A number of unlikely heroes rose to the occasion for an injury-hit Indian team, overcoming colossal odds to end Australia’s 32-year unbeaten streak at the Gabba stadium in Brisbane and register a famous series win.
One of the greatest stories to emerge from the tour is of 26-year-old pacer Mohammed Siraj, who lost his father just prior to the series. Playing in only his third Test at the Gabba, Siraj bagged his first fifer and was instrumental in curbing the marauding Australian batsmen.
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His father, an auto-rickshaw driver from Hyderabad, always dreamed of seeing his son play for the national team. He passed away on November 20.
Siraj chose to remain in Australia instead of attending his father’s last rites, with images of him tearing up when the Indian national anthem was played, recalling his father’s dream, in Sydney went viral.
“The boy has become a man on this tour. Siraj, leader of the attack in his first Test series and he has led from the front,” former Indian opener Virender Sehwag said in a tweet.
In the first innings of the Gabba Test, Australia had rattled India’s top order on day three and were firmly in control. But out walked Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur and steadied the innings with a 123-run stand.
21-year-old Sundar, who was making his Test debut and also took three wickets – including the key scalp of Steve Smith – immediately became a hero back home. When his father was asked about his son’s unusual name, he revealed he had christened him after a friend who helped the struggling family buy uniforms and pay school fees, AFP reported.
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“My mentor was called Washington. He helped me a lot and I kept my son’s name after him as a way to show my gratitude,” Sundar’s father told media.
Meanwhile, playing his first Test of the tour, Thakur top-scored in the first innings with a key, 67-run knock, the third highest score by an Indian number eight in Australia.
Growing up in a village in Maharashtra, Thakur, 29, had to commute in crowded local trains for two-and-a-half hours every day to chase his cricketing dreams.
He would set out early and return home late. For one year, he stayed at his coach’s small apartment in Mumbai because he could not afford any other accommodation.
“We didn’t take any money from him. I got him admitted in my school, and Shardul stayed with us for a year,” said the coach, Dinesh Lad.
Opener Shubman Gill, from India’s agricultural state of Punjab, came in as a replacement for Prithvi Shaw and struck 91 on the final day to pave the way for India’s stunning win.
Gill, 21, spent a good amount of his childhood in his home village and was fascinated to see his grandfather, father and uncles working in the fields. It was in the sprawling fields that Gill started playing cricket with farm hands bowling to him.
“I can tell you if he had not been a cricketer, he would have become a farmer. He still has an interest in farming,” said his father, Lakhwinder.
Lakhwinder however said he felt his son could have done better, underlining the often huge expectations Indian parents place on their children.
“A century would have been good for his confidence. He was batting so well and I don’t know why all of a sudden he played away from his body,” he was quoted as saying in the Times of India on Wednesday.