Team India head coach Ravi Shastri lavished praise on his side for showing ‘great character’ to bounce back from the Adelaide debacle, and asserted that the MCG win will go down as one of the great comebacks in Test history. Shastri also spoke about the character shown by Rahane and the boys.
After slumping to an all-time low last week, getting bowled out for 36, team India were staring down the barrel, particularly having lost the services of both Kohli and Shami. Losing the toss on the first day at the MCG, many believed, spelt doom for the side, yet what instead transpired was one of the greatest sporting stories of the century. Led by stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane, the Indian side, as if Adelaide never happened, stomped their authority from the get-go and outplayed the Aussies for four full days, from the moment they stepped on to the field. They showed no signs of scars or hangover, and eventually thrashed a full-strength Australian side by eight wickets to level the series 1-1.
The story around the victory has seen legends of the game already regard it elite, but speaking after the match, head coach Ravi Shastri asserted that the MCG win will go down as one of the great comeback stories in not just Indian cricket history, but in the sport’s history.
“I think this will go down in the annals of world cricket as one of the great comebacks. In the history of the game. To be rolled over for 36 and, three days later, to be able to get up and ready to punch was outstanding. I think the boys deserve all the credit for the character they showed. Real character,” Shastri said in the press conference post the game.
India’s fearless attitude heading into the game was showcased by the two debutants Siraj and Gill, both of whom rocked the Aussies with their flair and aggression. While Gill finished with scores of 45 and 35*, Siraj picked up 5 wickets in the game, making the absence of Shami and Ishant feel inconsequential. Shastri was full of praise for the two debutants, in particular Siraj, who he felt was outstanding.
“That’s the brand of cricket we’ve been playing for the last 3 or 4 years. It was great to see the maturity, flair and discipline shown by the two debutants (Gill and Siraj). Today Siraj’s effort was outstanding.
“He might not have the numbers to show for it, but the discipline and the ability to bowl long spells; the maturity he’s shown for someone who is playing their first match - doing the job he had to do once we lost Umesh - was outstanding. And Shubman going and playing with that kind of flair was great to see. Great character. More than anything they’ve shown great character,” the 58-year-old said.
Both Gill and Siraj showed maturity beyond their age and experience, and, according to the head coach, it has to do a lot with the IPL, where they get the golden opportunity to rub shoulders with the best of the best at a very young age.
“I think a lot has to do with the IPL. (Youngsters playing fearlessly). The fact that they share the same dressing room with the international players, rub shoulders with the best, the complex factor disappears very quickly. So you see what you see now.”
No debutant can, of course, succeed without having the confidence and the trust of the skipper, and Shastri felt that Rahane did an outstanding job in marshalling his troops. The 58-year-old opined that Rahane’s calming influence had a positive effect on the side, and further spoke how he is inherently different from Kohli as a leader, whilst possessing the same in-built aggression.
“He (Rahane) is a very shrewd leader. He has a very good understanding of the game. I think his calm composure out there in the middle helped the bowlers and the debutants. The calming influence. Inspite of losing Umesh I thought we did a great job out there.”
“Both are good readers of the game. Virat is very passionate, Ajinkya on the other hand is calm and composed - it’s their characters. Virat is more ‘in your face’, while Ajinkya sits back in a calm and composed manner. But deep inside, he knows what he wants.”
While the performances of Rahane, the bowlers and the debutants will rightfully hog the headlines, a silent protagonist - and architect - in the MCG triumph was Ravindra Jadeja, who was handed more responsibility with the bat. The Saurashtra superstar delivered, scoring a game-changing fifty, and provided further evidence that there is no reason why both him and Ashwin cannot co-exist in the side, even away from home. Shastri was full of praise for “genuine all-rounder” Jadeja and went as far as saying that his batting has improved to the extent where he can be trusted to bat even at No.5.
“He (Jadeja) is a genuine all-rounder. That’s why he bats where he does. He can bat at No.6, he can even bat at No.5 on a given occasion. But he is a genuine, genuine all-rounder. That’s why he lends a lot of balance to the side. Also when you play overseas there’s always a chance of one of the bowlers getting injured. Like what you saw with Umesh. With Jadeja there it gives better balance, and also gives the fast bowlers a bit more respite with Jaddu and Ash doing the work.”