'If any big name thinks India can't win without him...': Gavaskar's heavy punch | Cricket - Hindustan Times
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'If any big name thinks India can't win without him...': Gavaskar's pointed remark on stars missing England Test series

Mar 02, 2024 08:47 PM IST

Ahead of the fifth and final India vs England Test in Dharamsala, Gavaskar fondly recalled the similarities between the Australia tour and now.

Sunil Gavaskar thinks India's victory over Australia three years ago and the win in the recent home series against England can be kept in the same category. It's difficult not to agree with Gavaskar's assessment. Minus the conditions and the opposition, there are uncanny similarities between the India vs Australia series in 2020-21 and the ongoing India vs England Test series.

India's Kuldeep Yadav, center, back to the camera, is hugged by captain Rohit Sharma(AP)
India's Kuldeep Yadav, center, back to the camera, is hugged by captain Rohit Sharma(AP)

India were hammered in the first Test in Adelaide - they were bowled out for their lowest-ever Test score of 36 in the second innings. Then-captain Virat Kohli flew back home for the birth of his first child and injuries kept hunting one big player after the other during the entire four-match series.

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First Mohammed Shami, then Umesh Yadav, then third Test heroes Ravichandran Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari, all suffered injuries. But in came Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant, Mohammed Siraj, Washington Sundar, and Shardul Thakur. They were led outstandingly by Ajinkya Rahane, who had two extremely determined individuals Cheteshwar Pujara and Jasprit Bumrah for support. India scripted a miracle of sorts. After losing the first Test miserably, they won the next Test in Melbourne, drew the second in Sydney and then breached fortress Gabba to win the series 2-1 - India's successive Test series win in Australia, something which no team had ever done before.

Take out the Australian conditions, replace Pat Cummins with Ben Stokes, Steve Smith with Joe Root and you have the same plot for this India vs England Test series.

A couple of days before the Test series, Kohli pulled out of the first two matches citing personal reasons. He would remain unavailable for the next three too and it would later be revealed that the personal reason was the birth of his second child - similarities anyone? Shami and Pant were already out with injuries.

What more could go wrong? Losing the first Test of course. From being 190 ahead after the first innings, India lost to England in Hyderabad - the first instance of India losing a Test at home after taking a lead of more than 100 runs.

They lost KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja for the next Test to injuries. But the response? A win by 106 runs. A new star in Yashasvi Jaiswal was born. Just like in Australia, injuries kept claiming one important player or the other, Test caps were handed as if there was a distress sale but India kept winning.

They hammered England by 434 runs in the third Test in Rajkot - the biggest defeat for the three Lions in their Test history. The next Test was a close one but India prevailed by 5 wickets to claim the series 3-1 with one Test to go.

Ahead of the fifth and final assignment in Dharamsala, Gavaskar fondly recalled the similarities between the Australia tour and now.

"India missed a lot of big names in Australia but they still managed to pull off a fantastic win not just in Gabba but also in Melbourne. They came back after being bowled out for 36. Winning in Melbourne then they battled hard to save the Sydney Test match. If Rishabh Pant stayed on the crease for half an hour then India could have won that match as well. But the courage, stamina, grit and determination that the young Indian players showed during that Australia tour was visible even this time around against England," he said on Sports Tak.

Gavaskar hails Rohit and Dravid for guiding youngsters

India had five debutants in Australia - Shubman Gill, Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, Washington Sundar, and T Natarajan. They already have four - Rajat Patidar, Sarfaraz Khan, Dhruv Jurel, and Akash Deep - against England in this home series.

Without taking any names, the legendary Gavaskar said cricket is a team game and if any individual thinks the team can't without him then these two series are the biggest answer to that.

"That's why I always say, you don't need big names... If any big name thinks that India won't win without him these two series have shown that whether you are there or not (it doesn't matter). Cricket is a team sport. It doesn't depend on one individual," he said.

Gavaskar heaped praise on captain Rohit Sharma and head coach Rahul Dravid for guiding the youngsters.

"Credit must go to the way captain Rohit Sharma and head coach Rahul Dravid have managed the team. They gave chances to the young players, moulded them, and encouraged them to play their natural game. This shows that whether we have big names or not, if we have players with big hearts then we can win."

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