Former Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar is mighty impressed with the character shown by India against Australia during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. India have been marred with injuries with as many as five players getting ruled out, but the way the team has bounced back in spite of the rising number of injuries and the beating in Adelaide - irrespective of how the series ends - is something to be extremely proud of, Akhtar reckons.
"Most of their players are injured but this is the beauty of the Indian team that despite all the setbacks, they are playing with kids (referring to debutant T Natarajan and Washington Sundar, along with Shardul Thakur and Mohammed Siraj) who never would have thought in their wildest of dream that they'll have to play against Australia in such a scenario. With Australia coming with full strength and India stopping their onslaught, I'd believe that this half Indian team is better than fully-fit Australia," the former quick said on a video on his YouTube channel.
India first lost Mohammed Shami after the Adelaide Test when the fast bowler fractured his right arm. In the Melbourne Test, Umesh Yadav sustained an injury on his right calf muscle and was subsequently ruled out. Ahead of the Sydney Test, India received a major jolt when KL Rahul fractured his wrist while batting in the nets, which marked the end of his tour. And during the SCG Test, India endured two more blows with Ravindra Jadeja dislocating his finger and Hanuma Vihari tearing his hamstring. All this after Virat Kohli had already returned to India after the first Test.
To recover from the humiliation of Adelaide, where India were bowled out for 36 – their lowest total in Tests – and beat Australia in Melbourne before securing a legendary draw in Sydney where R Ashwin and Vihari batted out more than three hours and over 50 overs is the stuff of legends, and if India were to even draw the Brisbane Test, the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2020/21 should be considered their greatest Test series of all time, Akhtar mentioned.
"With so many injuries, only two big-name players are left - Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane. Inexperienced Indian players are up against a ball of fire but they are making sure that Australia is being tested. Now imagine, if with this team, India can grab hold of this Test match, I would assume this would become India's biggest Test series in history," he said.
India are already without two of their premier bowlers in Ashwin and Jasprit Bumrah in the Gabba Test, who have missed it due to back spasm and abdominal strain respectively. Add to that the groin injury sustained by Navdeep Saini, India are already a bowler short in the match. Despite such setbacks, India showed grit to bowl Australia out for 369 in the first innings, picking up the last five wickets for 95 runs. Debutants T Natarajan and Washington Sundar, and into his second Test, Shardul Thakur picked up three wickets each.
"You enter the final Test but you don't have the team. And yet, they're fighting. This is the character I'm talking about. I won't call it a B team, but if with this they are able to strengthen their grip on the Test, and even if are able to draw, I'd believe it will be a historic moment. There's a lot to be proud of," Akhtar said.