Bold new India flex their cricketing powerhouse status with Gabba heroics

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  • Tributes will be paid to India’s resilience and character, and deservedly so, after the visitors brought the curtains down on a humdinger of a Test series with a historic win at the Gabba.

    Breaching an Australia fortress which has stood over 32 years is no mean feat after all, especially with a massively depleted squad missing its entire first-choice bowling attack and the best batsman. That they pulled off the highest successful run chase in Brisbane to pull off the spectacular makes fourth-Test victory all the more commendable.

    It was a victory of several things for India, from their grit to bounce back from the humiliation of being bowled out for just 36 in the opener to their remarkable composure under all kinds of adversities. Above all, though, it was a moment where they truly flexed their superpower status in the sport at the rest of the cricketing world.

    They had already attained a maiden series win on Australian soil two years ago, when they beat hosts sans Steve Smith and David Warner by the same margin. Yet the highs of that tour pale in comparison to the statement they have made Down Under this time round.

    This was an Australia side which contained three players apiece in the top 10 of the ICC Test rankings for both batsmen and bowlers. They also boasted the No1 ranked batsman and bowler in the form of Steve Smith and Pat Cummins respectively.

    Pakistan and a high-flying New Zealand had been whitewashed in emphatic fashion in the previous Australian summer. Many worried the same fate would await India after their Adelaide debacle.

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    Despite being stripped of eight of their first-choice XI by the time of the Gabba decider, Ajinkya Rahane’s troops managed to do the unthinkable. They had to dig deep into their reserves to cobble together a playing XI for Brisbane, with the quarantine rules severely handicapping their chances of flying in any injury replacements.

    In the end they fielded Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur and T Natarajan – three primarily white-ball specialists who had only stayed back in Australia to double up as net bowlers. All three of them played starring roles in the victory, with Sundar and Thakur’s all-round displays being the cornerstones of Australia’s downfall.

    21-year-old Shubman Gill sizzled on his debut series and his enterprising 91 on a fifth day pitch was instrumental in setting up the platform for Tuesday’s victory. The job was duly finished off by 23-year-old Rishabh Pant, whose unbeaten 89 brought the fortress crumbling down at the Gabba.

    And who can forget Mohammed Siraj’s hand in all of this, with the Hyderabad man leading India’s bowling attack with such poise after only making his debut two Tests ago.

    Australia is a tough place for any visiting player, let alone a string of debutants with a handful of first-class appearances between them. That the young guns and white-ball specialists of India were still unfazed by the humongous challenge before them is testament to India’s burgeoning power at the helm of the game.

    It isn’t too far fetched to think that a cricket crazy population of well over a billion can stitch together three playing XIs between them. However, it does show the strength in reserves that newcomers can be thrown into the cauldron of the highest-quality Test cricket and still emerge unscathed from the fire.

    Playing against the most elite cricketers in the world is nothing new for India’s emerging generation who have honed their skills alongside the biggest players in the world during the Indian Premier League. That is why an unheralded T Natarajan can be thrust into his maiden international series and pick up wickets by the bucket loads in the preceding limited-overs clashes.

    That is also why a 21-year-old Washington Sundar can excel with both bat and ball at the Gabba despite having played just 12 first-class matches previously in India.

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    This brave new India was epitomized by Sundar on the final day when he hooked a marauding Pat Cummins for a huge six. The match was balanced on a knife’s edge after Cummins’ late breakthroughs had infused a fresh lease of life into Australia.

    For the first time in the day, doubts were starting to emerge about India’s potential to go for a win instead of holding out for a draw. That bold shot by Sundar erased all such worries, with India motoring towards a fine victory subsequently under Pant’s guidance.

    Years of financial dominance is now finally starting to translate at the ground level for India and they now have a domestic infrastructure to churn out talents by the thousands. They have the biggest resources, the largest talent pool and the most passionate cricket base to establish an empire unlike any which has been seen in the sport previously.

    The passion for the sport in the country is akin to football’s popularity in Brazil. Unlike the South American footballing giants, India’s financial muscle means they don’t have to worry about losing their best talents to other countries.

    Everything is in place for them to dominate cricket for decades to come, and the new India has laid down a bold marker in Brisbane.