Jan 27, 2021 Letters
I don’t think cricket enthusiasts missed that final day’s play of the fourth test between Australia and India at the Gabba in Brisbane a week ago. It was the talk among Guyanese everywhere. They did not expect an India victory. Every Guyanese, Africans and Indians, were very excited, with almost every Indo-Guyanese expressing pride in the performance of the young, inexperienced Indian team. Some even commented that they wish West Indies would play like the Indians. They should learn from that test series that saw India came from behind to win it — the first for a team in Australia in decades. The Indians came back from a debacle of being bundled out for 36 in the third innings in Adelaide in the first test to win the series 2-1 with the previous test drawn (where the Indians also played with character to save that test). It would go down in the history books as one of the greatest test matches as even those who did not cheer for India stated.
That early Monday morning, January 18, a flurry of texts and phone calls came in from Guyanese (at home and in America) and others on whether I saw the test match between India and Australia at Brisbane. Of course, I did. It also appeared that the whole of Guyana was up that Sunday night to watch the match because as it was the subject of conversation everywhere I travelled around Georgetown and the coast.
As I gathered from their conversations, almost the entire world expected India’s defeat. Scoring over 300 runs in the fourth innings was rarely achieved in hundreds of test matches. And in Australia, it was almost impossible because the pitch is bouncy with bowlers getting swings on the cracks. I had not given up as India entered the final day with all 10 wickets in hand. I was hoping that India would be defiant and would play for a draw. Instead, the young players played for a win, taking the challenge to the Aussies, pulling off what can be described as a miracle.
Besides texts and phone calls to me, social media and chat groups were abuzz with comments, suggesting that the entire West Indies and her Diasporas watched the match. Friends and acquaintances sent me comments and I read so many in the media from around the globe. It could very well be the most watched cricket match for a final day. The whole of South Asia, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and the rest of the cricketing world would have watched that final day’s play. And most would not have given India much of a chance because India had a young, inexperienced team, with some players making their debut in that test. The Indian batting line up was severely weakened with injuries with young replacements. Sports enthusiasts were expecting an Indian defeat as it was almost impossible to score over 300 runs in a fourth innings and against the world’s best bowlers. And the last time Australia lost a test at Gabba was in 1988 to West Indies then skippered by Vivian Richards. The weakened Indian team stunned Australia.
Some of the words I heard or received in texts used to describe the win were: “historic, unthinkable, incredible, brilliant, memorable, unforgettable, remarkable, and monumental.” I overheard a man telling his friends, “That was a match to watch.” Another commented: “The boys played with courage, grit, and determination. That is how players should bat. West Indies should emulate them rather than throw away their wickets when the going gets tough.” Exemplary performance was an understatement. The young players displayed character and skill not recently seen in the game of test cricket, and they did so in the last three tests.
Balls kept hitting about the body but the players stayed focused. Racist comments were made against them. They took the body blows and racist remarks and they delivered. (Brisbane is a beautiful, sprawling cosmopolitan city known as the gold coast that I visited few times, most recently two summers years ago on my way home from Fiji. I encountered many Indo-Fijians there. Racist comments were made against the Indian players. Non-White players are known to experience racial outburst in Australia. But Brisbane was not known for racism. I had pleasant experience in my visits. I was rather surprised that racial comments are made at sporting events in this century.) The racism would have motivated the Indians to play tougher and they delivered an unbelievable performance crushing the Aussies.
As Guyanese and others commented, it was a thrilling unexpected finish. It was a shock defeat of Australia in what was a decider of not only the series but which team would be ranked on the top of the test playing nations. Everyone seemed very excited that India won the game, and they also seemed to have been rooting for India who was underdog throughout the entire four tests series. They did not expect an Indian victory and was very pleased with the outcome.
Glowing tributes poured in from fans and legendary present and former cricketers everywhere. Saurav Ganguly, President of India’s cricket board, described the victory as “nothing short of historic.” He announced a bonus of US$680K for the players.
Cricketing icon, Sachin Tendulkar, holder of countless records, now a member of parliament, described it as “one of the greatest wins. Every time we got hit, we stayed put and stood taller. We pushed boundaries of belief to play fearless but not careless cricket /injuries and uncertainties were countered with poise and confidence.”
India’s Prime Minister tweeted: “The team’s remarkable energy and passion was visible throughout. So was their stellar intent, remarkable grit and determination.”
A former England cricket captain described the final day’s play as, “once in generation type match performance.” Indeed it was!
The win has almost secured India’s place in this year’s final of the test championship series to be played at Lord’s in June. Australia must defeat South Africa in order to get into the final. Otherwise, it would be New Zealand and India playing the final.
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