The more these Indian cricketers are pushed towards the ropes, the more they bounce.
On day 3 of the fourth test, the series level at 1-1, India slipped and scaled 186 for six but rallied in spectacular fashion to finish their first innings at 336. At the heart of their latest achievement was the seventh wicket stand of 123 races between Washington Sundar, a 21-year-old rookie, and Shardul Thakur, a 29-year-old test tailor, who limited Australia’s lead to 33.
On the stumps, the home side were 21 with no losses and a game that seemed to swing towards Australia was now balanced.
For India, Sunday was important because late orders had become a rarity – the last time a seventh wicket pair secured a century-long overseas partnership was in 2018. In Brisbane, not only Thakur (67) and Washington (62) broke India’s seventh wicket record at Gabba, they did so by overtaking all-time great Indian players in the Test, Kapil Dev and Manoj Prabhakar.
It was a throwback to that time when India had several versatile players hitting deep with the tail wagging hard. Washington also broke a 110-year record by registering a visiting player’s highest score at No. 7 at bat on his Australian debut.
Washington and Thakur are an odd couple – the Wonderkid from Chennai trained by his father to their T Nagar Academy and the late bloomer from Palghar whose daily trip to the maidans of Mumbai would see him wake up at 3.30am and go through almost 7am. hours in a day on local trains.
Given the determination and courage that this team has gathered since the 36 in Adelaide, they neither flinched nor capitulated. They were like two choir boys who stood on the chorus-in-chief’s shift and sang hymns without an inappropriate air. Thakur has demonstrated its usefulness; Washington has shattered some stereotypes around him.
Since building a reputation as a skillful new player handling a new ball in the T20Is, Washington’s batting ability has barely been shown. Worse yet, he hasn’t even played first-class cricket in the past two years.
Fortunately, Washington did not fall into the trap of stereotypes. “People who have watched Washington in the IPL and T20 feel like he’s an off-spinner who can beat a bit. In fact, I would say he’s 70% batsman and 30% bowler. That’s how good he is, ”says his father Sundar.
Sundar always dreamed of his son being a drummer, a test drummer, before junior coaches recognized that his natural curl and height would be exploited if he was a spinner. But he never forgot his staff. “The stick is what we discuss at home. We have a small academy where we train a lot, and he will just keep on beating, ”says the father-coach.
Sundar’s favorite cricketer was WV Raman, and as a result, he modeled his son’s stance on India’s former first match. There is an economy of movement and a languid extension of the arms when driving. He rarely stabs or slips the ball, and in his 144 62 balls, he hardly looked like someone who hasn’t punched in a first-class match in 26 months.
The six off Nathan Lyon may have been the most breathtaking of his shots, but it was his driving that stood out. It is a technique perfected by practicing and playing on carpet surfaces at home. It sounds risky, but he rides the rebound in a big way, the weight shift is seamless. His father had wanted Washington to be a test drummer; in
Brisbane on Sunday, he was.
In contrast, Thakur does not have a cricket pedigree. Based in Palghar, more than 100 km from Mumbai, his family is dedicated to farming. Without being discouraged by the grueling daily commutes, he opted for the same school in Kandivali, a suburb of Mumbai, as Rohit Sharma. The two share a common trainer, Dinesh Lad, and honed their skills on the cement pitch of their school. Today he played a few shots that would have made even Sharma proud.
He probably had the shot of his life when he squeezed his front foot and punched Pat Cummins upward through the covers. English commentator Nick Knight, on air during the India fight, would call it the “show shot.” He then jumped out of the crease to hoist Lyon longer to complete his first half-century test with aplomb. The dispersed Sunday crowd rose to applaud him. Even the tired and frustrated Australian players were seen cheering.