CHENNAI: Adelaide, December 19. As India took the field to defend 90, the support staff had an impromptu meeting inside the ground. They had just witnessed the team suffer a new low of being bowled out for 36. It stung so badly that head coach, Ravi Shastri, told the other members of the support staff not to say anything in the dressing room.
Melbourne, December 29. Minutes after India levelled the series with an eight-wicket win, Shastri was asked what he told the team in Adelaide. “No chat,” he said. “We had a lot of positives in Adelaide but at the end of the day, it is the result that counts. We were blown away in the second innings in one hour. So when you are blown away, you are blown away. There is nothing you can do about it than to get up and fight, which we did in this Test match. To beat a team like Australia, especially in Australia, there is no point having one good day or two good days, you have got to have five good days if you have to beat them. As simple as that.”
The rest of that Saturday in Adelaide saw players confined to their hotel rooms, where some had family for company. Some players expected a meeting over dinner (it never happened). On Monday evening after Virat Kohli left for India, Shastri and the support staff spoke to the team. They ensured they didn't mention 36 during the meeting, but were clear in sending home a message: "follow the process, take responsibility and play your roles".
It was followed by a few of the senior players analysing the defeat, even putting down areas they wanted to work on and what needed to be done in Melbourne. It is understood that players were critical of their own performances, at which point the support staff stayed away from the conversation before Shastri revealed he won't even mind a whitewash as long as they follow the process. What followed in the lead-up to the Boxing Day Test clearly showed the character of the team.
Players opened up to support staff during training sessions. They focused on working on areas that needed improvement. According to one of the support staff, the batsmen wanted to recreate some of the angles that had tested them in Adelaide. They even created simulations during their training sessions in Melbourne, which they felt will prepare them better for the Boxing Day Test. Even if they had already spent several weeks together in a bio bubble, none of them even cited it as an excuse at any point. They were solely intent on regaining the confidence that was lost inside one hour in Adelaide.
Ajinkya Rahane — such a contrasting figure in comparison to regular captain Virat Kohli — too helped in a way. There was calmness and that helped the team bounce back. Shastri has made exaggerated statements in the past but few would disagree when he said this on Tuesday. “I think this will go down in the annals of Indian cricket — no, world cricket — as one of the great comebacks in the history of the game. To be rolled over for 36 and then three days later to get up and be ready to punch was outstanding. The boys deserve all the credit for the character they have shown. Real character.”
Through the course of four days in Melbourne, they showed it time and again. Losing the toss, they restricted Australia to 195. And while batting, in Kohli's absence, Rahane stood up to be counted. Shastri called it the turning point of the match. The bowlers, sans Umesh Yadav for the majority of the second innings, piled pressure. The hosts could never recover. That, in between all this, two debutants – Shubman Gill and Mohammed Siraj — showed they belong was the icing on the cake
The visitors, who seemed gone in Adelaide, are in with a real chance of repeating what they did in 2018-19 when they won a series in Australia for the first time ever. The third Test in Sydney — from January 7 — can't begin soon enough.