Gavaskar: Rahane's hundred one of the greatest in history of India-Australia contests

Ajinkya Rahane’s century was the old classical type — full of good technique and sound temperament and loads of patience.

Ajinkya Rahane

Ajinkya Rahane scored his 12th Test hundred against Australia at the MCG.   -  Getty Images

The first session of a Test match following a disastrous previous Test is one that can break the defeated team even more. The Australians missed a trick in Melbourne when, after Rahane incorrectly called which way the coin was going to fall, they opted to bat first. Here was an opportunity to create even more doubt in the Indian batsmen’s minds and that too on a pitch which had 11 mm of grass covering — 3 mm more than in Adelaide in the first Test match.

Instead, Tim Paine, the Aussie captain, opted to bat first with an opening pair batting together for only the second time and both short of confidence. Not only that, they were up against the most lethal new-ball operator in the game, Jasprit Bumrah. It wasn’t a surprise when Bumrah put Burns out of his misery and got him out cheaply yet again. However, it was Ravichandran Ashwin who dealt the decisive blow getting Steve Smith out with a ball that turned and bounced and the Aussie great meekly turned it into backward short-leg’s hands.

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Ashwin had earlier teased and tormented Matthew Wade to such an extent that the left-hander, despite battling it out for more than an hour, went for a lofted shot and was well taken by Ravindra Jadeja. Those three wickets in the first session of the Test brought India back in the series and it was the bowlers again who ensured the Aussies didn't pile up a huge score and put the Indian batsmen under more pressure.

Then came one of the greatest hundreds in the history of India-Australia contests. The stand-in captain, Ajinkya Rahane, had barely got off the mark when the impressive debutant Shubman Gill got out playing an expansive drive outside the off-stump. This meant there were two new batsmen at the crease and the pressure was palpable.

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Rahane had an able ally in Hanuma Vihari as both battled hard against an attack that had its tail up. Slowly and steadily they started to repair the innings till Vihari’s dismissal. Rahane was watchful again till young Rishabh Pant played a couple of sumptuous shots. That seemed to galvanise the Indian captain and he too opened out and played some beautiful cover drives and punchy pull shots.

He had another productive partnership with Ravindra Jadeja where the Australian attack looked barren and bereft of ideas. This century will rank alongside G. R. Viswanath’s hundred at the same venue in 1980/81, Sachin Tendulkar’s 155 in Chennai, V. V. S. Laxman and Rahul Dravid’s hundreds at the Eden Gardens, Sourav Ganguly’s 144 in Brisbane and Virender Sehwag’s 195 in Melbourne and Dravid and Laxman’s tons in the 2003/04 series, M. S Dhoni’s double hundred in 2013, Virat Kohli’s twin hundreds in Adelaide in 2014/15 and Pujara’s hundred in 2018 in Adelaide.

These centuries came under immense pressure and most set the tone for the rest of the series. Rahane’s century was the old classical type — full of good technique and sound temperament and loads of patience.

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It has shown that what happened in Adelaide was an aberration, which can happen to any elite side. Yes, there will be collapses in the future, too, but if one plays with Rahane’s sense of the occasion and equanimity then one can overcome the odds. The superb win is a shot in the arm for Indian cricket and shows once again that a team effort is a must for success.

Mohammed Siraj

Mohammed Siraj celebrates after picking up his maiden Test wicket.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

The match also had exciting debuts for Gill and Mohammad Siraj. Both these players have been part of the India A games for some time now and were thus pretty ready for their Test debuts. The BCCI must be praised for its ‘A’ tours as well as the under-19 series which prepares the youngsters for more searching Tests at the international arena.

Some referral decisions raised eyebrows and are indicative of the fact that technology is still not perfect. It probably never will be perfect while humans are operating it, but as long as the really bad call can be decided by it, the less acrimonious our game will be. Having said that it would be a big help if the ICC sets up ways in which third country umpires will officiate again. Already the West Indies skipper Jason Holder queried about the absence of third country umpires after their recent series in New Zealand.

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Surely, for the series in New Zealand and Australia, umpires from both countries could have been flown in to officiate and that would have served the third country criteria. It would be interesting to see what happens in the series in India next month.

Meanwhile here’s hoping that life and sport will get to near normal and sports lovers can go, witness and feel the excitement live of the sports that they enjoy.

Have a safe healthy and sporting 2021.

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