Who should be blamed for the meek surrender of the Indian batsmen, especially in the second innings of the first Test at the Adelaide Oval? Is it the team combination - bringing in Prithvi Shaw as an opener - that's the culprit? Is it the run-out of captain Virat Kohli in the first innings due to a misunderstanding in the middle with his deputy Ajinkya Rahane? Or is it the overconfidence of the 54-run first innings lead that led to an utter lack of focus in the first session of Day 3?
For those who follow Test cricket religiously, this sort of batting display from the Indian batsmen - that too after spending days in Australia - is inexplicable.
India ended up losing the opening Test by eight wickets. And it would be fair to say the team didn't look anything like the one that won the Australian series two years ago.
A lot of cricket is still to be played in the four-match series, but India’s golden chance of starting the series with a bang has been completely destroyed. Now, a team without Kohli will be left to play the catching up game rather than going for the kill.
The Adelaide Test was the best opportunity for the Indians to put pressure on the Aussies, but the visitors lost the plot completely.
Just like they did in their other recent opening Tests away from home – dropping Ajinkya Rahane in South Africa, Cheteshwar Pujara in England and Wriddhiman Saha in New Zealand – the team management again went in with a specialist opening combination by getting Shaw into the playing XI. Perhaps the team was repaying the Mumbai opener for the good work he has done in the past, but it clearly wasn't the best idea.
In hindsight, KL Rahul or Shubman Gill would have been far better bets. But then again, Rahul isn’t in the team as a back-up opener.
But the problem isn't just with the young players. Even established batsmen like Rahane and Pujara – who are only supposed to play Test cricket – need to get their act together.
Pujara did perform decently against the Australian pacers at Adelaide, but against off-spinner Nathan Lyon he wasn’t as fluent as he was expected to be. Even Rahane did reasonably well in the first innings despite a horrible mix-up with Kohli, but he pushed at an away going delivery just when India needed a partnership in the middle.
From the looks of things, if these two batsmen don’t mend their ways in the next few games, this could well be their last tour of Australia.
The last time India went Down Under, one of the national selectors had made a telling statement about India vs Australia Test series. He had said that India’s only and best chance to win in Australia was in 2018-19, because the hosts were without the services of David Warner and Steven Smith.
Interestingly though, Warner didn’t play the first Test while Smith only scored two runs in the entire match. So what horrors are in store for India during the remaining three matches?
All Indian fans would be praying that the team shows a semblance of fight before series is over. The ghosts of the batting collapse in Adelaide are likely to haunt the Men in Blue for a while. And the Australian bowlers - in particular Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, who did everything right by pitching the ball in the right areas and allowing the bouncy pitch to do its bit - would have their tails up for the rest of the series.
Unlike their batting, India’s bowling looks fairly alright on paper at this stage of the series. But the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Ravichandran Ashwin need some runs on the board to defend, and it remains to be seen whether the Indian batsmen can do that in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.Published 19 Dec 2020, 17:41 IST