India offspinner R Ashwin and fielding coach R Sridhar take us through the Sydney Test against Australia, which the visitors managed to draw by batting out four sessions.
Ashwin and Sridhar were talking in the former's YouTube channel, and spoke about the heroes of that day - Cheteshwar Pujara, Rishabh Pant, Ashwin himself and Vihari. And a bit of Shardul Thakur too. Excerpts:
Ashwin: Fifth day morning, the talk around us was whether we wanted to have lunch and tea in the stadium or in the hotel. But then, the unshakable truth was that the team couldn't be split till 6pm.
Sridhar: That was the day I saw the Indian team's togetherness. One of the most enthralling days of Test cricket that I've seen since 2014.
We had to grind the day out, and Pujara started...
I heard a new from the Australian dressing room. When they were analysing Pujara's video, Hazlewood put his cap down and said enough I don't want to see Pujara again, I'm seeing him on the field and I don't want to see him here too.
As Ravi Shastri said, when Rishabh said, everyone gets heart attacks - both the opponents and our team. I wonder who is more tensed when Rishabh is batting. But the way he batted... he started slow, and then exploited their weakness. He created that weakness. He has a better average than Kohli in Australia, it's a huge thing. His unorthodoxy, his aggression, that is the new India.
And then the 50 overs when Vihari was batting. Ravi Shastri used the word 'Shabash' 249 times when you (Ashwin) and Vihari were batting! Vihari was injured trying a single, and in the next over Pujara was out. Shastri was so angry on Vihari - how did he get injured when trying for a single! Already Jadeja was injured.
Ashwin: Already I was padded up and standing from the morning because of my back pain. And then suddenly there was talk of Jadeja batting. And then suddenly Shastri came and said 'Ash, go!' After I went in, there were multiple messages from Shastri. Take us through those.
Sridhar: At one end, the bounce was a bit uneven and you got hit. We were worried about two things - one, a batsman getting out. And two, if Ash was injured, there was only Ravi Shastri left to play! Lot of things at stake, so he sent a message through Shardul.
He called for Shardul and said 'go tell Ashwin that I told him to play Lyon and Vihari to play the pacers'.
Ashwin: We were oblivious to it. We were keeping on playing the same way, and Vihari came and said Ash I'm feeling a bit distracting, so let's rotate strike for a couple of overs. And we got a single. Vihari played off-spin, and after an over, he came and said I'm unable to move my feet! Somehow we survived.
Shardul came running in and said "they're talking a lot of things inside. But I won't tell you anything! You both are playing well, just continue!" We were wondering what kind of a message this is.
Sridhar: And we were thinking he conveyed the message to you guys!
And then every ball became an event. You batted till tea, and then we started believing. We had 249 balls, and Shastri would say 'Shabash' after every ball.
Ashwin: From the outside, it looks like you don't have control. When you're in, you have confidence. I told Vihari, I've got hit everywhere on my body from Pat Cummins. Nothing can shake us from here, we'll take them. We'll not go out until they hit and send us out. Let's get hit everywhere but stay. They didn't realise for a long time. They thought we were not rotating strike because of injury. But the truth was, one person couldn't move forward and the other was getting hit.
I personally felt, my back was very stiff, so had they bowled it fuller, I would have found it tougher. But they thought they could scare us by bowling short. But it worked counter productive. They got out my inner resolve - 'how much can you hit me?'. And Tim Paine began banter...
Sridhar: Was it banter or sledging?
Ashwin: You can take it how you want, but we knew it was their last resort.
Sridhar: What about the changing chest guard between overs?
Ashwin: They were behind the over rate. Local umpires too... so they told us you can't take drinks or medicines. I told them 'see I'm getting hit, my rib is paining even now. Let me take my tablet,' but the umpire said no. So I said okay, let me keep my chest guard on my back, and I'll change it every over. That's also time wasting. I told the umpire you can keep my chest guard but he said no because of COVID rules. I said ok, and me and Vihari kept interchanging.