I can undoubtedly use numerous adjectives to describe why test cricket is indisputably superior to every other game invented. The recently concluded Australia vs India Test series must go down as one of the greatest ever played. I read sometime last year that the International Cricket Council was contemplating reducing test matches from 5 days to 4.
I wonder if they still have that thought in their heads when in fact the final session of the 4th Test on day 5 could have produced four results - victory for Australia, a victory for India, a draw or a tie. Scintillating stuff indeed.
How superb was the Indian team? They were truly remarkable. In an earlier column, I made the point about how mentally resilient they were after facing several adversities. Losing the first Test along with their captain is a tall mountain to climb but they came back splendidly to win the second Test. Things progressively went from bad to worse for India as they then lost another fast bowler in Umesh Yadav to injury during the second Test and during the third Test, they lost middle-order batsman Hanuma Vihari to a hamstring injury and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja to a dislocated finger on his bowling hand.
Things couldn't possibly get any worse, right? Well, when the 4th Test arrived, two more went down - fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah and off-spinner Ravi Ashwin. Their bowling attack suddenly resembled net bowlers for a touring team that featured Mohammed Siraj (2 Tests), Shardul Thakur (1 Test), Navdeep Saini (1 Test) and two debutants: Washington Sundar and Thangarasu Natarajan. With all their adversities, exactly how can they dismiss Australia for under 500 much less dismiss them twice? During the Aussies' first innings Saini, after seeing Marnus Labuschagne dropped off his bowling, pulled up after bowling 7.5 overs with what looked like a groin strain. So, the four other bowlers had to take a strain of their own and dismiss the Aussies. What they did was stupendous. They bowled India back into the Test match.
Then, when they batted, I already mentioned the name Shubman Gill who was expectedly magnificent and reinforced the notion that he will be one of the next world-class batsmen India will produce. I hope the West Indies selectors looked at Rishabh Pant (better known for his T20 exploits) who takes the attack to the bowlers, something which Nicholas Pooran can do against opposing bowlers but I suppose I will continue to live in hope for when Pooran gets the opportunity to play Test cricket.
The star of the show was Cheteshwar Pujara - he is as exciting to watch as a turtle race going 100 metres but what a courageous fighting cricketer. He was battered, bruised, bounced and was hit time after time by a ruthless fast bowling attack yet stood firm staying at the crease for 78 overs facing 211 balls. The Aussies must detest him. At times like these, one forgets captain Ajinkya Rahane and how astutely he has led this Indian team. He looks calm under pressure, is proactive and the team, most importantly, is motivated by him. It makes you wonder what will happen when Virat Kohli is back.
Admittedly, I have a newfound respect for Indian cricket. I remember in 1976 during the 4th test at Sabina Park, Jamaica when the West Indies opposed India and they declared their first innings at 306 for 6, two men retired hurt and Bishan Bedi and Bhagwath Chandrasekhar never batted in the game. It was even worse in the second innings when 5 men were absent hurt. The bowling attack consisted of Michael Holding, Wayne Daniel making his debut, Vanburn Holder, Bernard Julien and Raphick Jumadeen. Thankfully, there was no Roberts, Croft or Garner or they might have declared after 2 wickets were down.
This current crop of Indian cricketers is role models for cricketers around the world. If you put your mind to the task and if you are mentally tough no matter what obstacles stand in your way, success is never out of reach. To win in such style in Australia, one of the toughest countries to play cricket in is truly remarkable. All of them are heroes.
<Red Force given a job to do>
Closer to home, I note the T&T selectors have chosen a good team to represent the country at next month's Super50 tournament in Antigua. This team has been specifically selected to do a job and that is to win the tournament. It is not about looking at the future and giving young players a chance at this time. They have gone for tried and tested players who know exactly what is expected of them. I know it is a bitter pill to swallow for Tion Webster, Isaiah Rajah and Jyd Goolie as they performed well in the practice games and are good enough to get into the team. But they must continue to work hard, let the bat do the talking and their time will come. Those three individuals are very talented and it is heartening we are blessed with all this talent in our cricket at the moment but they must not be left in the wilderness and isolated; they must be embraced. The pressure, however, is on this team to win the Super 50 tournament as it consists of at least 11 players who have represented the West Indies at international level so nothing less than victory will be acceptable and the management of the team must demand nothing less than 100% from the players.
Yesterday, the West Indies started their tour of Bangladesh and as expected, lost the first One Day International (ODI). I honestly do not expect great results unless they can emulate India. Coach Simmons has already indicated he is not happy with the preparation but it makes no sense dwelling on that as everyone has to stand up and be counted.
No one is giving the West Indies any chance to come away with victories in the ODI's or Tests but it presents a fantastic chance for some of the fringe players to establish themselves in West Indies' colours. These players would not have received the opportunity had it not been for the withdrawal of many of the established men who have come in for some harsh and unfair criticism because of their refusal to tour Bangladesh due to concerns about COVID-19 and their health. But that is water under the bridge and should no longer be discussed. Instead, let's look for some players coming through to establish themselves and make the selectors' job difficult when they have to select the next West Indies team.
The views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of any organisation of which he is a stakeholder.