India’s Test series victory against Australia in 2020/21 will go down in history as one of the best comebacks by a touring side. The side had faced a humiliating defeat in the first Test in Adelaide, being reduced to a mere 36 in the second innings of the match and eventually conceding an 8-wicket defeat. Moreover, Virat Kohli, then-captain of the side, left for India due to personal reasons to add to the team’s woes. However, under Ajinkya Rahane, India made a terrific comeback to win matches in Sydney and Brisbane to clinch the series 2-1.
One of the key contributors to the side’s dominant comeback was young wicketkeeper-batter Rishabh Pant. The youngster was benched for the first Test in favor of Wriddhiman Saha, but the side’s stunning batting collapse forced the team management to include Pant from the second match onwards. The 24-year-old wicketkeeper didn’t let the side down, as he smashed 274 runs in three games including an unbeaten 89 at the Gabba in the second innings – a knock that steered India to a famous series win.
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R Sridhar, India’s then-fielding coach, has now lifted the lid about what he was doing alongside Pant when the side’s batting order was tumbling down like a pack of cards in Adelaide in the first Test.
“In the 2021 series against Australia, it was a toss-up between a better WK and a better batsman, and the vote went to Wriddhiman Saha. At that time, he was the best wicketkeeper in the world. But then, the 36- all-out happened.
“You won’t believe, on the Day 3 morning when the wickets got tumbling, Pant and I were outside on the practice pitches, working on keeping. We kept hearing these loud ‘oooohhhs’ and thunderous applause at Adelaide Oval. And we were both like, ‘Oh I hope it’s not a wicket’. And after about 20 minutes, we aborted our keeping session and came running into the stadium to see what the score was,” Sridhar recalled on cricket.com.
“It was 21/7. Me and Rishabh were like, “What has just happened here?!’ We didn’t even see it live.”
Sridhar said that in that moment, the team management realized that the side needed a left-hander in the lineup. “And then, we realized that we don’t have a left-hander in the top-6. We had all the right-handers. We wanted to bring a left-hander in the series and we got Rishabh Pant. He played from the 2nd Test and the rest, as they say, is history,” said Sridhar.