India script remarkable comeback

India script remarkable comeback

Stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane, who was praised for his captaincy and batting, fittingly brought up India's winning run in the second Test against Australia on Tuesday. Getty Images

It has been a year of unparalleled misery and unexpected reversals. The Indian cricket team has captured this essence perfectly with its own rollercoaster ride Down Under.

Bundled out for their lowest total of 36 in an eight-wicket defeat in Adelaide, they got themselves off the floor in spectacular fashion, their famous win against all odds in Melbourne on Tuesday was one of the greatest comebacks on a sporting field.

With stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane leading from the front, the wounded Indians summoned great will and character to orchestrate a series-levelling eight-wicket win of their own in the second Test.

After bowling out Australia, overnight 133/6, for 200 in an extended second innings, India knocked off the winning target of 70 by losing opener Mayank Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara, just an hour into the middle session of the fourth day's play.

Any Test win in Australia is special, but this has to be right up there with the best for more than one reason.

Aside from the fact that India were coming on the back of a morale-shattering loss which would have left the best in the business weak-kneed, they were without their regular skipper and best batsman, Virat Kohli - back in India on paternity leave. They also didn't have the services of their most experienced pacer on tour, Mohammed Shami ruled out of the series with a broken right forearm. 

India made four changes, including two forced, to the Adelaide XI, then saw key pacer Umesh Yadav limp off with a calf muscle strain right at the start of the Australian second innings. It’s under such debilitating circumstances that they found inspiration in Rahane, whose quiet confidence and calmness was the driving force behind the remarkable resurgence. If his moves on the field -- be it bowling changes, field settings or even DRS calls -- were impressive, his steely hundred was the bedrock around which India built their substantial first-innings total. 

No praise can be too high for the way the bowlers stood up. For the third time in as many completed innings, they made sure the mighty Australian batting line-up did not top 200, a remarkable testament to their relentless hostility.

R Ashwin produced another riveting display of spin bowling, gobbling up Steve Smith for the second time in five balls in this series when he nailed the former captain in the first innings. Jasprit Bumrah continued to impress and Ravindra Jadeja did his job to perfection with crucial breakthroughs and a massive hand with the bat during a match-defining stand with his captain. But Mohammed Siraj's has to be the most inspiring story. The pacer, who lost his father before the start of the tour, bowled with heart and discipline to claim five wickets for the match, with the promise of more in the coming days.

Asked to open after the struggling Prithvi Shaw was benched, Shubman Gill gave a good account of himself with two assured knocks. 

The rub of the green, which was desperately elusive in Adelaide, too went India's way. While India weren't complaining about Australia’s catching skills, or the lack of them, their personnel changes worked brilliantly. Going with five bowlers, when the temptation would have been to go with a specialist batsman after the Adelaide batting mishap, proved a masterstroke in the absence of the injured Umesh. 

It was only fitting that Rahane scored the winning run because victory had the Mumbaikar's stamp all over it – confident without being cocky and bold without being brash.