The word ‘Chutzpah’ is derived from the Yiddish language and denotes the quality of audacity, for good or for bad. India and Australia epitomized this audacity in incredible measure in the nail biting test match concluded today at the Adelaide Oval. Michael Clarke, to the best of my knowledge is bereft of the gift of prescience. For if he would have had the gift of crystal gazing he would have been thrilled to possess the knowledge that the home and the host teams would engage in a tooth and nail epic to ‘dig in’ to preserve their honour and reputation – a ‘dig in’ befitting the brilliant eulogy delivered by the Australian captain at the funeral of Philip Hughes.
The Adelaide Test played out in the somber backdrop of the untimely and unbelievable tragedy striking Philip Hughes and the entire cricket world not only provided some of the tautest and nerve racking moments but also has set the tone of things to follow in the series. This match has been full of Chutzpah. The temerity of David Warner, the tenacity of Nathan Lyon, the titillating brilliance of Virat Kohli, the talismanic genius of Michael Clarke, the tempestuous resurrection of Steve Smith and the telling gumption of Murali Vijay combined to contrive one of the most competitive and clinical clashes epitomizing the beauty of this wonderful game.
Apart from the obvious cliché of cricket being the winner, the first Test Match between Australia and India has symbolized in no uncertain fashion, the primordial tenet of the game taking precedence over all extraneous factors. The last day of the game at Adelaide was a classic illustration of the pure magic that is the sole prerogative and privilege of cricket. An attainable target being defended by a bunch of attacking bowlers who pitted their might against a set of adroit batsmen whose singular objective was to thwart the in intention of their opponents.
The baggy green numbered 408 leaving its imprimatur on the turf was a benevolent spectator to the horripilation adorning the day’s play. While Nathan Lyon cunningly wove rings around a bunch of bemused batsmen, Virat Kohli exuded authority and oozed audacity. The aura of the chasing specter which had put paid to the hopes of many a vaunted bowling attack was looking to establish its reputation against the desperately fighting unit from Down Under. When the day’s play began the stage was set for a riveting climax to 4 days of entertaining and explosive cricket. Australia’s run feast in the first innings was given a fitting riposte by the adamant response of the Indian batsmen. When the Aussies aided by a second successive century by David Warner declared their second innings, they left the tourists 364 runs to get on the 5th day to clinch the first test match. What followed was Test Match cricket at its glorious best.
Shikar Dhawan departed early with the scoreboard showing a paltry 16. The attacking southpaw, as replays showed later, was desperately unlucky to have been judged caught behind with neither the bat nor the glove being remotely close to the ball. When the reliable Pujara nicked Lyon to Haddin, India were firmly on the back foot, having lost two wickets for a meager 57. Enter Virat Kohli. The India captain leading his side for the first time had already notched up a memorable century in the first innings, unfazed by a blow to his helmet off the very first delivery he had faced. He had to do a Houdini act twice in a row. Ably supported by the dour Murali Vijay, he proceeded to blunt the Australian onslaught with a combination of finesse and fury. Snappy wrists and scintillating footwork combined to send the ball scurrying to all parts of the ground. With Vijay commendably holding his own, India reached a position of near impregnability by tea. It was after the small break that the proverbial uncertainties of the game took a stranglehold on proceedings. Kohli reached his second century of the match, matching David Warner’s exploits and securing a place alongside Greg Chappell as the second captain to have scored two centuries in his first match as captain. A nervy Murali Vijay agonizingly departed with his score on 99, courtesy the wily Nathan Lyon. Having enjoyed the rub of the green on more occasions than one after having survived a couple of perilously close leg before appeals, Vijay finally perished to the delight of the Australian contingent. Rahane’s tenure at the crease lasted a mere 5 balls before he was wrongly given out caught off his pads by the close in fielder off Lyon. When a visibly clueless Rohit Sharma top edged Lyon to Warner at leg slip India had proceeded from a pristine 242-3 to a precarious 277-5. All the while Kohli was holding his own with a judicious blend of aggression and alacrity.
Wriddiman Saha rewrote the rules of stupidity by recklessly charging Lyon only to get his stumps castled. A stroke in perfect indiscretion especially considering the fact that in the same over he had carted the spinner for a soaring six and a swept four off successive deliveries. With the score at 304 and the new ball yet to be taken, the prize scalp of Kohli was secured by the Australians when a rasping pull led to a clumsy catch by Mitchell Marsh. Marsh later in his post match interview was candid enough to admit that he almost “shat himself” while attempting the high pressure catch. Lyon had bagged 10 in the match and the game was now Australia’s to lose. The former World champions as expected completed the last and formal rites and won the game by 48 runs deep into the last hour of play by dismissing the three remaining Indian batsmen.
A Test Match to cherish had come to a climactic end and the winners after huddling into a tight embrace rushed towards the turf where the number 408 had been imprinted as a tribute to the departed Philip Hughes. It was a moment of utter sobriety for both the victors and the vanquished. Cricket had triumphed against all odds and the portentous apparition in the form of the Philip Hughes tragedy had been wrested. News that Sean Abbott had bagged a career best 6-14 in a first class game also gave the added fillip to a demoralized word of cricket.
Shane Warne once remarked – “To me, cricket is a simple game. Keep it simple and just go out and play”.
Two spirited teams adhered to this basic credo and simply played a game of game of cricket from the 9th of December till the 13th of December 2013. Their simplicity created a beauty unsurpassed in splendor and unrivaled in quality. They simply went out and played, played what might have turned out to be the best game of their lives.
A game that would have met with Philip Hughes’s wholehearted approval. A game of sheer Chutzpah!