A test of character Team India won

A test of character Team India won

India's captain Ajinkya Rahane departs after his dismissal on day five of the fourth cricket Test match between Australia and India at The Gabba in Brisbane on January 19, 2021. Credit: AFP Photo

Within the larger picture of arguably India’s greatest ever Test series win, one specific stroke during their successful chase best captured the attitude of this team. Australia was still in with a chance of winning the Gabba slugfest on Tuesday when Washington Sundar hooked the world's best fast bowler, Pat Cummins, for a six, with a disdain reserved for a club bowler. The nonchalance of the 21-year-old debutant would have demoralised even the best of bowling attacks, like the one Australia possess. That stroke encapsulated this brave new India team – the IPL generation, no doubt, but with cricketing values steeped in tradition.

After a most horrible start to the series, India perhaps enjoyed the rub of the green on the park, but then they were due their fair share of luck. In the aftermath of the debilitating defeat in Adelaide, they remained unflinching and unyielding. The spark needed in such seemingly hopeless situations came through stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane with one of his finest centuries in the second Test, helping India level the series in Melbourne. Subsequently, the Mumbaikar didn't do much with the bat, but he had set the example and inspired followers. Through accident more than design, Rahane was at hand to provide the calming assurance India desperately needed in their darkest hour. While his performance with the bat dipped and key players kept dropping out due to injuries, India unearthed new heroes even as what remained of the "experienced guard" showed the way forward with lessons in gumption.

Because these young guns are renowned for their exploits in the IPL, it’s easy to overlook the experience gained from the largest domestic first-class structure in the world. The five debutants this series had played at least 10 first-class games – one of them had 63 appearances to his name – and so though they didn't expect to figure in the playing eleven at the start of the series, they weren't unprepared for the biggest challenge of their careers when it came out of the blue. They were ready to bowl multiple spells in a day without losing intensity and bat long without sacrificing intent. Praise is due, too, for the support staff led by head coach Ravi Shastri. The former India all-rounder, an epitome of grit during his playing days who climbed from No. 11 to a successful Test opener, held the group together while dark clouds gathered ominously. His pep talks and a reassuring arm around the players' shoulders helped transform an already strong bond into an unbreakable one.