Australia vs India 2018-19: Why this was Team India's best ever tour
Australia were without the banned trio of Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft. And that was clearly visible in the lack of depth and penetration in their batting line-up. They missed the stability, aggression and the quality those batsmen would have provided.
But given the conditions and the players they were pitted against, India were clearly the better team in all formats of the game. The T20I series that preceded the Test series gave us an indication of the confidence and skill of this Indian team under Virat Kohli.
After losing the first T20I, they bounced back in the series decider to put on a complete show to level the series 1-1. They were clearly the better side in the T20I at Melbourne and if rain had stayed away, they could have come back after winning the T20I series too. However, they had to settle with a 1-1 series outcome in the shortest format.
Despite impressing and coming close to winning the Test series in England and South Africa last year, they could not quite seize the big moments. Some victories and individual contributions were note-worthy, along with the exponential rise and growth of Kohli.
But heading into the Test series against Australia, India knew they had the best chance of creating history. But a few questions remained to be answered which would determine the outcome of the Test series:
1. Apart from Virat Kohli, could the other batsmen step up and deliver?
2. Could Rishabh Pant, preferred over Dinesh Karthik, establish himself as wicket-keeper batsman?
3. Could the bowling attack, which had impressed tremendously in England and South Africa, win games in Australia?
4. Who would be the openers? With so much chopping and changing, could someone make that spot their own?
Numerous positives from the Test series
The Test series in Australia answered all these questions with an emphatic yes. In tough conditions and match situations, Cheteshwar Pujara produced his finest performance for India. His resilient, solid, confident batting outshone Virat Kohli’s excellence or Rishabh Pant’s exuberance. It was completely his series - the way he took control of the opposition and wore their bowlers out set up India's victory.
In Mayank Agarwal, India have found the solution to end their opening woes overseas. His outstanding run of form for Karnataka ensured his inclusion into the Indian Test team. He did not show any nerves when he stepped out to make his debut at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
India had been waiting with bated breath for someone to show some confidence and assurance at the top of the order when they would travel overseas. Mayank Agarwal looked the real deal against the swing and bounce on offer at MCG and Sydney.
It has to be seen if he can display consistency but for now India have definitely found some solidity at the top of the order who can give some breathing space for the likes of Pujara, Kohli and Rahane.
Pant’s impressive wicket-keeping skills, coupled with his attacking batsmanship, was another major positive from the series. He is not yet the complete cricketer as far as wicket-keeping and batting go. But, certainly he can be backed and trusted with to take the Indian team forward especially considering he has age on his side.
And last but not the least, it has been a long time that an Indian bowling attack surpassed and outclassed an opposition bowling attack at their own home. Jasprit Bumrah is clearly shaping up to be among the best bowlers in the world across all formats. This tour was a significant step in him moulding him towards greatness.
After creating history by winning the Test series on Australian soil which was the first time an Asian team did that, India carried on their positive momentum into the ODI series. The ODI series belonged to MS Dhoni and the depth in the bowling attack.
Dhoni roars back to form
With 193 runs in 3 matches, Dhoni proved why his experience is required for this Indian ODI outfit heading into the ICC Cricket World Cup. His solid knocks and calm finishing ensured India could get over the line in the last two ODIs after being 0-1 down in the series.
Looking ahead, Indian cricket seems to be headed in the right direction. The inevitable temptation to bank only on Kohli has reduced which is a positive sign for the team across all formats.
This will be a tour which will go down in history and remembered for some time. India's stint in Australia was highlighted by Kohli’s aggressive captaincy along with the growth of Pant and Bumrah as match-winners.