Of all the venues the Australian team enjoys playing, the Gabba has served the most success stories. ‘Gabbatoir’ as the Aussies call it, has not seen an Australian loss since 1988. The rich 32-year history has witnessed some of Australia’s most convincing victories and well-held stalemates. It has also been home to many stellar performances, both with the bat and the ball. However, as the Aussies take on India at Brisbane in the decider starting Friday, a change in fortune cannot be ruled out.
The resurgent Indian team was down and out for a heart-breaking 36 at Adelaide, rallied to complete one of their most clinical wins at Melbourne, and fought against all the odds to hold Australia to a stalemate at Sydney. Despite all the injury concerns, the Indians fo enjoy all the momentum and possess the potential of even upsetting the hosts. A win at Gabba, as is for any other visiting team, will hold the utmost significance. And Australia’s unbeaten streak might well have the inevitable end at the hands of India, yet again.
“That is their fortress, they have not lost there. But there is always a first time. If Ajinkya Rahane and company do it, I won’t be surprised at all,” Sunil Gavaskar told India Today.
Indian team at Gabba: The need for finding the right combination
One of India’s main tasks first would be to field a XI. The number of injuries and the list of players unavailable for the Test match has only been increasing. With Vihari, Rahul, Bumrah, and Jadeja all set to miss, and with the cloud of uncertainty hanging over Ashwin and Mayank Agarwal’s presence India is almost forced to turn to the relatively inexperienced youngsters. Playing only their first series, young Siraj and Saini would lead the bowling attack. The two would look to reincarnate their India A performances from yesteryears with the support of either Mumbaikar Shardul Thakur or the miracle-man T Natarajan. While Thakur was retained from the limited-overs squad as cover for Mohd. Shami, the fairytale of Natarajan found himself a place in the squad after Umesh Yadav’s injury.
Would you have ever believed it if I had told you in November, that India's attack for the Brisbane Test could (only "could" at this stage, don't read more!) be Siraj (2), Saini (1), Thakur (1)/Natarajan(0) & Kuldeep (6)? 10/9 tests between them?
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) January 12, 2021
If the current reports are to be believed, the young Washington Sundar might get a chance over Wriddhiman Saha as the replacement for Ravindra Jadeja. In Bumrah’s absence, India would look to balance the side with an extra bowling option. Probably not as good as Jadeja but Sundar is an able bat at No. 8 and will cherish the opportunity to perform at the highest level. The entire balance of the batting though will depend on India’s top 4. Both Rohit Sharma and Shubhman Gill looked in good touch in the first innings and India will bank on them for a flourishing start. The duo became India’s first duo to score a twin 50-run partnership in Tests this century. They will hold the key in a prospect Indian win.
Needless to say, the role of skipper Ajinkya Rahane and Mr. Dependable Cheteshwar Pujara will play a pivotal part in deciding the match’s fate. Traditionally a wicket conducive to bounce and carry, the Gabba is also a batsman’s paradise. India winning the toss and putting the tired Australian bowlers to bowl might well be the plan for Ajinkya Rahane, under whom India is yet to lose a Test match
Australian camp and a few problems of their own:
One looks at Australia to only be greeted by the mighty armor that protects their pride. Starc, Cummins, Hazlewood, and Lyon with the ball, Smith, and Labuchagne with the bat, the aura of these talents is too huge to be missed. Moreover, they all have been in tremendous form and maintain top positions in the bowlers’ and batsmen’s standings this series.
However, every other place for Australia other than the said 6 is a chink in the armor, in itself. The not-so-fit Warner could not get going in either innings, the much-awaited debut of Puckovski had begun well but had a contrasting end as he injured his shoulder. Wade’s tentative approach and Paine’s inconsistency in the middle equally support the opening woes. Though debutant Cameroon Green has shown a glimpse of his potential with the bat and in the field, he is yet to settle into the groove. Given the records, playing at the Gabba might be equally stressful for the Australians as much for the Indians. Moreover, a wide-spreading left field idea of sacking Tim Paine as the captain has also been doing rounds. The pressure of winning back the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and the burdening of statistics would therefore need a special effort to be handled.
Having said, the Australians will walk in as favorites. Whether India really breach the Gabbatoir? Only time has answers. Rest assured, we all are up for some quality Test cricket and hopefully another fifth-day photo-finish.