AUS v IND 2020-21: ‘Wear this 36 like a badge’, R Sridhar recalls Ravi Shastri’s inspiring speech after Adelaide debacle

Team India bounced back emphatically in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy after the Adelaide debacle.

Indian players after support staff posing with the Border-Gavaskar Trophy | GettyTeam India on Tuesday (January 19) created history as they beat Australia by 3 wickets at the Gabba to clinch an extraordinary Test series victory.

The visitors had copped a lot of criticism when they got bowled out for 36 during their 8-wicket loss in the opening Test at Adelaide. Furthermore, regular skipper Virat Kohli left the Australian shores to attend the birth of his first child while a number of players sustained injuries.

Despite the setbacks, the touring team under Ajinkya Rahane’s captaincy bounced back emphatically to register a series-levelling victory at the MCG while they pulled off a famous draw in the third Test at SCG by batting out 131 overs.

See Also: Ajinkya Rahane and Ravi Shastri's emotional reactions to India's inspiring Test series win

In an exclusive interview with PTI, India’s fielding coach R Sridhar recalled head coach Ravi Shastri’s inspiring speech after the 36 all-out disaster in Adelaide.

“After 36 all-out, you didn’t know what’s next. Then Ravi (Shastri) bhai gathered the team and said: ‘Wear this 36 like a badge on your sleeves and you will be a great team’.

“After 40 days, it was gospel truth. Also we had five meetings in two days after the Adelaide Test finished on the third evening. Virat (Kohli), Jinks (Ajinkya Rahane) and the coaching staff discussed combination and Virat gave some lovely suggestions for the MCG Test before leaving.

“I don’t think there could have been a better execution in Melbourne,” Sridhar recounted the events leading up to the turnaround in Melbourne.

In the third Test at SCG, Hanuma Vihari (23* off 161 balls) and Ravichandran Ashwin (39* off 128 balls) showed immense grit and determination to deny Australia a likely victory. The pair was battling injuries but still lasted 258 balls before both sides decided to shake hands.

Reflecting on the third Test, Sridhar said: “At tea time in Sydney, Vihari had his feet stretched wide as Nitin Patel strapped his hamstring and other physio administered painkillers. I went up to him and told Vihari, ‘You owe the next two hours to your team as this team has backed you at every juncture.’

“…and after those 250 balls when he came back, he could barely walk, he fell down on the chair as I went to hug him. He said: ‘Sir you asked for it. This is the best I could do in this situation.’ I could just mutter ‘thank you.’

While Ashwin was struggling with a sore back, Vihari had a hamstring tear that severely restricted his ability to run between the wickets.

Sridhar said Vihari’s fitness took a hit as he wasn’t a part of the IPL like most other Indian players last year.

“His hamstring injury is multi-factorial. Firstly, he wasn’t playing IPL like others, so general fitness level was a bit less than other guys which I told him and then he stood at short leg for three Tests which also contributed to injury. But what he did in Sydney gave us belief that we could do it in Brisbane.

“Vihari is an intense, young man. He is not your normal, jovial kind of a guy. He can go into a shell very soon, and that’s his strength also and it helped him in Sydney.

“Despite being on heavy dose of painkillers, which could make you a bit drowsy, he actually pulled off a miracle in Sydney. So when we got there in Brisbane, we had the belief that we could do it.”

Coming to the series decider in Brisbane, India rode on Shubman Gill’s classy 91, Rishabh Pant’s unbeaten 89 and Cheteshwar Pujara’s gritty 56 to get over the line while chasing 328 in the fourth innings.

Talking about the epic chase at the Gabba, Sridhar remarked: “We didn’t want to complicate anything with Rishabh and Washy and it was their own plan. They had very valid excellent plan which was based on their abilities and belief.

“When you see what they were executing, the last thing you want to do is send in information and at such times, less is more. Ajinkya and Ravi bhai said, ‘Just leave these two alone. Whatever happens, we would take it, we came so far brilliantly’.”

He also showered rich praised on Shastri for India’s success Down Under.

“Before the Brisbane Test started, Ravi bhai had one mantra, ‘Nattu is no less than (Jasprit) Bumrah and Washy is no less than Ashwin, and that will be your mindset’. If you two are crossing that boundary line wearing that India cap, you are no less than the person next to you.

“Please quote me, it is unfair that you needed India’s greatest Test victory to understand Ravi Shastri’s contribution to Indian cricket. He was Indian cricket’s ‘Go To Man’, when NCA needed restructuring in 2007, when IPL was conceptualised, when India needed a stop gap coach in 2007 after the World Cup exit, and also in 2014 when a Team Director was needed,” Sridhar said.

(With PTI inputs)


By Salman Anjum - 22 Jan, 2021

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