Ajinkya Rahane: Draw at SCG 'as good as winning a Test match'
Praises Pant, Ashwin, and Vihari for chipping in 'for the team's cause' amid raft of injury concerns
To Ajinkya Rahane, who remains unbeaten as India's Test captain thanks to the amazing rearguard to bat out 131 overs in the fourth innings of the SCG Test, the draw is as good as a win. India had to fight great odds as they started with an already depleted side but then Ravindra Jadeja, Rishabh Pant, Hanuma Vihari and Ravichandran Ashwin sustained injuries during the Test.
"For me this is as good as winning a Test match," Rahane said. "When you come abroad and play a match like this, it was really special. Credit to [Hanuma] Vihari, [R] Ashwin, the way he batted, [Cheteshwar] Pujara, Rohit [Sharma] at the start and also Rishabh [Pant]. I think everyone chipped in for the team's cause but credit to those two guys who batted almost two-and-a-half house till the end."
In the end, with five wickets still in hand, the match might not have reached the thrilling crescendo some of the great Tests do, but Rahane said the afterglow of this draw will be bright. "I am extremely proud of the way we played and I think the whole nation would be proud of us with the way we have played after Adelaide," Rahane said. "Melbourne and today, these were different games, we made a good comeback with a win.
"If we have to talk about today, Australia was dominating in the first innings but from 200 for 2, they were all out for 330. Credit goes to our bowling unit for taking the last eight wickets in 130-odd runs. Obviously they batted well in the second innings but I think today will end up being one of the most memorable days in Indian cricket. Perhaps we cannot get the magnitude of today's achievement right away but possibly after the series we will realise it.
"It was a special day for me as a captain. I believe that we cannot really control the result but it's imperative to fight till the end. That's the main thing I've learnt in cricket, to keep fighting till the end. This Test match was almost similar. That's why the result is as good as a win for us. When we play overseas and save such a match, it's a special feeling and I am proud of everyone, the players and the management."
One of the moves Rahane made as captain was to promote Pant ahead of Vihari to partner with Pujara. Rahane said it put a right-left combination and also split two batsmen who rely more on defence. "About Rishabh's batting number, we discussed and had that strategy and that paid off but credit to him," Rahane said. "Going out there at No. 5 - the captain or the team management can make strategies - but in the end it's up to that individual to actually go out there and deliver for your team and Rishabh did that for us. The way he counter-attacked, the way he actually managed his innings throughout the day was really good to see.
"About his character, we know that he can actually win games for us from any situation. We have that belief in any him. I think he is improving day by day as a cricketer, which is a very good sign."
Vihari, who batted at No. 6 because of the move, ended up injuring his hamstring but batted out 161 balls to see India through to safety. "We knew Vihari was batting well throughout the last three Test matches," Rahane said. "Unfortunately he couldn't get those big scores. Today, we all saw a special knock. I thought his knock was more special than his hundred. The way he batted after getting injured, to show that motivation, that hunger, to hang in there for your team was really good and that's what we want from each and every individual.
"To show that character on the field, because it's all about what the team wants. Credit to him, the way he handled himself. There was pressure, yes, but the way he managed his batting, his injury, it was really special to see."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo