India ascend as spin afflicted Kangaroos totter
Reputation can be a deceitful seductress. Often, it is heftier than the fact of which it is a projection. Last Monday, Australia painstakingly discovered this when at the hands of India, it received one of its most ruthless and comprehensive drubbing in recent times.
England had won a series 2-1 in India after being on the disadvantage, having lost the first Test to the spin demon. After the end of the series though, the perceived devastation of India was so much that Dhoni was asked the question as to whether this was the lowest India had plummeted to. Yes, it was a shameful moment for a team which had been demolished 8-0 in foreign lands before this, and had failed miserably in delivering on the expectations to rebound in its own den.
India was now a vulnerable team, which had developed a ‘reputation’ of being susceptible to injury of even the slightest of magnitudes. Australia, meanwhile, were trampling Sri Lanka over. The misplaced confidence from that win, coupled with India’s indigent reputation, made Clarke’s men believe they could flourish.
But the team – which found its four players guilty of not doing their homework – had itself procrastinated much before the series started. Australia came grossly unprepared. It is one thing to not be in form; completely another to look like a fish out of water when spin comes speeding in your way. Other than Clarke, and to some extent Cowan, the kangaroo batsmen have been at odds while facing spin.
England’s fortunes took a swing only when Monty Panesar arrived on the scene and Pietersen came up with a gutsy knock in Mumbai. Add to this the fact that they had two in-form world class spinners in Swann and Panesar. Australia has none. In fact, their current spin attack is so sterile that some of India’s first class spinners may walk straight into this Australian team. The only one who seemed like gaining some ground – Nathan Lyon – was undone by his strange omission in the second Test. The less spoken about Doherty the better. He does surprise with sporadic stinging deliveries, teasing the edges alarmingly. Primarily, though, he remains a restrictive spinner. Keeping this tour in view, Australians should have scouted for and groomed better tweakers in the country. Even Clarke, had he bowled, might have fared better.
Where Australia hasn’t had one genuinely hissing spinner, India enjoyed the luxury of three spin bazookas. Ravindra Jadeja, as a bowler, has been quite a revelation. He would be my name if any nominations were had for the best bowler from either side. At all tide turning junctures, he was the protagonist for his team. Getting Clarke five out of six times, after all, is some feat. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, too, has been contributing his bit. It was his bursting spell in the second innings of the third Test match that put India on course to push for a win.
This performance by Dhoni’s men should be an elixir to a team which not very long ago seemed to be dying a slow death. The current bunch, for sure, is in a gross rebuilding phase, and more than the result, India would be happy at how some blanks have been suitably filled throughout the series. There are some answers now to the openers’ dilemma and the No.7 vacancy. Dhoni’s promotion to No.6 is a wisely thought out move that gives him more time and better batsmen as partners to express himself. Critically, Dhoni’s men have wrested back the initiative every time Australia seemed close to getting to a safety net. That speaks tonnes of this current team’s humongous hunger to win at all costs.
Contrary to Australia, India came prepared, determined to gain lost pride. Ashwin worked with his coach, the result of which was a classic and questioning display of off spin all throughout the series (minus the distracting frequent variations). Tendulkar had been toiling hard in the domestic tournaments. His two consecutive sixes of Lyon signalled India’s resurgence. And in Kohli’s own words, he (Kohli) took time away from the game to get his focus back. Perhaps the humiliation at the hands of the English had spurred the Indians to knock at all doors in order to salvage some self esteem.
Australia doesn’t have much to play for in Delhi. Their resources do wear a more competent look from the bunch that was available for selection during the third Test. However, even a draw at this stage might prove a soothing balm given the abysmal show on display till now. Clarke’s back problem couldn’t have come at a worse time. India, meanwhile, should take care not to get complacent, having tasted a comprehensive success of such magnitude after a long time. A 4-0 score line over an Australian team is more charming than a 3-0 any day. Crucially, clean sweeping the series would be a boost to the killer instinct that this team, at various points, has shown palpable signs of.