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How Rahane’s silence shut the Aussies up.

by Gaurav Sethi

In a series of twists and turns, it was the unlikely leadership of Kohli’s deputy that outthought the opposition.

28th March was meant to be the penultimate day of the Dharamsala Test, we were already lost in the deep woods of cricketing wonder, drawn in by battle, lured by unpredictability, biting at the carrot of thrills.

After one long adventure of Test cricket that started in September, now deep into March, we’re breathless, panting, flattened out, happy to close our eyes, and soak it all in. Did this all happen? Where we there? Did cricket romance us, day after day, from one adversary to another, hurling our fists in the stands, at the TVs, at our faces, looking just as charged as our captain.

The Dharamsala Test could have gone either way, a tie would’ve just about topped the madness of the series, that it didn’t though, only added a little something to India’s much waning love for Test cricket. In this long, often meandering home season, only three have played all 13 Tests: Ashwin, Jadeja and Pujara.

By the end of this season, each had to dig deeper, wrapping the season up with one last solid effort. While Ashwin and Jadeja chipped in with four wickets each, Pujara constructed another half century in close to 200 minutes.

Yet beyond the toil of these three, it was Umesh Yadav, with an ease of action that was reminiscent of Kapil Dev’s, that made it uncertain for Australia. By breaking Australia’s top order with pace and bite, he had Warner twice in two overs. Forcing Steve Smith to overhaul Australia’s arrears in one over off Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Two fours off consecutive balls, Smith self-destructed going for a third. 499 runs later, the Steve Smith batting renaissance in the series was finally over. Australia, significantly, still one run shy of India, but in reality, adrift by way too many. Without adding a run, Australia’s other mainstay, Renshaw too fell. 31 for 3. Australia needed a toilet-break. Umesh Yadav was zipping it past like a morning net for the wicketkeeper. Umesh had two, Saha had two, Australia was in what-to-do mode?

A target of 106, in a series such as this, could be bloated as way more. If only it wasn’t the last day of the series, if only Australia wasn’t on the field for all four days, if only Pat Cummins hadn’t already given it his all, and was going to be drawing on reserves. Finally, Cummins bowled 38 overs in this match. Of which 30 in the first innings, 20 on the second day – only Nathan Lyon with 34 overs bowled more than him in the innings. He baited KL Rahul on 60, and bullied Jadeja and Saha after a 96 run partnership within six balls of each other. That was in his 27th and 28th over. Compared to Cummins, Umesh bowled 15 overs, Bhuvi just 12.

If the mountains were the perfect stage, Cummins was fast bowling drama at its fierce yet tragic best. There was no other way it was going to end. In the dying minutes of the third day, Rahul snatched three fours off Cummins’ first over. On the first ball off Cummins’ first over on the fourth day, Australia failed to appeal for a Vijay caught-behind. Cummins had fallen in his follow through, Australia had failed to follow through after him. It was always going to be up to Cummins. Within six deliveries, he had Vijay again. Almost a reaction to Cummins’ torpedoes, Pujara ran himself out within five deliveries of that over. India from 46/0 to 46/1 to 46/2, all in the space of one Cummins’ over.

In the post-match conference, stand in skipper, Ajinkya Rahane harked back to the Galle Test in August, 2015, when India needed 176 to win. That day, India slid from 30/1 to 67/7 to 112 all out. Rahane had top scored with 36, and was the ninth wicket to fall. That team had Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. This team only had Karun Nair after Rahane. That day, left arm spinner, Herath took a 7-for. On the third and fourth days, left arm spinner, O’Keefe, bowled before Nathan Lyon.

When Rahane came in to bat, he shared his intent to attack, both with partner, Rahul and bowler, Cummins. The counter was on in earnest, two fours of his first two balls off Cummins. Rahane bookended Cummins’ spell for the match and the series with two consecutive sixes of his seventh over. Cummins was done. Both India and the mountains were sitting pretty in Dharamsala.

It wasn't always like this and thank god for that. It was an ugly, in your face, on your shoulder, bite you behind your back, and below the belt kind of series. Players could rarely lower their guards and when they did, they paid dearly. Both captains had brain fades, both admitted to, both swore, allegiance and abuse, one scored runs, the other got injured. 

But finally, it was Ajinkya Rahane who found his mojo in the slips and at the crease, who only spoke when Shastri asked him a question, who won the match. On such stoic silences did Rahane's India have the last word. 

Ajinkya Rahane 38* (27), 4 4s, 2 6s. With 3 4s, 2 6s off Pat Cummins. Y’kno what they say about letting your bat do the talking? Ask Ajinkya that and chances are he’ll just nod with a weak grin.  

First published here


Unknown said...

This is an article I found where Gary Kirsten talks about his coaching as an art. link :

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