I don’t think cricket enthusiasts missed that final day’s play of the fourth Test between Australia and India at the Gabba in Brisbane a week ago. It was the talk among Guyanese everywhere; they did not expect an India victory. Every Guyanese, African and Indian, was very excited, with almost every Indo-Guyanese expressing pride in the performance of the young, inexperienced Indian team. Some even commented they wish West Indies would play like the Indians.
The Indians came back from a debacle of being bundled out for 36 in the third innings in Adelaide in the first Test to win the series 2-1, with the previous Test being drawn (the Indians also played with character to save that Test). It would go down in the history books as one of the greatest Test matches, as even those who did not cheer for India stated.
That early Monday morning, January 18, a flurry of texts and phone calls came in from Guyanese (at home and in America) and others on whether I saw the Test match between India and Australia at Brisbane.
Of course I did! It also appeared that the whole of Guyana was up that Sunday night to watch the match, because it was the subject of conversation everywhere I travelled around Georgetown and on the coast.
As I gathered from their conversations, almost the entire world expected India to be defeated. Scoring over 300 runs in the fourth innings was rarely achieved in hundreds of Test matches. And in Australia it was almost impossible, because the pitch is bouncy, with bowlers getting swing on the cracks. I had not given up, as India entered the final day with all ten wickets in hand. I was hoping that India would be defiant and would play for a draw. Instead, the young players played for a win, taking the challenge to the Aussies, pulling off what can be described as a miracle.
Besides texts and phone calls to me, social media and chat groups were abuzz with comments, suggesting that the entire West Indies and her diaspora watched the match. Friends and acquaintances sent me comments, and I read so many in the media from around the globe. It could very well be the most watched cricket match for a final day.
The whole of South Asia, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and the rest of the cricketing world would likely have watched that final day’s play. And most would not have given India much of a chance, because India had a young, inexperienced team, with some players making their debut in that Test. The Indian batting line-up was severely weakened with injuries, and there were young replacements. Sports enthusiasts were expecting an India defeat, as it was almost impossible to score over 300 runs in a fourth innings and against the world’s best bowlers. And the last time Australia lost a test at Gabba was in 1988 to West Indies, then skippered by Vivian Richards. The weakened Indian team stunned Australia.
Some of the words I heard or received in texts used to described the win were: “historic, unthinkable, incredible, brilliant, memorable, unforgettable, remarkable, monumental”. I overheard a man telling his friends, “That was a match to watch”. Another commented: “The boys played with courage, grit, and determination. That is how players should bat. West Indies should emulate them, rather than throw away their wickets when the going gets tough”. Exemplary performance was an understatement. The young players displayed character and skill not recently seen in the game of Test cricket, and they did so in the last three Tests.
Balls kept hitting about the body, but the players stayed focused. Racist comments were made against them. They took the body blows and racist remarks, and they delivered.
Brisbane is a beautiful, sprawling, cosmopolitan city known as the gold coast. I visited there a few times, most recently two summers years ago, on my way home from Fiji. I encountered many Indo-Fijians there. Racist comments were made against the Indian players. Non-white players are known to experience racial outbursts in Australia, but Brisbane was not known for racism. I had pleasant experience in my visits. I was rather surprised that racial comments are made at sporting events in this century. The racism would have motivated the Indians to play tougher, and they delivered an unbelievable performance, crushing the Aussies.
As Guyanese and others commented, it was a thrilling, unexpected finish. It was a shock defeat to Australia in what was a decider of not only the series, but which team would be ranked on the top of the Test playing nations. Everyone seemed very excited that India won the game, and they also seemed to have been rooting for India, who was the underdog throughout the entire four-Test series. They did not expect an Indian victory, and were very pleased with the outcome.
Glowing tributes poured in from fans and legendary present and former cricketers everywhere.
Saurav Ganguly, President of India’s cricket board, described the victory as “nothing short of historic”. He announced a bonus of US$680K for the players.
Cricketing icon Sachin Tendulkar, holder of countless records, now a Member of Parliament, described it as “one of the greatest wins. Every time we got hit, we stayed put and stood taller. We pushed boundaries of belief to play fearless but not careless cricket/Injuries and uncertainties were countered with poise and confidence”.
India’s Prime Minister tweeted: “The team’s remarkable energy and passion was visible throughout. So was their stellar intent, remarkable grit and determination”.
A former England cricket captain described the final day’s play as “once in generation type match performance”. Indeed it was!
The win has almost secured India’s place in this year’s final of the Test championship series to be played at Lord’s in June. Australia must defeat South Africa in order to get into the final. Otherwise, it would be New Zealand and India playing the final.