Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin termed India’s series-levelling win in Melbourne on Tuesday (December 29) “extremely special.” After a horror show in the first Test in Adelaide, the visitors bounced back in style, beating Australia by eight wickets to level the four-match series 1-1.
India’s historic 2-1 Test series victory Down Under in 2018-19 had also come at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The 2020 victory came after India were skittled out for 36 in the second innings at the Adelaide Oval.
Ashwin credited stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane for rallying the team together after the skirmish in Adelaide, coupled with the unavailability of regular captain Virat Kohli (paternity leave) and fast bowler Mohammad Shami (broken arm).
“The best thing that we did was just walk away from that game – in Adelaide – and we said that it was just one of those unfortunate days and the batting unit definitely did take responsibility for it.
"Most importantly, losing Virat was not easy but the discussion we had around it and the team-building exercises that we did through that phase from Adelaide to Melbourne was very crucial.
“And Jinks (Ajinkya Rahane)was very, very calm and balanced which gave many of us the launchpad to go out there and express ourselves after that defeat,” Ashwin said in a video posted by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
While it was a concerted performance, Ajinkya Rahane bagged the top honours for his steely 112 off 223 balls in the first innings that helped India take a 131-run lead. Ashwin lavished praise on Rahane for successfully making up for Kohli’s absence, saying his 12th Test ton was “one of the finest cricketing knocks” he had seen.
“Many of us have played for a while now and we have had some special wins but if I had to pick one that would be extremely special is this one for a lot of reasons. This team minus Virat, the batting giant that India had over the last decade or so, is not that easy and Jinks stood up and that is one of the finest cricketing knocks I have seen,” Ashwin added.
‘One of the top five victories I have been part of,’ says India's No. 3
In addition to Kohli and Shami’s absence, India were also without pacer Umesh Yadav, who walked off with a calf injury after bowling just 3.3 overs in Australia’s second innings. Cheteshwar Pujara, India's hero of the 2018-19 triumph, shed light on the setback while sending accolades to the stand-in skipper.
“I think this will definitely be in one of the top five victories I have been part of and the overseas victories are always special. The way Jinks batted in the first innings, and also in the second innings.
"And also the way bowlers bowled after losing Umesh, we were only left with four bowlers but they bowled their heart out. All the guys wanted to win. We were really hurt after the first loss and now the series is level,” Pujara, who scored 17 and 3, exclaimed.
Alongside Rahane’s century and impressive performances by debutants Shubman Gill and Mohammad Siraj, one shouldn’t forget Ravindra Jadeja's all-around effort. The Rajkot all-rounder acknowledged the “good spirit and attitude” in the Indian dressing room, sounding hopeful of carrying the momentum into the remaining two Tests.
“This is going to be a special victory for us as a team because we were one down. In the first game, we lost badly. So, I think we came with a good spirit and attitude and as a team, we played very good cricket.
"Everyone is looking in good form...Hopefully, we continue the same momentum and hopefully win the next game,” Jadeja, who scored 57 runs and picked three wickets, said.
Ajinkya Rahane became only the second Indian captain after MS Dhoni to win his first three Tests as captain. Can the 32-year-old further that record in Sydney (Jan 7-11) and Brisbane (Jan 15-19)? Only time will tell.
Published 30 Dec 2020, 19:00 IST