DUAL INTERVIEW – 10 – BGT (2020-21)
J – Thank you for your participation in this Dual Interview, tell us your thoughts on how this series has gone so far in your words.
Shrutika – Thank you, Jay, for the opportunity to share views on this very joyous occasion, words will always fall short to explain it all. Coming here and winning for the consecutive time, one would want to feel that. Despite our never-ending injuries, losing our key players and the debutants with quirk of fate, mentally challenging tour, more than game the character and leadership displayed to bounce from 1-0 & ending their 32-year unbeaten streak of Gabba, surely one of the best series ever played in the history of the sport. On an individual level, I love watching our team defeat the Aussies more than any other team, they’re always a team to beat. The only thing that was off this series were the number of dropped catches from either sides knowing both are quality fielding side.
Sonali – I don’t think my words can do justice to how unreal of a test series this was. It was magical. For India to have bounced back from *literally* their worst batting performance ever, in such courageous fashion speaks volumes about the direction Indian cricket is headed in for the future. Nothing fazed them. Whether it be the constantly growing list of injuries, the racial abuse, the controversies around travel or even those deadly bouncers by Cummins. Even the youngsters and debutants rose to the occasion and how! Sundar, Siraj, Saini, Gill & Natarajan have all made debut performances that not just them but no cricket fan will ever forget. This was a series that’ll remain etched in my memory forever.
J – What do you make of Australia’s performance this series, they had given their all, haven’t they?
Shrutika – To be honest, Australia for me lacked the Aussie-ness, they looked defensive especially their captain, were looking desperate as a team. On so many occasions when they had us on the back foot, they allowed us to make a comeback, failed to capitalise on the advantage they had. Out of four innings of first two tests, they were bowled out thrice for 200 or below 200, at Sydney and in Brisbane, they were in a position where they could have crossed the 400 mark, but they didn’t. Despite their attack, they allowed partnerships of Ash-Vihari who were struggling with injuries, the one Shardul-Sundar got at Brisbane and it’s fair to say that Indian batters played out Lyon this series. They lacked as a fielding side too, where the matches slipped away with chances missed behind the stumps, catches dropped, poor use of DRS, they lost their track after Adelaide’s victory.
Sonali – As much as there is talk about India’s undying determination and level of skill being the reason Australia couldn’t win, there certainly are areas Australia need to shed some light on too. In terms of their bowling: Cummins, Hazlewood, Starc & Lyon are a gifted combination. Dangerous to say the least. Yet, they failed to bowl a depleted India out in successive test matches twice, having claimed only 12 wickets in two 4th innings at the cost of 663 runs. Cameron Green went wicketless this series and while that can be shrugged off due to inexperience and “early days”, I feel he just is too raw at the moment and isn’t being utilized to maximum potential. For their batting: It seems the kind of batting session they have is heavily dependent on both Smith and Labuschange at the moment. Warner lost his groove post his injury and so, failed to make any great contribution. Paine talked more and did less. Wade has been decent but inconsistent. All in all, they need some heavy reflecting to do even though they were completely outplayed by India A. Lol.
J – How good is Pat Cummins?
Shrutika – How good? I doubt he’s a human, bowls like a machine relentlessly. Talk about his fitness, clocking the top speed regularly, bowling those long spells with tight line & lengths, providing those crucial breakthroughs, he gave away nothing easy for us this series, commendable. He asked questions with every ball he bowled and always sharp infield despite being a fast bowler. He averages 20 approx at the end of the series and with names like Hazlewood-Starc on your side, its never easy to outshine them, though Starc was not at his best. He led the bowling attack very well and is Number one test bowler for a reason. His performance has earned him MOS, rightly deserved, no second thoughts.
Sonali – He’s a bloody machine. To pick up 21 wickets at an economy of 20.04 and strike rate of 46.3 throughout 4 games shows why he deserves to be up there as #1 in the Test bowler rankings. Australia’s margin of defeat would have been way bigger if it wasn’t for his 6 wickets at the Gabba itself. And to consistently bowl those rippers day in and day out, over after over was absolutely sensational. What a freak. Plus, he’s some serious eye candy. (Just to piss off the “girls watch cricket just for the looks” people on here)
J – Smith and Labuschagne looked more threatening in the second half of this series, your thoughts on their performance?
Shrutika – The time Marnus spends with Smith is being reflected everywhere, right from his stance to the way he leaves the ball & new addition to the strangeness “No run” but ended up being the top scorer for Australia this series. Labuschagne’s wicket seemed more important than Smudge’s this series that’s how good he was, but yes it seems like though because we somehow managed to keep Smith quite earlier but he too scored ton later in the series. Smith with a comeback scored 313 runs & avg 45 approx, where Marnus scored 426 & avg 53, next up for them with the bat is debutant Green with 236 runs portrays that the team was dependent on this duo and were a threat to us. None of the openers lasted long, everyone else struggled, even their big gun Warner struggled to score after his inclusion.
Sonali – They are always a threat. They’re top-quality batsmen, two amongst the best in the world right now in my opinion. They have been in great form this series too. It seems to me this is a result of the great control they have while batting. (Labuschange with 90% shot control for his 108 at The Gabba & Smith with 89% for his 131 at Sydney)
When Labuschange bats, he always seems unfazed and in his zone. He looks the player who plays the ball and not the bowler. He’s totally focused and it shows. He’s scored 11 50’s and 4 100’s in 18 Test matches which is phenomenal. Smith has always been a treat to watch too and tends to be outdone when he loses his wicket. He’s not an easy one to get.
J – This series was hard for Tim Paine with all the stuff that he said on the field including his poor performance, Australia need a new captain you reckon?
Shrutika – A very tough series for Tim Paine more than with bat or gloves, the blabbering he did from behind the stumps. He crossed his limits after whatever he said to Ashwin. Banters and all is accepted until it’s healthy, once it gets dirty no one likes it, he was way too salty. But later when he opened up, it was seen that he is feeling guilty. Imagine challenging visitors to your fortress and losing there after 32 years. He lost two BGT at home.
But keeping all this aside, I would rather not opt for a change in Australian captaincy. He took over the charge when CA was down after the sandpaper saga & he delivered decently. It was his knock at Adelaide which was impactful & they went on winning the match, Paine was MOM. Yes, he had a poor series with dropped catches, captaincy been questioned, bad DRS call. With WTC up ahead change in captaincy, team selection, will hamper things & teammates back him too. It isn’t his failure alone, Aussies, as a unit lacked, so blaming him alone, would be unfair.
Sonali – It definitely would be hard for him. After all, he personally invited Ashwin and co. to the Gabba himself, unknowing of what’s waiting for him. Lol. However, he’s led Australia to win 11 out of 23 tests under his captaincy with the rest of the 11 games drawn or lost, including a series against Pakistan in the UAE where Pakistan won 1-0. This series was the first time he captained Australia on home soil but it, unfortunately, turned out disappointing, for both Paine the captain and batsman. His contributions with the bat weren’t many and neither great as he tended to fall cheaply on many occasions. I don’t think his man-management was up to standard this series, as he seemed a bit clueless behind the stumps trying to rotate fielding positions many a times. His sledging was completely out of form too.
But again, I don’t think we can blame him completely for the series loss. The highest wicket-takers and run scorers this series are from Australia, but India took the trophy home. I think this shows us that Test cricket demands way more of a collective team effort than any other format. And that’s what Tim Paine the captain should work on building more. He is a great batsman to watch when he’s at his full potential and I truly wish the best for him.
J – India and their fightback spirit, not just cricket but the entire sports fraternity can take inspiration from this series don’t you think?
Shrutika – Yes, people will look upon this team & their fighting spirit, the character shown. The Melbourne test, the captain leading from front and bowlers bowling out the opposition, it was a tremendous comeback both mentally & with action, it set the tone for the series. The draw at Sydney was equivalent to a win. On a general note, what I’ve watched is that the entire nation watched our team capture the beloved fortress- Gabba and it was a historic moment, somewhere the non-cricketing ones too were aware of what our team has achieved. The journey from our players getting injured, ruled out, mentally challenging tour, new youngsters with backstories making debuts, hard quarantine, racial abuse, competing away from home and winning the series has inspired everyone.
Sonali – Hell yes. Not just the sports fraternity, but the whole world should take inspiration from this series. It’s one scripted perfectly for both school textbooks and fairytales. Even though the playing XI changed every match, all eleven of them displayed extreme levels of mental and physical strength, an undying spirit to win and just sheer skill. It’s almost like they shifted into a parallel universe once in those whites. It’s just beautiful to see a young bunch of boys with hardly any experience under their belt take on such huge responsibility with so much grit and grace. It’s no easy job beating Australia in their own backyard, especially at their so-called den Gabba.
J – There are plenty of big names that have departed throughout the course of the series, ever imagined we would come back after being 0-1 down?
Shrutika – After getting bowled out for 36 at Adelaide, I personally was in disbelief, was almost numb and it did affect Indian fans. It was a massive set back & thought we would never bounce back, but little did I know resurrection was up ahead. But it is rightly said, every set back is a set up for comeback and kudos to our players who represented us and the entire team who worked behind them and goes unnoticed. Ravi Shastri, Bharat Arun, Sridhar they get criticised in defeats, truly deserves credits when we win. They’ve handled dressing room after a huge setback and Shastri is wise and spot on with his tactics. From the throwdowns, physiotherapist Nitin Patel who played an enormous role to look after players, the masseurs, our trainer Nick Webb. They made sure our players should not lose focus and stay determined & deliver. It still feels like a fantasy scripted, it was unbelievable.
Sonali – Being the optimist I am, you’ll always see me wishing big even with even just a tiny ray of hope. But this time, it was quite hard to do that as there was a new addition to the star-studded injury list every day. After Adelaide, I knew they’d come out all guns blazing but like THIS? Never in my wildest dreams did I think we’ll create such history, let alone retain the trophy. But I think as Ravi Shastri said post-match, this is a team that has been in the works for years, not just now. It’s Kohli’s “never die, stay hungry” attitude that has conditioned minds in the dressing room to always believe and never give up, no matter the situation.
J – What is the biggest takeaway for India this series?
Shrutika – The biggest take away from this series would be the perpetual mindset, the fighting spirit we’ve shown. The gritty partnerships and one thing that reflected the most, each and every individual wanted it badly. Everyone took the responsibility in every possible situation, be it Rahane’s ton, Siraj leading our bowling attack, youngsters Gill & Pant stepping up & getting runs, Ashwin-Vihari duo drew the match one with back pain and other with hamstring & Jadeja was ready to bat next if needed with a fractured thumb. Thakur-Saini added a brisk of 123 which narrowed down the lead. Pujara struggled early on but made sure he stood there tall and stiff.
The entire bowling attack throughout was exceptional, all this just indicates a team performance. India, as we say with all due respect to previous units, this one was more perseverant, fierce and had the hunger to win.
Sonali – A lot of positives. Way too many. This series win is a pivotal moment in India’s overseas narrative. The world has now seen the depth of talent in Indian cricket. We saw 5 young debutants who contributed with match-winning performances. A fifer for Siraj. 3 wickets and 62 runs for Washington. Gill’s collective innings for a scintillating 259 runs. T Natarajan made the best bowling figures by an Indian in the first innings of a Test. He arrived as a net bowler and took 3 wickets in one innings at The Gabba!! Sensational.
But, the biggest takeaway for me would probably be this new fresh and fearless persona the team has started to uphold. It’s not every day you get to see a 21-year-old debutant hook a six off a bouncer by Pat Cummins when his team is 5 wickets down needing 39 runs to seal a series win against Australia in Australia. Nonetheless, I think we can confidently say that the future of Indian cricket is in safe hands.
J – The player of the series went to Pat Cummins and very rightly so because he deserves it, if you had to give the player of the series to an Indian, who would it be and why?
Shrutika – No debate, Patrick rightly deserved. If I had to give Man of series to an Indian it would’ve been Pujara for solely facing 928 deliveries, that’s how valuable facing those balls were. Just was highlighting it though cannot hold back for what he gets criticised but honestly, I would give it to Ashwin, for his 12 wickets and also when he went wicketless he made sure that he doesn’t release the pressure. He’s always compared to Lyon but there were times when he had nothing off the pitch. He kept Smith quite, his effort alongside Vihari to draw the Sydney test was crucial for the series result.
Sonali – As I said, 11 wore that jersey and all 11 rose to the occasion. Whether it be with the bat, ball or in the field. I can’t choose, so I’d probably give it to Tim Paine, he helped us out. Haha. Jokes apart, Cheteshwar Pujara deserves it 100%. A lot of people questioned his intent in the games before Gabba, but it was the need of the hour. He laid a solid (literally rock-solid) foundation to the innings and batted deep. He kept the scoreboard running with a few risky singles and a lot of boundaries every now and then but respected the opposition, the pitch and the situation by blocking and surviving most of it. He deserves special appreciation for facing Cummins on Day 4 at the Gabba. There is no way that wouldn’t hurt. He faced 10+ blows to almost every part of his body and still stood tall, nonchalantly blocking the ball right after every blow. It was so inspiring.
Slowly but damn surely. Another close contender would be Rishabh Pant for his heroics but I think I’ll go with Pujara for this one.
J – Let’s create a combined XI for this series with players who performed exceptionally throughout the four tests.
Ajinkya Rahane (C)
Rishabh Pant (WK)
Ajinkya Rahane (c)
Rishabh Pant (wk)
Washington Sundar/Ravichandran Ashwin