter. That cricketing legend, Sunil Gavaskar will surely be elated today not only to see the Border-Gavaskar Trophy retained by India, but with his prediction of a 2-1 series win for India coming true.

The new gen team India has arrived. Every Indian fan will today vouch that Indian cricket’s future is surely in safe hands now.

By Venkat Balantrapu

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