When India seemed down and out of the World Test Championship final against Australia, city men Ajinkya Rahane and Shardul Thakur’s partnership breathed new life into the innings
India’s Shardul Thakur (right) and Ajinkya Rahane run between the wickets on Day Three of the ICC World Test Championship final match against Australia at The Oval in London yesterday. Pic/Bipin Patel
Imran Khan’s famous line has always been, “to win matches, you have to take 20 wickets”. India, except in the days of the four great spinners—and that too, occasionally, has not often done that abroad.
Then suddenly, in January 2018, in South Africa, Kohli-led India showed they could take 20 wickets abroad. In all three Tests India bowled out South Africa, and their highest score was 335. In three of the six innings South Africa failed to get to 200.
But India did not go on to win its first ever Test series in South Africa. At the end of the series Kohli said, “If the batsmen step up we can do well away from home. We need to correct certain mistakes with the bat. The lower order showed character.”
No corrections made
In the five years since then, those mistakes with the bat have not been corrected and that 2017-18 South Africa series has continued a trend abroad where the batsmen have failed to live up to their billing as being the best in the world.
That has been true in the series in England and South Africa, the victories in Australia being a glorious exception, and is once again being displayed here.
Shardul Thakur and Ajinkya Rahane must be exempt from this criticism. For in the two hours before lunch on Friday, they cut out the mistakes and showed the character Kohli had called for.
It was a classic demonstration of the resistance I have often seen from opposition batsmen to thwart Indian bowlers just when they felt the battle was won. As you would expect in such a partnership between a top-order batsmen and a lower-order one, who is much more in the side for his bowling, you had a wonderful contrast in batting styles.
Rahane, as he has done so often in England, oozed grace and class but was still able to go to his 50 with a six off Pat Cummins. Thakur, who has a penchant for The Oval, in India’s last Test here in 2021, his batting played no little part in the victory. He revelled in the role of being a spoilsport as far as the Aussies were concerned.
One press box comment was that it was Mumbai to the rescue again and there was a lot of the traditional Mumbai cricketing flavour about this partnership, the constant chats between the wicket, presumably in Marathi, and enough gardening to waste time and make the Australians fret. And they fretted all the more, as, with the score at 155 for six when Thakur came in, the Australians must have felt the innings was all but over.
Still Australia’s Test
All this still does not mean that the Test is heading for anything other than an Australian victory, but if the Indian batting had shown the Mumbai character Rahane and Thakur did, the story of this Test could have been different. Now the mountain to be climbed seems just a bit too steep.
No of runs put on by Ajinkya Rahane and Shardul Thakur for the seventh wicket
Mihir Bose is an Indian-born writer and author based in the United Kingdom