A win for the ages

| Updated on January 19, 2021

India’s cricket series victory over Australia showcases the élan of youth and grit of the old

India’s historic second successive Test series win in Australia, and its breach of “Fortress Gabba”, achieved in the end with boldness, chutzpah, the fearless freedom of youth, and a bit of T20-style bling batting, had cricket fans all over the world riveted to the screen. Even Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, had to make time for a match tighter than a well-strung mridangam. The win in Brisbane to retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy feels like an audacious, carefully planned heist but it was anything but that with the Indian team plagued by injuries at every step. At the best of times, Australia is a tough place for teams to compete, let alone win. No visiting team has beaten Australia at Brisbane since Vivian Richard’s West Indies in 1988; except South Africa, the mighty West Indies of the 1980s, and England in 1932-33, no team has won successive series in Australia. To do that, England in fact had to employ the infamous “Bodyline”. And to think that India won with a bowling attack whose most experienced bowler was all of three Tests old, this win is special indeed.

After being bundled out for a humiliating 36, captain Virat Kohli away on paternity leave, and the team virtually not having enough fit men to field a competitive XI, India had no right to harbour ambitions of a win. The team that torpedoed Australia consisted of a bowling attack that had about half-a-dozen Test wickets between them. Washington Sundar, T Natarajan and Shardul Thakur were in the squad to offer batting practice to their teammates in the nets, not torment the Australians. And yet, India won in a fearless, nerveless chase. Not surprisingly, the victory has set-off the season for hyperbole.

The team is now being hailed as a metaphor for “New India”. Why, at the start of the series, Virat Kohli dubbed himself the “representative of New India” when asked about his aggressive, implacably positive attitude towards life and cricket. If that is indeed “New India”, then it could be argued that grit, stoicism in the face of pain and adversity, thrift, making the most out of what is available, and going about work with quiet determination — perhaps the way of “Old India” — had a bigger role in the dismantling of Australia. India played the ball, not the man as Australia would have wanted them to, overcoming tactics such as sledging. Without Pujara taking those countless body blows in facing more than 900 balls in four tests, Rahane’s detachedly-attached, near-Vedantic captaincy, R Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari’s pitch-penance in Sydney like Yogis who had trained themselves to curb desire, and bloody-minded will to live to fight another day, could there have been the flourishing finish of Rishabh Pant and Washington Sundar? This was clearly a team effort with every single player rising to the occasion when called to. As Sachin Tendulkar pointed out, the team found a new hero every session. A nation, business or a cricket team, cannot do without both the old and the new.

Published on January 19, 2021

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