India's former fielding coach R Sridhar was a part of the team management when the visitors pulled off an incredible 2-1 victory on Australian soil in the 2020/21 Border-Gavaskar Trophy series.
Like Rishabh Pant's heroics at the Gabba, India's great escape in Sydney is also one of the most important chapters of that memorable series. Injury-hit batters Hanuma Vihari and Ravichandran Ashwin's heroic stand played out 259 balls to ensure their team escaped with a draw in Sydney.
In his book 'Coaching Beyond: My Days with the Indian Cricket Team', R Sridhar explained that Hanuma Vihari was instructed to take on the pacers and Ravichandran Ashwin was asked to negotiate Nathan Lyon in the last session of the Test.
However, the duo took an unnecessary single and Sridhar claimed that it made head coach Ravi Shastri furious. He wrote:
"After having stuck to their respective ends of the bargain, for some strange reason, they took a single, which exposed Vihari to Lyon and Ashwin to the fast men. A couple of singles later, the situation was unaltered and Ravi was starting to lose it. He summoned substitute Shardul Thakur and told him, 'Listen to me very carefully, and repeat this to them: No matter what happens, Vihari will handle the fast bowlers, Ashwin will play Lyon. No singles, no change of ends, period. Got it?' Shardul smiled coyly and said, 'Yes, sir', and charged to the middle with a bottle of water for Ashwin."
R Sridhar on what Shardul Thakur told Indian batters
Ravi Shastri sent Shardul Thakur in the middle to tell the batters that they had to stick to the plan. However, the all-rounder went in and told the batters to continue how they were playing.
Sridhar hailed Thakur for his presence of mind and ensuring that there was clarity in the approach from the batters in the middle. He further wrote:
"It seems when Shardul went in, Ashwin asked him what was being said in the dressing room. Shardul replied, 'They are saying many things, but you guys don't worry. You are batting well, just continue doing the same things'. He didn't pass on Ravi's message; instead, he told the batters exactly what they wanted to hear at that time. Hats off to him! In a direct way, that is linked to the kind of empowerment we gave the players, and which they learnt to use judiciously."
Although Thakur didn't listen to his coach, he ensured that the two batters carried on the good work and saved the game for India.
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