MELBOURNE: The legendary Sunil Gavaskar on Tuesday said it was heartening to see Australian legends heaping praise on stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane for his leadership skills after he led India to a series-levelling eight-wicket win in the second Test here.
Stepping into the shoes of regular skipper Virat Kohli, Rahane showed great character to inspire India to a memorable win at the MCG, just days after being dismissed for their lowest-ever score of 36 in the Adelaide Test, which the visitors lost by eight wickets.
“… you had to be around the Australian commentary boxes to understand the kind of admiration that was there for the way he (Rahane) lead the team amongst some of the Australian legends who were at the commentary box,” Gavaskar told ‘India Today’.
“So that was such a heartening thing to see that he was being praised for his leadership by these guys, someone like Ricky ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Mike Hussey, Shane Warne, they had nothing but praise for Rahane’s captaincy.”
However, Gavaskar made it clear that Virat Kohli is the Test captain and Rahane should make way for him once he returns from his paternity leave.
“Rahane is the stand-in captain and as a stand-in captain or as a stand-in batsman or an new-ball bowler or off-spinner, you try to do your best at that point of time but when the main guy is back again very fit, you make way for that guy,” he said.
Asked if the pressure is now on the Australians, Gavaskar said: “Definitely! This is not something they are used to. Every time they have won the first Test match, they have gone on to win the series, they have gone on to grind the opposition.
“Some of the former Australian cricketers were speaking about a 4-0 win, that India will be blown over etc etc. Now you know what it is. This is not a team which will lie down and allow you to walk all over them. So it augurs well for the Indian team.”
“The Australians have their own problems, finding a good opening pair, they need to find somebody who can get wickets when the fourth and fifth bowler is required. Even India has its own problems, they also have to think about opening batting position and in the middle order but in bowling they have nothing to worry about.”
Gavaskar attributed the comeback to the contribution of the new ball bowlers, who according to him, didn’t allow the Australian openers to form a partnership.
“The new ball bowlers made sure that Australia didn’t get off to a 70 or 100 for no loss on day one, this is the main reason why this comeback was possible,” he said.
“If Australia would have got off to a start, the (Indian) team would have started thinking ‘look that this is not our tour because when we played in Adelaide everything we played was edged but these Australians were playing and missing, getting hit on the pads but still survived and got to 80-90 for no loss’, so that sort of negative mindset can creep in.
“But because those early wickets were taken, that’s the reason the Indian team could think that ‘no we are still in the game, we did well for two days in Adelaide, we had a horrific one hour but we can still do it’ and they have shown us how to do it.”
Debutant Shubman Gill impressed with scores of 45 and 35 not out in his two innings.
Asked if Gill belongs to the big stage, Gavaskar said: “Certainly for the shots that he has played, from his defence and temperament, it appears that this is a long term prospect for India. I am not 100 per cent sure if he should be batting at the top of the order or at number 5.
“Because at the top of the order he takes a few chances and at the U-19 level he was not opening the batting, he was batting at 3 or 4, so may be that is his real position. But no questions, if he keeps improving, India has a long term prospect in their hands.”
Gavaskar also praised the Indian team management for including Ravindra Jadeja (57, 2/28) in the playing XI after he missed the opening Test due to concussion.
“That is one of the bold decisions that this captain or the team management took because to go with Jadeja as an all-rounder meant that India had the perfect balance,” he said.
“In batting, it got little bit of depth and in bowling, they had an extra option which meant Bumrah, Umesh could take a bit of breather and also he is a fabulous fielder.”
Opener Mayank Agarwal had a forgettable outing so far in the two Tests but Gavaskar said he should be given another chance.
“Mayank has shown good temperament over the last one-year-and-a-half. I would not be harsh on him. I will give him another go, let him and Rohit (Sharma) open in the third Test and it is upto him whether he tries to curtail that back lift and narrow that stance that he has and look to get better.”