India hit

India beat Australia, they were hit, and so they hit.

Rishabh Pant is on the ground and watching the ball. The one he just pulled from the best bowler in the world. Who was delivering it at the Gabba, where Australia does not lose.  And he keeps watching it, onto the bat, down through fine leg, even as he falls, then rolls. He has his eye on it from flat on his back in the dirt as the ball goes into the rope.

Pant scored a boundary while lying in the dirt.

India lost their star bowler before the series. India lost their opening batsman for the first two games. India lost their captain after one Test. India lost their all rounder before the match. India lose their star bowler to a broken arm in the first Test. And India lose 10 wickets for 36 runs.

They were hit again and again. The tour had barely started, and it looked like India had already lost.

This is the point India couldn't win the series.

You can come back from some of those things, you need luck, an excellent team, and incredible bench strength. But India didn't have luck, they lost a bowler in the very next Test. Yet one man down, with their backups already in, and they won.

Then they arrived in Sydney with politicians attacking them, feeling like animals in a zoo and having just made a covid breach that could have lost them some of their rare fit players.

This is the point India couldn't win the series.

Then Steve Smith found his hands, and Cheteshwar Pujara batted too slow. Not to mention that their new star bowler, Mohammed Siraj, stopped a Test because of racist abuse he heard. And then Ajinkya Rahane went out early on day five, the man who carried them to victory in Melbourne.

This is the point India couldn't win the series.

But Pujara and Pant fought on, and when they got tired, Ravichandran Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari continued. One with a hamstring that meant he couldn't stretch, the other with a back that meant he couldn't bend. They were one fit batsman between them. And they somehow got the draw. But they couldn't play the next match, and neither could Jasprit Bumrah or Ravindra Jadeja. The players that won them the series two years earlier.

This is the point India couldn't win the series.

They went into a match with - at best - their 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th best bowlers. And that is being friendly. They took in net bowlers and IPL guys who happened to have passed quarantine. If you didn't have Covid, were reasonably fit, carried an Indian passport, and bowled more than seven overs in a Ranji match, you were a 65% chance of playing the last game.

And even then, one of them got hurt. There was no one left, but there was barely anyone at the beginning.

This is the point India couldn't win the series.

And then they had to chase over 300 against Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood at the Gabba. The Gabba. That Gabba hasn't been defeated since the best team in cricket did it. And they didn't do it against Cummins with a second choice batting line up and the only fit bowlers they could find. You don't win at the Gabba, you don't chase at the Gabba. This is where Tim Paine wanted India. This is where teams come to die.

The place you finally lose the series, it's done, over, no one else has to get hurt. There is no shame in this, this is an honourable death, this is more than anyone could have asked for.

And yet, Cheteshwar Pujara is drinking like he's going to continue batting no matter what. He's just been hit and is being tended to by India's physiotherapist, who's been on screen more this series than most Indian players have been on the field. It didn't seem to matter what Pujara's being told, because he's going to bat. It didn't matter where he was hit; he will bat. His hand was almost taken off, he will still bat. He was hit in the back of the head, the groin, the elbow, the biceps, the grill, and yet, he would bat.

Cheteshwar Pujara was going to be hit again and he was going to bat. The rest of them were going to hit.

They had been abused by the Australians, mocked by their own fans, seen more time in MRIs than the middle and been patronised for their effort. Among them were net bowlers, injured substitutes, IPL failures, grieving sons, racism victims, new fathers, social media punching bags and white ball guys. All of them, 11 of them, 20 of them, a billion of them, they were going to hit.

Shubman Gill hit an uppercut over third man from the last over before lunch. He flat batted balls past mid-on. Smashed 20 from an over. Attacked leg side traps again and again. Sliced through point, drove on the up and attacked out of the footmarks. It didn't matter where the ball was, who it came from, because he was going to hit.

Rahane came out, and we expected something sensible, a well-paced chase, some hustle between the wickets and clever batting. But what we expected and what this series was, and what we expected and what India produced, never matched up. And so our classic Test purist hit.

Washington Sundar hadn't played a first class game in 1144 days. The only reason he played a Test was a global pandemic, and his team went through the worst injury run in their history. Literally, the world had to fall apart for Washington Sundar to play a Test. And this kid making up the numbers in the XI pulled the world's best bowler for six and slashed him for a four next ball. The kid hit.

And then Rishabh Pant. Who was not even selected for the first Test. Who was eviscerated for a shot in the second. Who went out just as he was about to steal the third. And who had been hit so hard in the series, it looked like he would just be another footnote in India's broken tour.  And of course he hit, he dived and paddled; swung one-handed, sliced, pulled, slogged, stroked, and hit.  And hit. And hit.

They were hit, and then they hit.

India was on the ground, and still watching the ball. Even against Australia at a fortress. Even with kids and third choices, India kept watching it, onto the bat, down through fine leg, even as they fell, then rolled. They had their eyes on it from flat on their backs in the dirt as the ball goes into the rope. India beat Australia while lying in the dirt.