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The Original Gabba Story

Aditya Asnani

32 years. Australia hadn’t lost at a test match at the Brisbane Cricket Ground (more commonly known as the Gabba) in 32 years. The Gabba is the embodiment of Australian domination over the game of cricket. It is the one constant that remains, telling the world that no matter what, Australia does not lose at the Gabba. It is the cricketing world’s Constantinople, and claiming victory here is, quite simply, impossible. Well, winning at the Gabba was possible, as on 19th January 2021, India breached this mythical fortress by beating Australia at the Gabba in the fourth test match of the 2021 Border-Gavaskar trophy.

To truly understand the magnitude of this victory, one must understand the background of the cricket played in this test series between India and Australia. In the first test match of this series, India had been bowled out for 36 runs, which was the second-lowest total to be bowled out for in test cricket history. India was ridiculed and humiliated for this performance all around the world. To add to India’s woes, the team captain Virat Kohli left the team after this test on paternity leave. However this was just the beginning, as in the third test match, India lost 4 players to injuries. But this team wasn't going to go down so easily. Hunama Vihari, a middle-order batsman, heroically played through a torn hamstring in the third test match to ensure that India drew the test and didn't lose the match.

After 3 test matches, the test series stood drawn one apiece (India managed to win the second test match), with the penultimate fourth Gabba test poised as the series decider. By all quantifiable metrics, India stood no chance. Team India had been bruised and battered with injuries, its captain and leader had left them, they were short on players, and most importantly they were tasked with doing the impossible - win at the Gabba. Australia’s battle-hardened bowling unit had taken a combined 1013 wickets and in comparison, India’s bowling unit had taken a measly 13 wickets. Only 3 senior players were left standing for India, and the rest of the 11 man squad was populated with spirited but inexperienced youngsters. The odds couldn't be any more stacked in Australia’s favour. The match started with Australia winning the toss and electing to bat first. Like statesmen of the game, the Australian batting line-up put on a clinic and posted 369 runs in their first innings. While the young colts Natarajan, Thakur and Sundar each picked up 3 wickets, this phase of the match had undoubtedly gone to Australia. Then without a second's let off, the fearsome Australian bowling quartet of Hazelwood, Cummings, Starc and Lyon came thundering in, mopping up 5 wickets with India barely crossing 200 runs. All seemed lost, but then in came Washington Sundar, the young southpaw with unmatchable swagger and borderline psychotic self-confidence. He didn’t care that this was his debut or the fact that he was facing the best bowling line-up in the world. For the next two hours, he went on to tear apart the Australian bowling line-up, posting 62 runs. He was partnered by Shardul Thakur, who scored 67 and the pair took India to 336 runs - still 33 runs off Australia - but there was a chance now. In the third innings, Mohommad Siraj dazzled the Australian batsmen by taking 5 wickets and restricting Australia to 294 runs.

India needed 328 runs on the final day to win. Lose, and people would say well-tried, but an Australian victory was inevitable. However, if they won, history would be scripted. This was India’s shot at immortality. The tempo was set by Shubhman Gill, a boy who hadn’t even crossed five test match appearances. Young in body and with ice in his veins, he strode the Gabba wicket, scoring a magnificent 91 to give India the start it needed. Using this momentum, out came Pujara and Pant, the duo who held India’s fate in their hands. Pant, a silky stroke-maker who could dominate the ball, was perfectly complemented by Pujara, a hard-nosed veteran who could take a billion body blows for his country. It came down to around 50 needed in the last 10 overs, with only 5 wickets in the bag. A situation like this could mortify men, but not Rishabh Pant. This was a man made for the big occasion, and he roared like a lion as he walloped the Australian bowling attack for boundary after boundary. The final flourish came with Pant beaming the red ball through cover to score a boundary. At 329 - 7, India had done the impossible. They had beaten Australia at the Gabba. This was the magnum opus of the Indian team. This team had started the final test as boys, and had come out as men. The game showed that no matter what happens, giving up is never an option, for sometimes, just sometimes, there is magic in the sky, and you need to be ready to seize the moment and make it your own.

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