India’s historic test win at the Gabba beautifully described on ABC Radio 20 January 2021
Did something yesterday for the first time in my life. Not easy to say when you’re 65 not out.
Driving from work to do some shopping for dinner, I stopped the car, parked near the Swan River and listened to a cricket match.
Obviously, it was no ordinary cricket match. This was an extraordinary contest.
Almost uniquely, the hopes of an exciting finish on the final day of the Australia v India test at the Gabba were exceeded beyond all predictions.
What was happening on field was painted in vivid word description by the ABC radio commentary. Their team’s description of the final session from the moment when it became obvious India was seeking to win and not just play out a safe draw was testament to their credibility and entertainment skills.
One team member predicted it a long way out. While India was still one wicket down, statistician Ric Finlay – covering the game from Tasmania – chimed in succinctly. India had averaged four runs an over from the previous three overs.
Continuing at that run rate, with the aggressive Rishabh Pant a possibility to be promoted up the order, Ric said India was exactly on target to reach the required 328, a total well exceeding the previous fourth innings chase record (236) at the Gabba.
Before Finlay’s comment, most thought India would play to draw and retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
If India was still in the Commonwealth, those in India’s dressing room who chose to win the match instead may have been knighted. They set up one of the greatest final days of cricket on Australian soil.
However, India is no longer a British dominion and this is what won them the match.
Sunil Gavaskar whose name is on the trophy was quoted from the Gabba press box: “Young India has shown the way. Young India has shown it was not afraid.”
With an eleven comprising some little-known players with plenty of T20 background, they had the make up to chase down a total.
The three most responsible were Pant (age 23) and 21-year-olds Shubman Gill and Washington Sundar, on debut. Not one had been selected in the debacle loss that was Adelaide (hold some of those knighthoods?) but they were here in Brisbane.
As they carved out the runs, I was reminded of the wisdom of a great friend, Neil Gill, who once told me that youth must be given opportunity. Neil combined that thought to great effect into his business, sporting and family lives.
Despite youthful exuberance to come, India needed wickets in hand and Cheteshwar Pujara ensured this. He came in at 1/18 and heroically anchored much of innings, facing 196 deliveries for 56.
When finally out lbw to the equally heroic Pat Cummins, Pujara wasn’t having it. “You can’t do this? I’m batting the whole day” must have been going through his mind as he awaited the upstairs’ decision. Even as he walked off, he looked back at the umpires. “Perhaps, they’ve changed their mind?”
Early in the partnership, when opener Shubman Gill was also not making many up the other end, a draw seemed inevitable.
Was there a plan? If so, more Indian versions of the knighthood for who devised it! Play to the numbers. If there are wickets in hand, there will be moments to go for the runs.
Gill came from his shell. His 91 set up the possibility of victory. His free-scoring led to Finlay’s later comment.
But it was Pant who carried them to victory. He made 89 glorious runs, occasionally playing shots that were as reckless as they were brave.
It was during this celestial period that the commentators were in heaven. Quentin Hull and Dirk Nannes were at the Gabba and, from what I could glean, Jim Maxwell, Andrew Moore, Stuart Clark, Ian Chappell and Kristen Beams were calling from Sydney.
Moore sounds a lot like Maxwell so ABC cricket coverage is in very good hands when the “voice of summer” stops broadcasting. Let’s hope not soon as Maxwell was wonderful.
At one point on an earlier day’s commentary, he watched a ball nicked to slip. “Funny the things that come into your mind,” Maxwell said. “Simpson caught Cowdrey bowled Titmus. It was a test between Australia and England in 1962. Same score, edging to slip from a spinner. It was the time when Simpson couldn’t get a hundred. Then when he did, he made 311 at Headingly in 1964.”
Cricket tragics would have wept. A beautiful reference to the history of the game and how its numbers and circumstances often repeat.
The co-commentators were just as good. Clark is forthright and funny. Beams likewise. Chappell, whose commentary style I’ve never been fond of, was good too.
Together they painted the scene. What a pity so few people were there due to Covid-19 and some kind of ticketing bungle. The radio audience would have been bigger. More people may have heard the commentary. That’s a good thing.
Clark and Beams were equally entertaining and Chappell’s historic references, many of them personal, were appropriate to the knowledgeable input of Moore or Maxwell beside him.
“India have a lot of balls,” said Jim as a run-scoring dash from Sundar lowered the ratio of runs needed per balls remaining.
India seemed certain to win. Then Sundar went. 6-for.
“The last three can’t bat at all. Natarajan holds the bat up the wrong way,” Clark said.
The next batsman went cheaply and Clark got more excited. In came Saini and Pant came down the wicket for a talk. “Pants coming down,” said Jim. Clark loved it but had his own thoughts to express.
“I want Pant to get out now. Not for any personal reason against him, it would be even more exciting to watch the rest of them make the four runs needed,” was something-like what he said. Hang on Stu?
Fittingly Pant faced the next delivery. He hit it for four. India had won and he won man of the match.
Cummins, who at one stage yesterday seemed to be denying India runs and be the only Australian who could wreck their stumps, won man of the series. Hail to them both.
What great cricket. What great radio.