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It shouldn’t have been possible…….

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It shouldn’t have been possible for India to beat Australia

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It shouldn’t have been possible…….

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Anirudh Suresh

01/20/2021

It shouldn’t have been possible for India to win the series 2-1 and retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy after getting bowled out for 36.

It shouldn’t have been possible. It shouldn’t have been possible for India to have the confidence to release their playing XI a day ahead of the MCG Test, one week after getting bundled out for 36. It shouldn’t have been possible for them to then boldly go with five bowlers - two spinners - at the expense of weakening their already-brittle batting by replacing a ‘specialist batsman’ with an all-rounder. 

It shouldn’t have been possible for Ajinkya Rahane, after losing the toss on a hot day on a flat MCG wicket, to have the cheek to introduce Ravichandran Ashwin as early as the 12th over, before the third seamer, with the ball swinging and seaming around as if the game was being played in Manchester. 

It shouldn’t have been possible for Ravindra Jadeja to circle around a swerving ball, keep his composure and complete the catch of Matthew Wade despite Shubman Gill hastily colliding and doing his best to unintentionally sabotage the dismissal. 

It shouldn’t have been possible for Ashwin to dismiss Steve Smith for a duck in a ground in which the Australian averaged 113.50 and had not scored under 75 batting in the first innings in seven years. 

It shouldn’t have been possible for a debutant seamer to keep his confidence and self-belief intact after being overlooked for an entire session, and then perfectly trap the world’s fourth-best batsman to a leg-side trap by maintaining discipline and religiously sticking to a plan. It shouldn’t have been possible for the same debutant to then possess the skill and smarts to trap a right-hander leg before in just his 14th over in international cricket by setting up the batsman with three outswingers. 

It shouldn’t have been possible for the Indian bowlers to skittle out the last four Australian wickets for 40 runs after conceding double the tally in the previous innings. It shouldn’t have been possible for an Indian attack sans Shami and Ishant to bundle out Australia under 200 in consecutive innings in their own backyard. 

It shouldn’t have been possible for Ajinkya Rahane, with the team reeling at 64/3 in overcast conditions in the midst of a fiery Pat Cummins spell, to have the tenacity to score his first SENA ton in six years, in his first away Test as captain, a week after effectively costing India the Adelaide Test by selling Virat Kohli down the river. 

It shouldn’t have been possible for an Indian batting line-up, minus its best batsman, to take a 121-run lead against an Australian side who with Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, at home, had never failed to outscore their opponents in the first innings with the red ball, and against an Australian pace unit that had skittled them out for 36 just over seven days ago. 

It shouldn’t have been possible for Jasprit Bumrah to bowl Steve Smith around his legs in his very first attempt after numerous world-class bowlers miserably failed to execute the same despite relentlessly trying for seven years. It shouldn’t have been possible for an Indian bowling unit, now also without Umesh Yadav, to not only dismiss a man who’d averaged 80 against them for third consecutive single-digit scores but also to not let Australia score more than 200 for a third-inning running. 

It shouldn’t have been possible for Ashwin, who prior to the series had averaged 48.07 in Australia, to top the wicket-taking charts after two Tests, when the host country’s greatest ever off-spinner averaged twice as much as him and picked fewer than half the number of wickets bowling in a stronger attack. It shouldn’t have been possible for India to square the series. 

It shouldn’t have been possible for India to lose yet another toss on a flat batting wicket and yet again strike inside the first five overs, this time with a one-Test-old rookie taking the new ball. It shouldn’t have been possible for that rookie to dismiss David Warner, a behemoth who averages 66 at home, for just 5 runs, that too at a venue where the batsman’s last 6 scores read 111*, 45, 56, 55, 113 and 122*.

It shouldn’t have been possible for debutant Navdeep Saini, a bowler with no luck in the tour who averaged 153 with the ball in the ODIs and had already leaked 15 runs off his first two Test overs, to tail the ball back in and trap the extremely lucky Will Pucovski plumb in front, when even Jasprit Bumrah wasn’t able to do so. 

It shouldn’t have been possible for India to bowl Australia out for 338 despite the hosts being 206/2 at one stage, and despite both Smith and Labuschagne finding form. It shouldn’t have been possible for Jadeja to run Smith out for the first time in Test cricket in four-and-a-half years, despite having half a stump to aim at, and despite the batsman having a head start in the race versus the ball. 

It shouldn’t have been possible for a 33-year-old recovering from injury, opening the batting for the first time away from home, in a country where he averages 31.00, to convincingly look like the best opener in the entire series, having freshly come out of quarantine and having had two days of practice in the past month. It shouldn’t have been possible for this fresh-out-of-quarantine batsman to then stitch the country’s highest SENA opening stand in a decade with a novice who was opening the batting for just the third time in international cricket. 

It shouldn’t have been possible for this inexperienced Indian side, now down a bowler and a batsman, to believe they still had a realistic chance of salvaging something from the game, particularly after falling 94 runs behind Australia’s total. It shouldn’t have been possible to extend this belief deep into the next day, having just two fully fit bowlers at their disposal, with Smith and Labuschagne once again looking ominous. 

Even after getting rid of both the master and the apprentice, it shouldn’t have been possible for this side to not mentally concede the Test just watching the sight of a 198 cm unit tonk 4 humongous sixes and stretch the lead over 400. As if all this wasn’t enough, it surely shouldn’t have been possible for this side to stay mentally sane after watching one of their brothers get heckled, verbally and racially abused in the middle of the game in a foreign country. It shouldn’t have been possible for the players, at this point, to not think that the universe was conspiring against them.

It shouldn’t have been possible for this side, after losing both the openers at the stroke of stumps on Day 4, to believe that they could bat close to 100 overs on a deteriorating Sydney wicket on Day 5 with three and a half specialist batsmen at their disposal. It shouldn’t have been possible to not think they were destined to lose the Test after watching their skipper depart in the very second over of the day against Australia’s best final day spinner of the century not named Shane Warne.

It shouldn’t have been possible for Rishabh Pant, who was being assisted by the 12th man during the drinks break, to have the courage and the belief to bat through pain and not just survive, but go for the target.  It shouldn’t have been possible for the team to believe that they could get to the target despite one batsman scoring the slowest fifty of his career.

It shouldn’t have been possible for a one-legged batsman on the verge of getting dropped and another ‘ex’ batsman with a non-functioning back, who’d forgotten how to hold the bat and had not scored a fifty in three-and-a-half years, to believe that they could bat long enough against Australia’s greatest pace attack of the century to shield their friend with a broken thumb. It shouldn’t have been possible for this duo to then negate bounce, swing, seam, and spin better than their top-order counterparts and stay put for 43 overs without losing their wicket. It shouldn’t have been possible for a 10-man India to salvage a draw at the SCG.

It shouldn’t have been possible for India to walk into fortress Gabba without Bumrah, Ashwin, Jadeja, Vihari, Kohli, Shami, Ishant, and Umesh and believe, even for a second, that they could salvage any result with three net bowlers at their disposal, one of whom hadn’t played a red-ball game in three years. It shouldn’t have been possible for this inexperienced, young, white-ball specialist to then emulate Ashwin not just in terms of line and length, but also in terms of who he dismisses.

It shouldn’t have been possible for this rookie quintet, which has a combined experience of four Tests, to then lose its second-most experienced bowler in just the third hour of the Test, and yet manage to keep a full-strength Australian line-up under 400. It shouldn’t have been possible for the three net bowlers to end up with three wickets each.

It shouldn’t have been possible for two of the three aforementioned net bowlers, one of whom on debut outbowled the greatest off-spinner in Australia’s history, to then forge together India’s most dominant partnership of the entire series, at a time when the team was at the hosts’ mercy. It shouldn’t have been possible for Sundar and Thakur to leave, drive, cut, pull, and swerve better than the six specialist batsmen that preceded them, whilst scoring fifties in their first ever outing in international cricket with the bat. Having been 186/6 at one stage, it shouldn’t have been possible for India to reduce the first innings deficit to under 40. 

It shouldn’t have been possible for four bowlers with combined first-class experience south of 150 games to generate more swing, seam, and bite in fortress Gabba than four bowlers with combined Test experience north of 250 Tests. It shouldn’t have been possible for a hastily-assembled bowling unit to first reduce Australia from 89/0 to 123/4, and then bowl them out for 294. It shouldn’t have been possible for an Indian attack with 13 wickets between them at the start of the match to become the first visiting side in 12 years to take 20 Australian wickets at the Gabba.

It shouldn’t have been possible for the visitors to think of anything but survival after rain washed out precious overs late on Day 4, moreso when Rohit Sharma departed inside the first hour on Day 5. It shouldn’t have been possible for a first-timer to read and handle the Gabba cracks better than both the reincarnations of Bradman. It shouldn’t have been possible for that 21-year-old to then make the Aussies eschew the short-ball tactic by hitting their pacers out of the attack.

It shouldn’t have been possible for Pujara, in yet another 300+ pursuit on Day 5, to yet again score his slowest fifty and, oddly, keep his side alive in the chase. It shouldn’t have been possible for the man to cop multiple blows on his chest, head, arms and fingers and yet shrug off the pain and flat-bat deliveries as if he were fully fit. It shouldn’t have been possible for Rahane, who in the first 7 innings in this series had an SR of 45.1, to, out of the blue, strike at 109.09.

It shouldn’t have been possible for Pant to, for the second Test running, come in at No.5 in pursuit of a final day chase and take the game to the Aussies, out of nowhere, and it shouldn’t have been possible for the southpaw to launch Nathan Lyon into the stands one ball after seeing the red cherry turn square after hitting a widened crack. It shouldn’t have been possible for the man with a career Test SR of 68.90 to curb his natural game and strike at 50.00 for 122 balls. 

It shouldn’t have been possible for India to not consider aborting the chase after losing Pujara and Agarwal against the second new ball. It shouldn’t have been possible for a debutant who hit a no-look six of Australia’s best spinner to ‘Natarajan Hook’ the world’s best pacer and follow it up with a measured slash over the slip cordon. 

It shouldn’t have been possible for Pant to ‘accidentally’ aerially slice balls into no man’s land, and it shouldn’t have been possible for him to, balls later, whip a fourth-stump Hazlewood delivery towards the fine-leg boundary whilst failing to keep his balance. It shouldn’t have been possible for Pant to force the Australian fielders into erring, allowing him to convert a tight 1 into an easy 2.

It shouldn’t have been possible for Sundar and Thakur to get away with reckless shots. It shouldn’t have been possible for Pant, with pressure mounting, to put away an attempted Hazlewood yorker towards the boundary at mid-off.

It shouldn’t have been possible for India to chase 328 in the fourth innings. It shouldn’t have been possible for Rahane to assemble a team of XI that will never play together again and breach fortress Gabba.

It shouldn’t have been possible for India to win the series 2-1 and retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy after getting bowled out for 36. 

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