“Test cricket’s heart is beating hard, it’s beating true,” Mark Howard, the Fox commentator perfectly encapsulated what the Border Gavaskar Trophy 2020-21 meant for the Test cricketing fraternity. If Melbourne was any aberration, Sydney was the triumph of steely resolve but Gabba, the fortress of Australia that hadn’t been breached in 32 years, became a part of the modern Indian cricketing history for generations to come as India scripted the unthinkable, defying cricketing logic, common sense and then doing something which nobody could have conjured up in their wildest imagination.
— Mark Howard (@MarkHoward03) January 19, 2021
Waking up at 4 AM in the morning for any series down under has been a childhood ritual for many of us. While we always grimaced in pain and disappointment when stacked Indian teams went to Australia, only to return empty hands, barring few odd victories at Perth and Adelaide — it always seemed like a mountain, too high, for the likes of even Hercules to climb.
But then came 2018, and we conquered it and did it with some authority and aplomb. Yet few raised eyebrows and played down the achievement, saying it was the absence of Australia’s mainstays that gave India took the honours home. Fast forward two years — pummeled by injuries, established players falling like flies, off-field controversies chastening the players to commit mistakes, debutants being subjected to racial abuses in Australia, and not to forget, the abject humiliation of succumbing at the lowly total of 36 in Adelaide — everything that could go wrong, went awry.
Yet, the Indian team stood tall, took blows after blows on the chin, and when battered and bruised, rose up once again, like a phoenix to land the sucker punches at the verbose and at times, motormouth Australians. Unlike the hosts, India had only a collection of striplings, pieced together after little rummaging at the eleventh hour, and yet, they managed to humble the ‘so-called fearsome pace quartet’ of the world.
It would not be hyperbole to say that after the 1983 World Cup and 2011 WC victory, this series tops the charts, or for some, even emulates the first two. Such was the magnitude that people are still in the stupor, raging in anger when someone shakes them and tries to get them out of the sweet-sweet hangover of a once-in-a-lifetime victory for India.
There is an inherent beauty about this 5-day game in Australia, where the audience with gasped breaths rolls in its seats, even if the batsman nonchalantly sways away from the line of the ball bowled more than 140 clicks by a bowler who has steamed all the way in from the boundary line.
There’s an age-old adage that ‘Every ball’s an event in Test Cricket” and what better exhibition of it was there than yesterday’s match or for that matter, the entire BGT series. Ball pitching on cracks, turning viciously a meter and a half and instead of going into the gloves of the keeper, landing in the bare palms of first slip. The crowd quickly mutters under their breath, “Oh, the pitch is playing tricks,” only to see a fearless, new-age Indian youngster oozing bravado, dancing down the track on the very next ball and whipping it high and mighty over the long-on fence, to everybody’s bemusement.
This is what we live for. As Harsha Bhogle, the voice of cricket put eloquently on air, “If you don’t love Test cricket, you don’t love life”. No matter how many games go down to the wire in a limited-overs game, nothing beats the adrenaline pumping through your veins when on the fifth day of a deteriorating pitch, you see batsmen playing for their lives with fielders ready to pounce with predator-like agility, stationed near the bat.
The detractors have always been of the view that Test cricket is far too long for an audience’s consumption. And it can be agreed to some extent, but you cannot shut down this format, for it is the soul of the game, which creates true champions who dare brave the toughest of conditions and situations.
And if viewership was any parameter, the BGT trophy has indeed brought back the cricket lovers and glued them to their TV sets. The host broadcasting team during the final epilogue announced that the match was currently being viewed by over 60 million people in India, alone.
The numbers are only expected to go up as the entire world was watching the encounter unfurl in its full glory at the Gabbatoir.
One can be optimistic that this series acts as the intermediary step for the kids who will be waking up at 4 AM, just like us, to devour the action and beauty that Test cricket brings with itself. After all, there is beauty in ordinary things and none more beautiful than an outswinging delivery bowled at 140+ clicks, on the good length line, outside the corridor of uncertainty, with the nervous opening batsman taking a poke at it, only to get beaten, with the ball missing the outside edge by centimetres. That right there, is what Test cricket is all about and for the naysayers, unfortunately, it is here to stay!