Ashwin, a 36-year-old all-rounder from Chennai, has scored five centuries in an illustrious 88 Test career. But his batting masterpieces are not tons, or even half centuries. Like the unbeaten 42 he produced on Sunday, these are lessons in how to handle demanding situations that life sometimes throws at you, occasions when an individual’s temper and courage are truly tested. On Christmas morning, in tandem with the equally equanimous Iyer (29 nays), Ashwin formed an unbroken 71-run partnership to deliver a nervous three-wicket victory for India. He was once again Team India’s hero and savior overseas. And his breaks had once again taken precedence over the back seat.
Remember January 2021 against Australia in Sydney, the day Ashwin couldn’t bend down to tie his shoelaces, but punched and fought for over three hours with a limping Hanuma Vihari to win a game draw that looked like a win. This round denoted a challenge. Remember him against Pakistan’s Mohd Nawaz at the T20 World Cup in Melbourne last month. Only someone with the nerves of the iceberg could impassively unleash the game’s final delivery to claim a wide in this thrilling encounter. This cameo also underscored his situational awareness and singular commitment to getting what needs to be done. And that too, without shouting “Ben Stokes”.
At Mirpur, Ashwin again exhibited the best traits – defiance, awareness and composure – from both of those shots. And then added a new dimension, calculated aggressiveness, to complete the IPL style job. Dropped on 1, Ashwin didn’t give the hosts a second chance. Bangladesh kept his head in his hand, appalled at how he managed to prevent that quick delivery from pacesetter Khaled Ahmed and was equally confused when he changed the channel to hit 19 runs on the last 8 balls he faced. In his last over, Mehidy Hassan Miraz, the deadliest bowler of the day, was hit for 16, including two fours and one six longer. This shot was surely the bravest of Ashwin’s Test career.
Key moments: how India managed to seize Mirpur thriller to whitewash Bangladesh
Key Moments – How India Landed Mirpur Thriller To Whitewash Bangladesh
The test might have been watched by fewer people than the MCG game. But its impact is immense. 2-0 series sweep maintains India’s spotless Test record against Bangladesh and keeps captain KL Rahul and company in second place and in the hunt for next year’s World Test Championship final. A defeat would have pushed India into fourth place in the table.
Partnered with Ashwin, Shreyas Iyer, the 28-year-old Mumbai middle-order bat, has always been. Unlike every other frontline hitter, Iyer didn’t seem troubled by the pitch as he built the most valuable fourth-inning shot of his brief Test career. It was his offense against Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan, particularly a head kick against the spin, that changed the tenor and mood of the game. With this round, Iyer has earned his spurs.
Over the decades, India has been involved in many memorable overseas Test pursuits including Oval 1971, Port of Spain 1976, Kandy 2001, Brisbane 2021. But Mirpur 2022 was a triumph by the widest margin. narrow. To use an oft-used but apt phrase, it was a victory snatched from the jaws of defeat. That’s what makes it extra-special.
Victories, unfortunately, tend to bury uncomfortable questions. But there is no doubt that Rahul and Kohli failed to reach even 25 in any of the sets they played. The only player with a worse batting average than them was point guard Mohd Siraj. Regular captain, currently under repair, Rohit Sharma has also been well below his best. It would be interesting to see how Team India take on fearsome visitors from Australia in a four-Test series starting in February.