They were written off, faced racial slurs and sledging, the underdogs whom no one expected to rise, they were the Indian X1 as they took on Australia in the four part test series for the 20/21 Border Gavaskar Trophy. ‘Doomed to Fail’, ‘Team India Will Go Down Under’, ‘No One Beats The Aussies On Home Turf’ screamed headlines, but little did the naysayers realise that the pitch, like luck, could turn in anyone’s favour.
Team India scripted a memorable victory, an epic win for the relatively young squad lead by Ajinkya Rahane taking the coveted trophy with a 2-1 score after winning the Gabba Test where Australia had never lost a match in 32 years.
Filmmaker Neeraj Pande known for his high octane thrillers such as A Wednesday, Baby, as well as the blockbuster M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story, has documented the historic moment in his series Bandon Mein Tha Dum for Voot Select. “The third test [Sydney] caught my attention, it was a young team almost on the cusp of daring to dream to win that one and on the cusp of losing it and defending it. That was just an amazing graph. And we knew if we had the chance to win this one, this would be the biggest story ever.”
Ajinkya Rahane took over the reins from Virat Kohli post India’s debacle at Adelaide, as India faced the humiliation of the lowest ever test score, 36 all out which was also the lowest ever in the format since 1955.
Recounting the moments as he led the team for the second test in Melbourne, Rahane says, “For me that was something really special when I think back and remember what happened in Australia. I am not someone who gets emotional nor do I express myself much but when we were shooting the documentary, I got very emotional thinking about what we had achieved in Australia, winning the series was truly special.”
The other co-writer in India’s glory is Ravichandran Ashwin, whose legendary partnership with Hanuma Vihari turned the game in India’s favour in Sydney, “I like people coming after me and telling me I can’t. I respond when they say I can’t, I find it hard to respond when they say I can. This was a series where most people around the world had written us off. We got to Gabba unscathed after the draw at Sydney and it was nothing but great communication with Vihari. Cricket is a tough cookie sport. You need to have a mindset to take everything that comes your way and you need to respond calculatedly. Not every time will you be able to respond and come out victorious but this was one such occasion, and we have been documented and one does not realise the magnitude of it,” says Ashwin.
Rahane admits that, post the Adelaide loss, the team focused on bonding with each other, “We didn’t discuss cricket we just had fun together. We knew we had to come out better and our mindset was to give the best to the country and the game. I know there was a lot written about me, but we were clear it didn’t matter what people were saying about us. What was in our control was we could rest, it was about giving our best, I even went off social media.”
Ashwin, who was sledged by Aussie cricketer Tim Paine, says a lot was made of it and wishes he had not reacted to the same, “Tim Paine said something that upset me and I wish I had not reacted, he knew we were in a zone and wanted to disrupt that. I reacted and now feel I should not have, and should have stayed in my zone.”
The players who were in a bubble along with their families say, while being quarantined and playing in a bubble, family support is paramount. Ashwin’s wife Prithi Narayan, who was active on Twitter, had voiced her opinion on many occasions at the treatment being meted out to Team India.
The cricketer says, “Family support does not end with my wife and kids. A lot of people contribute to the support system. No one understands the trauma a player and his family goes through. My parents are hounded by calls—if we win they are congratulated, if we lose, they get calls non-stop to know the whys. In the bubble, things were tough, we had our stress but you need to not let your moods impact those around you and those far away. My wife has been a super hero.”
A man of few words, Rahane admits he is not one to show his emotions and does not believe in expressing what he feels, but he says shooting for the documentary and what they achieved makes him emotional.
Bandon Mein Tha Dam will screen on Voot Select from June 16.