By Ian Ransom
(Reuters) - Of all the behind-the-wicket banter that Australia captain Tim Paine has served up in 35 tests, his narky comment to Ravichandran Ashwin may end up the one he rues the most after India's incredible series-sealing win in Brisbane on Tuesday.
"Can't wait to get you to the Gabba," Paine snarled at the Indian spinner before Ashwin helped bat the tourists to a galvanising draw at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Paine had good reason to feel confident Australia would rise up and crush India in Brisbane, a ground where the home side were unbeaten since 1988.
Ajinkya Rahane's India were unravelling, with the last of their first-choice bowlers suffering series-ending injuries.
Australia's vaunted pace attack of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood was still intact, and salivating at the prospect of the Gabba's steepening bounce.
With Ashwin ruled out of the series finale with a back problem, wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant delivered the ultimate riposte on his behalf by smashing a brilliant 89 to guide India to a three-wicket win.
It seemed scarcely possible that India would save the match, much less win it after being set a victory target of 328 runs on day four.
The highest successful chase in a Gabba test was in 1951 when Australia finished 236 for seven against the West Indies.
Yet Australia's bowlers could do little to stem the tide as Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara and Pant humbled them with three match-winning innings.
Paine gave full credit to India's bravery in classy post-match comments but was jeered by sections of the crowd at the so-called "Gabbatoir".
Further brickbats will follow as the Australian public digest how their cricket team could fall to such injury-ravaged opponents.
Paine was also in charge when Australia lost 2-1 to India in the 2018/19 series on home soil, yet Australia were weaker then and India were stronger.
Former players and pundits had already turned on Paine after Sydney, criticising his conduct and his tactics in the draw.
While the acrimony will only grow after Brisbane, 36-year-old Paine said he would not voluntarily hand the captaincy to a team mate, no matter that it might help him prolong his career.
"I still feel like I want to get better. We’ve got some unfinished business ... and I intend to finish that," he told reporters.
"I’ve said many times in the last two or three years that I don’t look past the next series.
"I’m loving it. I’m going to cop heaps of flak, I know it.
"That’s what I signed up for ... I’m totally fine with that."
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Nick Macfie)