Although the time zone starkly contrasts with that of Guyana, many Guyanese stayed up from 12 midnight to 4am glued to their television sets on day five of the fourth Test match between India and Australia in Brisbane.
From 36 all out in Adelaide, India did well to bring themselves back into competitive stride in the Border- Gavaskar series, when it was level 1-1 and the series winner depended on the result of the Test match in Australia’s strongest fortress, the Gabba.
The disadvantage, however, was the absence of regular Test Captain Virat Kohli, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja and Hanuman Vihari, among others. It was a team of youngsters who would go to achieve the unthinkable.
“It was a game of the last man standing. Who would play in the XI was basically who was fit,” the Indian High Commissioner to Guyana, Dr KJ Srinivasa said, reflecting on last week’s history-making game.
“At this rate of injuries, even Sunil Gavaskar will be made to play in the XI,” Dr Srinivasa joked.
The fact was, India’s chances were slim to none, but that’s the x factor that makes the historic games even more memorable.
An avid cricket fan, Dr Srinivasa was quite aware of the deficit that India had in the game, “The combined number of wickets between these four bowlers is 13. While the opposition Australian team, the top four bowlers have a thousand wickets between them. So, you can imagine it’s a David vs Goliath fight.”
Yet, the team of upcoming talents like Rishabh Pant, Shubhman Gill, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur and Thangarasu Natarajan, pulled off the first win for visitors at The Gabba in 32 years.
“As they say when you’re faced with adversity, your true character comes out. So, these debutants, these players, I think they embody what the new India is all about. It’s about your grit, your determination, your resilience and your competitive spirit. They gave it all,” the High Commissioner commented.
He continued, “It was a path-breaking day, I must say. It was a day of tremendous joy, not only for the Indian supporters, but also across the world I could see and read the comments of great cricketers, but at the same time even common men on the street from Australia, to South Africa, to West Indies.”
“Everybody was going gaga about this phenomenal Indian victory, going against all odds,” the High Commissioner marvelled.
What will stick with those young players, aside from the breath-taking victory in Australia, is the reception they received from their countrymen and women upon their return home. In spite of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Indian cricket fans packed the airports and lined the streets to catch a glimpse of their own local heroes and to celebrate the team – a practice that is hardly seen in recent times.
This showed the true cricket culture that India holds dear and the Indian High Commissioner to Guyana agrees.
“India as a culture has always been celebrating its heroes, which culture doesn’t?” Dr Srinivasa rightfully questioned.
He went on to state, “As they say, people, when they see heroes who have made history and who are self-made, that gives them more glamour, more charm.”
Expounding on the topic, Dr Srinivasa shared with <<<Guyana Times Sport>>> that the festivities were more about celebrating their humble beginnings, from which they went on to do marvellous things.
“They are these rags-to-riches stories and these are the kinds of stories that people like. And you can see that in the reception that we have always done. Of course, they came back as winners, but apart from that, the people recognise that these guys have done it in the first series, coming from humble background and I think this is a reflection of the true love and respect that the Indian public has for all these cricketers,” the High Commissioner posited.
Aside from all the glitz and glamour of India’s triumphant victory, the tour was stained by the hurling of racist remarks, from the stands at various venues.
Dr Srinivasa, when probed about the disappointing actions of those few Australians, noted that such an act went against everything that cricket embodied.
“Cricket, we all play it in a very friendly spirit. We all enjoy it as a game and such unfortunate incidents especially when they happen when the game is going on, it can disturb the psychology, concentration of the players. But here again, the strength and character of the players of the Indian team came to fore,” he said.
However, the High Commissioner praised the authorities involved for their swift action, highlighting that it played a great role in maintaining the confidence of the players involved.
“We have already had this history of racial abuse in Sydney on many previous tours, but the quick action by the Cricket Board and the teams actually help to build the confidence for the teams that we cannot tolerate such racism and I think that message went out loud and clear when they evicted those five people from the stadium.”
It is the High Commissioner’s view that this adversity helped to bring out the best in those cricketers.
“These are young people, playing their first series abroad and for them to be subjected to such racial comments, actually helped them to steel themselves and bring out the best in them,” Dr Srinivasa posited.