CHENNAI: It was a day for new heroes. It was a day for unfairly maligned cricketers to remind India of the talent they possess. It was a day for putting bodies on the line to save careers. Weeks after being bundled out for their lowest score ever, they married heart, fight and spirit to outlast the Australian bowlers in a display of guts that will be recounted in history books that will chronicle the triumphs of Indian cricket. That too by a bunch that included players who wouldn’t have figured in the XI if everyone was fit.
The scoreboard will say Hanuma Vihari remained unbeaten on 23. It will say R Ashwin made an undefeated 39. What it won’t say is they battled their body, the Aussie bowlers and cheap shots from close-in fielders for over 40 overs to steer India to a draw when that possibility seemingly did not exist after they lost captain Ajinkya Rahane in the second over of the day. While Rishabh Pant and Cheteshwar Pujara played their part, the unbroken sixth-wicket stand between Ashwin and Vihari made the difference. They shut out the pain and repelled everything. On Twitter, Ashwin’s wife, Prithi, posted “he could not stand up straight when he woke up this morning”. So he opted to keep stretching in the dressing room, shadow practicing while Pujara and Pant shared a 148-run partnership. By the time he joined Vihari, the latter was limping. Retiring was not an option. So they started to block.
They took blows, they flinched, they popped a pill, they opted for extra protective gear when the easier way out was to walk away. Their vigil lasted more than 40 overs. They spoke in Tamil, as the countdown began. Vihari acknowledged how Ashwin kept guiding him during his innings llike an ‘elder brother’. Such was the emotion that “We did not even celebrate towards the end because we did not know what to make out of it,” Ashwin revealed on bcci.tv.