Ajinkya Rahane receives rousing reception on arrival at home(Twitter)
Ajinkya Rahane receives rousing reception on arrival at home(Twitter)

Gabba giants are back home to hero's welcome

  • Chinnappampatti village near Salem in Tamil Nadu arranged a horse-drawn carriage for local boy T Natarajan
By hindustantimes.com
UPDATED ON JAN 22, 2021 02:10 PM IST

Ajinkya Rahane knew there would be neither be an open bus parade with confetti nor thousands lining up the roads to cheer, but he dressed for the occasion even though he was going straight home. Mohammed Siraj would go home, too, but after tending to more urgent business en route—grieving at his father’s grave in Hyderabad.

The housing complex where Rahane lives received India’s stand-in skipper with percussion, flowers and all the trappings of a traditional Maharashtrian welcome. Siraj, India’s highest wicket-taker in Tests, spent a few quiet moments with his departed father Mohammed Ghouse, who drove an auto-rickshaw for a living.

Chinnappampatti village near Salem in Tamil Nadu arranged a horse-drawn carriage for local boy T Natarajan; the fast bowler made his debut in every format in the series after being originally picked only as a net bowler.

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These were how Rahane, Siraj, Natarajan and the other members of the team were received in different parts of the country on Thursday after a remarkable and historic series in Australia, one that included a victory in the fourth and final Test that is being hailed as India’s greatest Test win ever.

Continuing to live in a bio-bubble for two months because he put team before self—because his father would want exactly that—Siraj said: “I missed my dad a lot. After all my performances I missed him; the first thought would often be to call him but then it would hit me that he is no longer there. I was dedicating every wicket that I took to my dad; that is what the celebration between Mayank Agarwal and me was about.”

Just a week into the tour, Siraj’s first-ever international series, his 53-year-old father died on November 20 due to a lung ailment. It was a tough tour for Siraj on the field too. He was subjected to racial abuse by the crowd in Sydney, but instead of allowing it to act as a distraction, the pacer used it as a motivational tool. “The abuses which I faced in Australia made me mentally stronger. I didn’t let them affect my game,” Siraj told reporters.

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He revealed that the on-field umpires had offered his team the option of leaving the third Test against Australia midway. “But Rahane bhai said we won’t leave the game,” Siraj recalled about the fourth day of the match, where he reported the incident immediately to the umpires.

Natarajan, who became the first Indian cricketer to make his international debut across all three formats during the same tour, had a different kind of wait to endure. His wife gave birth while he was on tour, and this was the first time he got to hold his baby.

Rahane may have been impassive as India won the Test in Brisbane to clinch the series 2-1 and keep the Border-Gavaskar Trophy but he wasn’t expecting the warm reception. “Radhika (his wife) told me to be dressed well on return,” Rahane told his neighbours. “Now, I know why. Thanks for the surprise. This win is for the entire country.”

Pacer Navdeep Saini, another debutant in the series and braved a groin injury to bowl in the second innings of the final Test, said: “There was so much happening throughout the series. We were living in the bio-bubble for so long and then there were so many injuries happening all around to the senior players. The pressure was always there. In the midst of the all when I got the news that I would be making my debut in Sydney, it was like a dream come true.”

Saini impressed with his pace and gave India crucial breakthroughs in the Test which India drew because batsmen Hanuma Vihari and Ravichandran Ashwin refused to yield to their injuries. “Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane gave me a lot of confidence. They told me to back my strength which is speed,” Saini said over the phone.

“They asked me to bowl the same way I do in a Ranji Trophy match and be patient. Getting Will Pucovski, my debut wicket, will be a memory I will always cherish. Also, the fact that I was on the other end when Rishabh Pant hit the winning runs in Brisbane will remain in my heart for long.”

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