IND V AUS | BORDER - GAVASKAR TROPHY |
4TH TEST, GABBA | BRISBANE
DAY 3 REVIEW
Just when the whole of India were praying and looking for warriors after another batting collapse, two rookies stood up and vowed to implement their Character, Intent, Attitude on Sunday.
The two, Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar, along with net bowler or additional bowler Thangarasu Natarajan were meant to be the drinks carrying men until they were catapulted into the playing 11 owing to a spree of injuries to India's preferred Test players.
Beleagured with the loss of key players, mainly to injury and their captain to paternity leave, India's progress was further dented at the Gabba on Day 3.
Four top order batsmen, including stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mayank Agarwal and Rishabh Pant departed adding a collective 81 runs, leaving India 186-6, 183 behind Australia's first innings total of 369 and staring a possible path to defeat.
In stepped two unexpected, unheralded battlemen who had fulfilled their share of responsibility with the ball. They were expected to only bide the longest time they could with their bats.
Thakur and Sundar ended up notching a record 123-run partnership for the 7th wicket and scoring their maiden Test half centuries. Together, they helped reduce India's deficit to 33 and closer to eking out a draw.
Their astounding batting display prompted former Australia skipper and legend Allan Border to exclaim: "India have been sneaky to have reversed their batting order."
Here are 5 reasons that made the Thakur-Sundar pair flourish:
1. Sharing Dressing Room With Aus Players
Thakur has shared the dressing room with Josh Hazlewood in the recently concluded IPL 2020 for Chennai Super Kings.
Sundar has done his dressing room and team bonding with Aaron Finch and Adam Zampa for Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Another first innings bowling hero, Natarajan played his IPL 2020 under David warner's captaincy for Sunrisers Hyderabad.
These players have been exposed to a plethora of international players who are stars for their country's Test, One Day International and T20 teams.
Such proximity takes away any overawe effect when they step on the field even in their debut Test.
2. Bowled, Batted Against Intl Players in IPL
Both Thakur and Sundar are currently popular as bowlers-who-can-bat and potential allrounders.
They have practiced their batting and bowling art for CSK and RCB respectively in the nets as well as in matches.
They have seen and experienced bowling to and batting against international players in pressure situations.
As a result they looked composed and at home at the Gabba on Sunday. Even the second new ball and the prospect of facing what's mockingly called "chin music" from world class pacers Pat Cummins, Hazlewood and Starc did not cow Thakur and Sundar.
3. Test Cricket Not The Sole Source of Bread
Until a few years ago, players would pine to be in the Test team as this was the only source of professional income for them.
Few of them were signed up by public and private sector organizations as employees.
These positions were on a goodwill basis and an additional source of income for the players to maintain a decent standard of living as well as meet their expensive equipment costs.
The advent of One Day Internationals and mainly the T20 (IPL in particular) meant money from playing Tests is no longer a to-die-for option.
Consider this: Thakur's current net worth is rupees 36 crore (US$5 million approx.) while Sundar's is rupees 7.3 crore (US$1 million approx.).
These players obviously did not have any baggage, of money worries or of having played and faired badly previously in Australia. This allowed them to play fearless cricket.
4. Extensive First Class & India A Experience
Thakur's exposure before this Test: Matches: First class - 62; List A: 67; T20s: 101; T20Is: 17; ODI: 12.
Sundar's foray ahead of this Test: Matches: First class: 12; List A: 39; T20s: 87; T20Is: 26; ODI: 1.
These are not those typical players, like their predecessors, who'd walk into the Test team after playing few or more Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy and Deodhar Trophy matches.
There have been exceptions to that old school category, such as Little Master Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev, who progressed to stamp their class at the international level for a longer duration on the experience of their domestic platforms.
5. Test A Platform To Raise Stakes Further
The way Thakur and Sundar have displayed their all round skills bears out one aspect: A good Test performance is the leverage key to raise our personal stake.
Natarajan did not plan it, but he found himself move from a net bowler to a definite 11 for India in T20s, ODIs and Tests in less than two months on a single oversea tour.
By their exploits, Thakur and Sundar have not only raised their chances of inclusion in the India Test team to play England at home, but also for India's T20Is and ODIs because they can now bat and bowl successfully at the international level.
"We were a touch full or a touch short and a bit of width here and there, so we just let them off the hook a little bit there and probably didn't build pressure the way we wanted to," ESPNCricinfo quoted Hazlewood saying at the end of Day 3.
This site, OurDailyMuse, had at the end of Day 1 of this Test, commented that "With the inclusion of Thakur and Washington Sundar, both potential allrounders, Team India have made clear they have batsmen up until No. 8 and who collectively can wear out the Aussie quartet of Mitchell Starc, [Pat] Cummins, [Josh] Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon."
To read that article / blog, see: Will Australia Make Team India Pay For 3 Opening Day Errors?
Australia and few former players, now commentating, did not view Thakur and Sundar to be all round threats.
Now, with two days of play left and the prospect of rain casting a shadow over their win quest, the Aussies will be up to extensive homework on how to score fast and big and then get 10 India wickets.
On their part, India will do well not to repeat the mistakes they have committed during the first innings. Among them are: 1. Their bowlers need to attempt no bad balls. 2. Their pacers need to bowl less of short pitch and erratic lengths. 3. The Hitman, Rohit, needs to play big and dominate the opposition bowlers as he claims his role in the team is. 4. Top order, especially Pujara, Rahane and Mayank need to bat steady and not drain out runs. 5. Take those crucial catches.