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India vs Australia: India’s Historic Series Win A Triumph of Will-Power, of Putting Mind Over Matter

The Gabba was Australia’s bastion, never having lost a Test there for 32 years. The outcome of the match looked like a chronicle foretold. But after five days of fascinating, riveting cricket, the result was topsy-turvy from the one anticipated. India had made the impossible possible.

  • Ayaz Memon
  • Updated: January 19, 2021, 9:33 PM IST
India vs Australia: India’s Historic Series Win A Triumph of Will-Power, of Putting Mind Over Matter

Anybody who said India would win the Test series after being blown away for 36 in the second innings at Adelaide would have been shown the way to a lunatic asylum. Australia won that match by 8 wickets. In itself not such a hefty margin, but the diabolical manner of India’s collapse, and the trauma that the team would have blighted any sense of optimism -- even among diehard Indian supporters.

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`Clean sweep for the Aussies’ seemed to be the consensus opinion after the Adelaide debacle, even among aficionados, critics and former players. I did a dipstick survey with fellow cricket writers and some former cricketers and there was hardly a dissenting voice. In fact, only one who said that India might be able to salvage a Test because of rain.

This was not being cynical, as may seem now, rather matter of fact. When a team suffers such a humiliating collapse and so early in the tour, recovery becomes excruciatingly difficult. After India were bowled out for 42 – the previous lowest score -- at Lord’s in 1974, the next match was lost by an innings and England swept the series 3-0.

Such a massive setback can play havoc with the minds of players. Even the best can lose confidence, become defeatist. This can get endemic and spread through the entire squad. The less established and rookies inevitably base their responses on how seniors react, the words they use in communication, their body language in such a crisis. Even a suggestion of despair could make an already difficult situation disastrous.

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I’ll eschew the facts and stats of this series which highlight India’s amazing turnaround because these are already in the public domain, and in profuse quantity. What I’ll focus on is what perhaps made the turnaround possible and go back to a few conversations with chief coach Ravi Shastri before the tour began which become important now.

Among several aspects discussed, two things he kept emphasizing on assume great importance in the context of the series result.

One, was of personal and team pride, and complete self-belief that the Aussies could be beaten.

``If they sense you don’t have the stomach for a fight, they’ll steamroll you,’’ he said. Second, ``a counter-punch must be ready for every punch. Blow must be met with blow, in batting or bowling. There can’t be a hint of being underdogs.’’ Shastri said this had been a discussion with several players (assured of making the tour) constantly after the series against New Zealand last season and through the Covid lockdown period whenever possible.

That suggests India’s fantastic fightback can now be traced to how the team management and senior pros regrouped swiftly after Adelaide. I reckon this came about by subtle shift focus from just cricketing skills to the aspects mentioned, which are usually below the radar in sport but invaluable for excellence and success. In cricket, more so in the longest format than ODIs and T20s.

The biggest challenge before the team management was in restoring self-confidence after the Adelaide defeat. A freakish hour had seen the team bowled out for 36, India’s lowest ever in their Test cricket history. And mind you, India were the no.2 ranked side by ICC, so it’s not as if this was even remotely expected.

This had to be put in perspective and rationalized for the team. Such things happen once in several decades. Unfortunately, it has happened to us, let’s take it on the chin, and move on rapidly was the missive to the team, rather than brood and fall deeper into the rut. This required a tweak in focus.

Grit, determination, pride and ambition, more than just skills and talent, became the operative thrust areas for the remaining three Tests. The Australians were desperate for a series win after the defeat in 2018, and therefore liable to be impatient and error-prone. Wear them down, attack them, whatever it is, don’t show signs of fear, keep fighting.

However, what Shastri and captain Rahane would not have anticipated is the twists and turns this series would take. Virat Kohli, the team’s best batsman, returned home on paternity leave. While a major loss, this was known so back-up and buffer had been factored in before the series.

What was unknown was the spate of injuries that would hit the team as the series progressed.

Shami was a casualty in the first Test, Umesh in the second, Ashwin, Jadeja, Vihari and Bumrah in the third. At Sydney, the team was pushed to the brink, having to play out the entire last day which visiting teams have hardly done. India did, stoically, heroically, staving off the furious bumper assault with great physical courage.

For the fourth Test at the Gabba, because of injuries to senior players, India were even more dependent on rookies, especially in the bowling, where the spearhead was Mohamed Siraj playing in only his third Test two bowlers in their second, and two others debutants!

The Gabba was Australia’s bastion, never having lost a Test there for 32 years. The outcome of the match looked like a chronicle foretold. But after five days of fascinating, riveting cricket, the result was topsy-turvy from the one anticipated. India had made the impossible possible.

I’ll desist from naming players who made this historic series win possible. There are several of them with critical contributions even if they don’t show up so impressively in the statistics. This was a triumph of will-power, of putting mind over matter, of announcing to the world which is the doughtiest, best team in the world.

Let’s toast to that.



Team Rankings

RankTeamPointsRating
1 New Zealand 3198 118
2 Australia 3028 116
3 India 3085 114
4 England 4326 106
5 South Africa 2499 96
FULL Ranking
RankTeamPointsRating
1 England 5405 123
2 India 6102 117
3 New Zealand 3716 116
4 Australia 4344 111
5 South Africa 3345 108
FULL Ranking
RankTeamPointsRating
1 England 6877 275
2 Australia 6800 272
3 India 10186 268
4 Pakistan 7516 259
5 South Africa 5047 252
FULL Ranking