Bouncing back in style

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Ajinkya Rahane could hardly have been handed the India Test captaincy in more trying circumstances. The humiliation of 36/9 at Adelaide, full-time skipper Virat Kolhi on paternity leave, injury to Mohammad Shami before the game and Umesh Yadav during the Test — there was way too much going against India. His mix-up with Kohli was one of the key moments of India’s first Test defeat, and the nation was still reeling from being skittled for their lowest ever Test score. India bounced back in style to hand an eight-wicket defeat to Australia in the second Test, which ended at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Tuesday. India had to overcome so much that their victory at the MCG, achieved midway through the fourth day will forever have a part in their cricket folklore. Fittingly, stand-in captain Rahane was the one to hit the winning runs at the MCG. Never ever has an Indian tour party been pushed in a corner like this or written off. But in a dramatic turnaround, India didn’t just bounce back to win the Test and level the series, it gave Indians, particularly the cricketing fans, something to cheer about at the fag end of the year, which was otherwise would be remembered as the ‘gloomy 2020’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the dual departures of Kohli and Shami weakened India, they were at least bolstered by the return of Ravindra Jadeja after his injury during the T20I series. Still, it was a brave move to leave out a specialist batsman in place of an all-rounder after the horrors of Adelaide, and India’s courage was rewarded to the fullest. Whether it is part of something even greater will depend on the next three weeks, but for now they can reflect on one of the great bounce back victories.

When India were dismissed for 42 in 1974, the team lost the next test by an innings, because it is so difficult to pick oneself up after a loss that bad. This team, with their best batsman & captain gone, one strike bowler injured before the match has performed an absolute miracle. Rahane’s team could have wilted under pressure. But the Team India embraced redemption instead. God of Indian cricket Sachin Tendukar has rightly described the victory in his tweet — To win a Test match without Virat, Rohit, Ishant & Shami is a terrific achievement. Loved the resilience and character shown by the team to put behind the loss in the 1st Test and level the series. As a captain, from bowling changes to field placements, the stand-in skipper was always ahead of the game. As a batsman, Rahane’s century in the first innings was the difference between the two sides. It sent a message to the opposition that after being dismissed for 36 this Indian team is not going to just lie down and be walked all over.

Rahane won the hearts of millions with his gracious reaction to Ravindra Jadeja after the all-rounder had run him out. Icing on the cake was the performance of two debutants — Mohammad Siraj and Shubman Gill. As a captain, from bowling changes to field placements, the stand-in skipper was always ahead of the game. Should he lead India to a successful defence of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, the calls for him to take on the role on a permanent basis will surely grow loud.

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