The recently concluded India vs Australia test series was undeniably one of the more evenly contested series that we have seen in the recent times. Some experts even went on to call this series as the best since Australia’s tour of South Africa back in 2013-14.
The series began on a wrong note for the Indians as they were thumped by the visitors on a rank turner by a huge margin of 333 runs. But the hosts came back well to wrap up the 4 match series 2-1. Throughout the series we saw a see saw battle between the two teams. One side punched, the other counter-punched and this is how it went on till India found a way to come out on top at the crucial junctures of the series. Visiting captain, Steve Smith, went on to say that he was proud of the way his players competed throughout the series especially after many experts had written them off completely at the beginning of the series.
This series was an eye-opener for cricket fans all over the world in an unique way and in this article I have pointed out a few lessons which every cricket fan learnt from this series :-
Kohli is no alien
After making truckloads of runs in the season including four double centuries in four consecutive test series, finally Virat Kohli had a bad series!! His epic form with the bat in all three formats of the game made ex-English captain, Michael Vaughan, conclude that he was from some other planet. But finally the law of averages caught up with Kohli. In the series against Australia, Kohli played 3 matches and managed a meagre 46 runs in 5 innings. Now that’s a meagre meagre by Kohli’s standards!!!
To make things worse he also injured his right shoulder in the third test match, leaving the command of the team in the hands of debutant captain Ajinkya Rahane for the series decider in Dharamshala.
Ajinkya Rahane >> Karun Nair
When Karun Nair was dropped for the first test match at Pune after making an unbeaten triple hundred against England in his last test innings before that match, questions were raised that what does this guy need to do to get into the playing eleven. Some experts believed that Rahane, who was in the team for the first test match, should have made way for Nair. But the team management went ahead with Rahane considering that , although he was yet to score a double century in his career, he had given phenomenal performances across all conditions. Nair on the other hand was just 3 test matches old and hadn’t been tested well enough at the highest level.
As things turned out, not only did Rahane outscore Nair in the series but his leadership abilities also came handy in the series decider at Dharamshala.
Indian batsmen too can be troubled by spin
Many touring teams in the past have considered playing a spinner against India futile as Indian batsmen have always been one of the best players of spin. But every now and then, there have been instances when Indian batsmen have faltered in the face of good spin bowling. First it was Swann and Panesar in tests, then it was Santner and Sodhi in the World T20 and this time it was the combo of Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe which troubled the Indian batsmen in their own den.
In the first test match, which was played at Pune on a pitch which was turning from day 1, O’Keefe picked up 12 wickets for 70 runs and he was ably supported by Nathan Lyon who picked up 5 Indian wickets. Against the guile of these two, the ‘best players of spin’ could only manage scores of 105 and 107 in their two innings.
In the second test also Lyon began well by picking up as many as 8 wickets for just 50 runs in the first innings. However, the Indians batted better against the Australian spin duo in the second innings and went on to win the match even after conceding lead in the first innings.
Both Lyon and O’Keefe picked up 19 wickets apiece in the series. Only Jadeja (25) and Ashwin (21) had more in their wickets column to show.
Steve Smith’s Versatility
Along with Kane Williamson, Joe Root, Faf DuPlessis and Virat Kohli; Steve Smith is considered as one of those batsmen in the world who can rule World cricket for quite some time in the coming future. Where Smith seems to have beaten all these batsmen is in performance away from home. Where most other batsmen do considerably well at home than away, for Smith it has hardly made any difference. Having already scored hundreds in England, South Africa and Sri Lanka, Smith slammed 3 more centuries in this series to prove that he is definitely the most versatile player in the world today. The fact that he got 3 centuries on tracks where even Indian batsmen couldn’t score more than one triple digit score, makes it all the more special.
Indian Pacers can be a handful too
When teams tour India, there focus is always on the combination of Ashwin and Jadeja. And rightly so, as these two, now also the two best bowlers in the world according to ICC test rankings, have always been the wreckers-in-chief for India. Indian pacers or medium pacers have only played a second fiddle to the spinners. But the Indian cricket fans were pleasantly surprised when they saw Australian batsmen swaying and hopping in their crease against some good mean fast bowling by Indian pacers.
Umesh Yadav in particular deserves special praise for the manner in which he bounced out Australian top order in the final test at Dharamshala and thereby ensuring that the batsmen don’t have to chase down a big total in the final innings. He ended up as the highest wicket taker among faster bowlers with 17 wickets in the series.
Indian Team’s catching needs massive improvement
Indian cricket team has never been the best fielding side in the world but it has always had those reliable and safe pair of hands on which the bowlers could rely to grasp most, if not all, opportunities offered by the batsmen. But the recently concluded series showed that the best Test team in the world right now might also be the team of worst catchers. In this series, catches were being dropped at every position on the field, from difficult ones to regulation ones. Both the first 11 players and the substitutes contributed in dropping catches generously. If not for this generosity then Steve Smith might not have ended up with almost 500 runs in the series.
The Indian fans, however, would be hoping that this was just a result of some exhausted bodies in the field due to a lengthy season and next season the team would be back to its best in fielding department as well.