“It’s not about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.” – Rocky Balboa
India won the boxing day Test match by 8 wickets in the early hours of Tuesday morning to square the series 1-1 and set up delicious final two Test matches. The victory at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) or simply ‘G’ will be remembered by the entire cricketing fraternity for ages to come. The Indian team led by stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane battled the odds and emerged victorious when not many would have given them any chance after the drubbing received, just a week prior at the Adelaide Oval.
Special team, special win 🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/0SpJ6psra6
— Ajinkya Rahane (@ajinkyarahane88) December 29, 2020
India needed only a session and a half to register their second consecutive victory in the Boxing Day Test match after winning one at the last tour as well. MCG has always been India’s happy hunting ground but coming into the match, the players had their back against the wall.
Getting bowled out at the humiliating total of 36, losing arguably your best batsman and captain, losing one of the premier pace strike bowlers, and then another during the match – whatever could have gone wrong, went even more awry. Thus, what India has achieved here is nothing short of a miracle, and the one person who engineered the miracle is none other than the resilient and reserved Ajinkya Rahane.
No exaggeration to call that one of India's best Test wins. Any win in Oz against this attack is impressive; to do it after going 1-0 down, having been bowled out for 36, without Kohli, Ishant, Shami, and with two debutants, is outstanding. Series well and truly alive. #AUSvIND
— Ben Jones (@benjonescricket) December 29, 2020
Ajinkya Rahane grabbed the eyeballs on the first day itself with his astute planning and shrewd field placing that helped skittle the Aussie side to the paltry total of 195 in the first innings. Apart from losing the toss, AjinkyaRahane did not put any foot wrong throughout the Test match.
The chatter grew amongst the Australian commentators as well that Indian bowlers looked relaxed and a bit more fluid in their approach towards the game under the captaincy of Rahane. The Mumbai-born batsman might be shy and reserved in his demeanour but his captaincy is as aggressive as any other compatriot of the game.
“Rahane has looked good. He is enjoying being captain, I think. Rahane, the way he has batted today, he has just looked solid. He is focused even more than he was in Adelaide. I guess being captain, it just helps you do that,” said Aussie legend Glenn McGrath.
Rahane and India utilized the legside ploy to perfection in the Test where for the first time, Steve Smith was bowled around his legs. Many have tried to use Smith’s initial trigger movement in the crease to bowl straight to him in the hope to rattle the middle and leg stump, but not many have succeeded. However, Bumrah and Rahanedevised a plan, stuck to it and the result was there for everybody to see.
Ashwin was seen setting his fields proactively under Rahane. When Siraj was supposed to bowl his first over in the Test arena, it was Ashwin that went up to his skipper and asked for an extended spell. Being the bowler’s captain, Rahane without a moment of hesitation, tossed the ball to Ashwin. The off-spinner has been a revelation in the Border Gavaskar series and is finally starting to silence his critics who bash him for his performance in the SENA countries.
While Rahane, the captain showed his grit in the field, Rahane, the batsman stepped up as well and ensured that India took a healthy lead in the first innings. Rahane’s magnificent 112 run inning is being touted as one of the best overseas knocks by any Indian batsman. The supple wrist work, the crunchy cover drives, and a solid forward defence — Rahane’s vigil at the crease had everything that the purists of the game wake up at 4 AM to watch.
Even after the runout in the first innings, Rahane went cooly to Ravindra Jadeja and gave a pat on the shoulder, so as to suggest that he should not feel bad for the runout.
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) December 28, 2020
"I told Jadeja not to worry about my run out and to do keep doing well" — Rahane.
Little things that tell you a lot about the person…no wonder Rahane is one of the most likeable players. Good things do happen to good people 😇☺️ #AusvInd
— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) December 28, 2020
Rahane has had a penchant for playing such knocks. The hundred that he made against a hostile bowling line up of England back in 2014 is still etched in the memories of cricket lovers. Similarly, during the Dharamsala Test in 2017 where India was eyeing a series victory in the last Test with the scoreline reading 1-1, it was Rahane that took the tactical call of playing Chinaman Kuldeep Yadav and the decision proved to be a match-winning one.
In the same Test, India was two down early in the last innings but Rahane came out and played a counter-attacking inning just the way he did today when he came at the crease after the departure of Mayank and Pujara.
Not surprised by Rahane's approach. He's played these counter-attacking innings in tense situations in the past. https://t.co/L6IOMOejrA
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) December 29, 2020
Under Rahane’s captaincy, India has had a perfect score so far. He has captained India in 3 Tests and won three. And whenever Rahane has slammed a century, India has never lost a Test match, a record unrivalled by very few.
With Kohli, the Indian cricket team is a mass-media event but without him, India is simply a fine Test-playing nation that has the capability to punch the Kangaroos or for that matter, any other team in their own backyard. The tactical bit that Kohli seems to lack in the heat of the moment due to his overpowering emotional outbursts is something that is made up in equal measures by Rahane.
Rahane has been pushed to the fringes in the limited-overs format and is only called for the Test formats. However, with the selection conundrum of no. 4 still haunting the team, it would not be a bad gamble to place Rahane in the squad and give him the extended run. After all, we have already seen Rahane thrives under pressure.
Off late, the only criteria for selection in the Team have been flamboyance, tattoos, and personal camaraderies with the duo of Kohli-Shastri. Rahane has never been that sort of guy that will stay flashy and vibrant to gain a spot. He tends to keep his head down and work hard, away from the spotlight. Kohli the captain needs to take a cue or two from Rahane’s book of captaincy and try to emulate them in the field.
India might have skittled on 36 in Adelaide but the extraordinary grit displayed at the MCG will become folklore for the future generations to come. It could be Adelaide ’03 for the younger generation and Rahane their own Rahul Dravid, for the former became the second only batsman to hit the winning runs in the down under country for India.