After having lost the toss in the Boxing Day Test, Team India needed to take early wickets and especially of Steve Smith, who had come into the game on the back of a stupendous record at the MCG.
And, that is exactly what the tourists did. After Jasprit Bumrah dismissed opener, Joe Burns, Ravichandran Ashwin was introduced in the attack as early as the 10th over and the ace spinner went on to dismiss Matthew Wade before strangling Steve Smith for a duck with the leg-side ploy.
Ashwin, during an interaction with fielding coach R Sridhar on his official Youtube channel, revealed that it was Ravi Shastri who had asked him to bowl in the first session as he had felt that the dampness in the pitch will aid the Tamil Nadu spinner.
“After we lost the toss, Shastri came to me and went “ashhhh”. I was wearing my pant and suddenly taken aback! I said yes Ravi bhai. He roared in typical style ‘get the ball in the first 10 overs’. Ravichandran Ashwin revealed.
“I was like get the ball in the first 10 overs in Melbourne? He said “I’ve told Jinx, it’s damp and might spin’. As he said, I got the ball early… and the ball spun immediately. I was like wow, what’s happening!'” Ashwin said.
R Sridhar then went on to reveal the mood in the Indian dressing room during the first session.
“We were sitting in the coaches’ box. The three of us were sitting with Hari, the analyst. Ravi bhai came in and thundered ‘I have told Jinks to bring Ash on early. He has the mental edge over Smith,” Sridhar said. The ball will surely do something. It’s a red ball not a pink ball. I’m waiting. I want to see him bowl inside the 40th minute’. And he was clapping furiously,” he added.
“And then when you (Ashwin) got the ball in your hand, the bowling coach was super excited. He was like, ‘Something is going to happen now’. Ashwin’s first ball itself fizzed and bounced; my heart was beating fast,” he revealed.
“My first thought was ‘Oh dear, how is Rishabh Pant going to keep to Ashwin on this wicket’. He was under pressure, was playing his first game. So that was running on my mind, I wanted to tell him to stand 2-3 inches behind. I called Saha and told him my thoughts immediately. I was hoping we’ll get 4 wickets before lunch,” Sridhar said.
The move worked brilliantly as India reduced Australia to 3-37 in the morning session and then went on to dismiss the hosts for a sub-200 total. Ajinkya Rahane’s brilliant hundred helped India take a decisive lead before the bowlers came back to do the job again as Team India pulled off a dominating 8-wicket win at the ‘G.