India legend Sunil Gavaskar says Ajinkya Rahane’s gritty century in the Boxing Day Test will go down as one of the most important innings in the nation’s cricket history.
Just days after the tourists were skittled by Australia for 36 in an embarrassing Adelaide collapse, which led to an eight-wicket defeat in the first Test, Rahane led a stunning fightback to give India a strong first-innings lead at the MCG.
It came under huge pressure after the 32-year-old was called up to stand in as captain after Virat Kohli returned home to be with his partner for the birth of their child.
Rahane survived two dropped catches on day two but showed plenty of composure as he forged partnerships of 50-plus runs with Hanuma Vihari and Rishabh Pant, before putting on a triple-figure stand with Ravindra Jadeja for the sixth wicket.
He was eventually run out by Marnus Labuschagne for 112 – having added eight runs to his overnight tally – as Jadeja needlessly pushed for a quick single in an attempt to register his half-century.
It left India 6-294, with a lead of 99.
“I believe that this hundred is going to be one of the most important hundreds in the history of Indian cricket,” Gavaskar told the Seven Network before play resumed on day three.
“Important because it’s showing character, sending a message to the opposition that after being dismissed for 36 in the previous game, to come back in this manner, this Indian team is not going to just lie down and be walked all over.
“That is the message and that’s why I think this is going to be one of the most important hundreds in the history of Indian cricket.”
At the end of play on Sunday, Rahane earned praise from teammate Shubman Gill for showing fight against the odds.
“This knock was all about timing and patience,” Test debutant Gill said.
“Importantly, sometimes against a high-quality bowling attack you go into your shell and then you’re not able to score runs.
“But the way Rahane played, it was such a magnificent knock (to watch) from outside.
“Those tough periods, he saw off those tough periods, and then with the loose balls he was making sure he put all of them away.”
Rahane’s 12th Test hundred was his second against Australia and second at the MCG.