What does one make of India’s 8-wicket loss at Adelaide inside three days, despite having the upper hand for a significant portion of the Test? Was it a surreal case of Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins being unplayable on the day? Or could India have put up a better fight?
Perhaps a bit of both. Cheteshwar Pujara and Mayank Agarwal got deliveries that would have forced the edge out of batsmen 9 out of 10 times. On the contrary, skipper Virat Kohli, his deputy Ajinkya Rahane and wicket-keeper batsman Wriddhiman Saha played shots unfit for the crisis situation India were up against at Adelaide.
Years down the line, an eight-wicket triumph might mislead people into thinking that Australia dominated the Adelaide Test. Of course, this wasn’t the case. India had their chances, quite a few of them in fact, but failed to grab what came their way.
In the end, all Kohli and co could do was regret the lost opportunities as they walked off the ground at Adelaide - dejected, disheartened and disillusioned.
3 major factors that cost India the Adelaide Test, and the lessons they must take forward
#1. Lower-order needs to start contributing with the bat
The lower-order meltdown has been a recurring problem with India, one that has been ignored since India’s bowling attack has been of the highest quality. This cannot carry on, and Adelaide should serve as a stark reminder.
India might get away with non-contributions from the lower-order in sub-continent conditions. However, against top sides like Australia away from home, this specific weakness will continue to bite India.
Adelaide, where India lost 4 for 11, is no aberration. At Hamilton earlier this year, India collapsed from 132 for 5 to 165 all out in the first innings. At Christchurch, in the first innings, India went from a decent 197 for 5 to 242 all out. The list actually goes on and on.
The problem for India is they have three top-class match-winners in Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, and Ravichandran Ashwin. Umesh Yadav has also been up to the mark of late.
At the same time, they need to contribute with the bat for India. Gone are days when bowlers were in the team just to bowl. India will need to adapt to changing times to make a mark consistently in SENA countries.
#2. Learn how to clean up the tail cheaply
One doesn’t want to make the bowlers look like scapegoats here. Of course, the batting let the team down badly in the second innings at Adelaide, and must take a major portion of the blame for the defeat.
At the same time, Indian bowlers did let Australia off the hook on Day 2. Australia lost the seventh wicket at the score of 111. It was the same old story again as the last three Aussie wickets added 80 runs at Adelaide. In the context of the match, this was massive.
Again, this crisis is not a one-off. If we look at the most recent instances, New Zealand’s last three wickets added 123 for the last three wickets in the Wellington Test, to go from 225 for 7 for 348.
Then, in the next Test at Christchurch, the Kiwis lifted themselves to 235 after being 153 for 7. This time, the last three wickets added 82. From Wellington to Christchurch to Adelaide, only the venue has changed.
With all the analysis and technology available, it is puzzling how India keep faltering in the same fashion, Test after Test.
#3. Drop catches, lose matches
India cannot give any excuses for dropping five catches in a Test match, none at all, especially when three of them were absolute sitters. The team was given enough time to acclimatize themselves to the conditions, and even got a practice game with the pink ball.
In hindsight, this actually proved to be the biggest factor in India’s staggering downfall. Australia captain Tim Paine was on 26 when Agarwal dropped a simple chance at the square leg boundary.
Paine went on to hurt India by adding a further 47 runs at Adelaide. That, he was chosen as man of the match in a Test dominated by bowlers, reiterated how significant his innings was. Whoever said that Paine would be dropped after the series has been made to eat their words by the defiant Aussie captain.
As for India, they better improve their catching in the upcoming Tests. Else, they might as well 'drop' the idea of winning the Border-Gavaskar Trophy from their bucket-list.Published 19 Dec 2020, 16:38 IST