I hear this phrase “fearless cricket” thrown around a lot these days. It’s been associated quite frequently with England’s brand of one day cricket these past few years… but this series and in particular these past five days, the Indian Cricket Team have given the phrase a whole new meaning.
Winning a Test match at the Australian fortress of Brisbane (the first team to beat Australia at the Gabba since 1988) with what was basically a 2nd XI team showed something few thought India were capable of. WinViz had India’s chances of winning at 1% before the first over of Day 5 had even been bowled with 0 wickets down. So what was the deciding factor in the game?
How was it that after losing the first test, being 36 a/o, losing their captain, having been plagued with injury after injury, losing the toss and fielding a team with 2 debutants and a grand total of four Test matches worth of experience in their bowling attack (if you discount Rohit Sharma’s ball), India pulled off one of the greatest wins in Test match history to secure the Border-Gavaskar Trophy for the second time in a row?
As Sachin Tendulkar so eloquantly put it: “Every session we discovered a new hero. Everytime we got hit, we stayed put & stood taller. We pushed boundaries of belief to play fearless but not careless cricket.”
They weren’t overconfident but neither were they afraid. They played with clarity, grit, purpose and most importantly courage. At no point did India look resigned to whatever ‘fate’ was in store for them. They played a brand of cricket that was unbridled by expectation and uninhibited by fear and by doing so pulled off an incredible feat.
Each and every one of those those players who took to the field for the 4th Test gave their all.
Each and every bowler shouldered their responsibility including an injured Navdeep Saini (who was fielding very gingerly) came on to bowl in the 3rd innings to support his teammates. And through their combined four Test experience managed to extract 20 Australian wickets.
Each and every one of those batters showcased why they had made it into the international side. From Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar’s valiant assault in the second innings that rescued India from 6-186 to 7-309 to Cheteshwar Pujara’s impregnable defence and Shubman Gill’s elegant drives that set the platform up perfectly for Rishabh Pant & Co. to storm the castle in the fourth innings.
It was in the final hour of play we saw this new brand of cricket come to fruition, after a series of partnerships had taken India to within 63 runs of victory, they lost Mayank Agarwal. The burden of either pushing for a win or closing off fell on Pant and debutant Washington Sundar.
The two left-handers chose to be fearless and go for the win.. but in all honesty was it really a choice? Had they even considered it a dare to take on the challenge and risk the loss? Did it even cross their mind? Nothing we saw in that final hour was out of character for Pant and we had seen that same drive in Sundar during the second innings.
So how do you beat a man that just plays the way he plays?
How do you beat a team unburdened by consequence and fear?
It seemed Australia just couldn’t find an answer as India won by 3 wickets and recorded the highest ever run chase at the Gabba to take the series 2-1. A testament to this new brand of cricket. The beginning of a new era.