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Australia v India

Why India’s mid-innings message in Sydney was never delivered to Ashwin & Vihari

Ashwin Vihari
by Wisden Staff 4 minute read

Ravichandran Ashwin, on his YouTube channel, has hilariously revealed how, during his epic Sydney partnership with Hanuma Vihari, reserve player Shardul Thakur was sent from the dressing room with a crucial bit of advice to deliver to the duo, but decided against giving it.

Earlier this month, Vihari and Ashwin engaged in one of the most memorable lower-order rearguard acts in recent history, facing a combined 289 deliveries to force the third Test against Australia to a draw, and keeping India’s hopes of a series win alive at 1-1.

Along the way, they had to deal with Australia’s fired up bowling attack. Ashwin, in a chat with fielding coach R Sridhar, recalled how difficult it was to counter the “unbelievable” Pat Cummins, whose spell he said was never complete “without getting hit on the body”.

Sridhar revealed how, as the day progressed, a tense Ravi Shastri was worried about the India team adding more men to its injury list, especially with the “uneven bounce” in play, and was constantly yelling instructions from the dressing room.

“‘Ask him to wear his pads, covering his ribs,'” Sridhar said, imitating the head coach. “‘Cover them all. We have another series coming up as well.'” He then decided to send another message via a reserve player during a drinks break.

“He had a clear message,” said Sridhar. “He called Shardul Thakur (and said) ‘Shardul, come here and tell them that I told this specifically.’ He (Shardul) was almost shivering. He said ‘ What should I say, sir?'”

‘Tell Ash, that I told him’, Shastri replied.

‘What should I tell him, sir?’, Thakur enquired.

“(Shastri said:) ‘Ashwin should take care of this end, and Vihari should bat from the other end. Ashwin is the best batsman against Nathan Lyon in this entire team. So he should bat from this end. He has a huge stride which helps him negate spin so well. Vihari is managing Starc and Cummins really well, getting underneath those bouncers. So ask them to continue’.”

“This is happening from the dressing room,” Ashwin said, admitting that the two batsmen had their “tunnel vision” on, and were oblivious to everything else around them. “We don’t know anything about this.”

“Then out came Shardul,” Ashwin continued, “running out from the dressing room. He was catching his breath when he reached us. We were like: ‘Just say it man’, while drinking water.”

“Shardul said: ‘They told me so many things from the dressing room’.”

“Yes, please tell” (Ashwin said).

“‘But I am not going to say any of it,” Shardul replied. “You guys are doing a great job. So please continue.”

“Seriously? This is the message?!” Ashwin said, “Why did you come all the way for this?”

Even coach Sridhar admitted that the team didn’t know that the message was never given: “We thought he had conveyed the message!”

In hindsight, Thakur’s undelivered message didn’t do much harm, as the two stuck around till the end of play, helping India survive 131 overs in all, the third-most overs faced in the third innings of a Test in Australia in over a decade.

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