After the hurt, a resurgence is expected
The best thing that the hosts can do now is to stay positive, forget the happenings at Pune and start afresh in Bengaluru
As Australia took a deserving 1-0 lead in the four-Test series, it ended India’s 19 match unbeaten streak. The loss at Pune was only the fifth instance of India having lost a Test at home in three days or under. The last time they suffered such an agony was against Australia when Steve Waugh’s side defeated them in 2000-2001 at Mumbai. Incidentally, that Mumbai track was meant to aid the home side, much like the one on offer at Pune last week.
The questions being asked in the days since the Pune debacle are pertaining to the strategy of preparing a pitch that offered blatant assistance to spin bowling. Needless to say, the pitch boomeranged on the hosts. Visibly, the Australian spinners were able to exploit the wicket more than the Indians. Their sustained pressure with the ball ensured that India buckled. This, coupled with the batting debacle in first innings meant that a comeback in the second essay was impossible for the hosts.
For the Indian side, Virat Kohli is always the “X-factor” as a lot depends on him every time the side goes out to bat. At Pune, there wasn’t a single Indian batsman that looked comfortable and lack of application certainly didn’t help their cause.
No doubt that it was a difficult wicket to bat on but it was no different from any turner that they might have experienced in their careers. That the Indian batsmen lasted a mere 74 overs in the entire Test match shows their callous approach and utter lack of application. It seemed more like a practice game and less like an international Test match. A hint of overconfidence perhaps? The team alone can answer that best.
Beating the bat doesn’t win matches
As for the bowling, the fare on offer presented curious viewing. Picking up 20 wickets and adapting to the conditions in quick time makes all the difference to the eventual outcome of a match. While R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja bowled superbly and beat the bat regularly, they didn’t pick up wickets in the manner that O’ Keefe did.
Despite the pitch offering very little for the fast bowlers, Umesh Yadav bowled remarkably well and was a treat to watch. His brand of accurate reverse swing bowling that yielded six wickets was surely worthy of praise. The only disappointment in the bowling department was Jayant Yadav. For all the promise that he showed in his debut series, a two-wicket match-haul and limited impact on a track that turned square is anything but acceptable. He definitely needs to pull up his socks.
In totality, to suggest that India did not bowl well would be an unfair evaluation. A case of luck not favouring them? Perhaps yes, if you are a believer.
The Indian fielders weren’t entirely helping the team’s cause either. “Sitters” being dropped by close-in fielders is a major concern.
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The team combination under scanner
The team combination for the second Test will undoubtedly be looked at. There are even calls for Karun Nayar’s inclusion. If this indeed happens, India will be going back to the tried and tested 7 batsmen and 4 bowler combination – one that has won them many a Test match in the past.
But would the inclusion of an additional batsman solve the matter? It’s a tricky call and the combination depends on the nature of the wicket. Should India decide to play with four bowlers, the two spinners will surely have to bear the bulk of the pressure. The way I see it, India is unlikely to change the combination merely due to the fact that they lost the first Test. If the conditions are anywhere similar to what we witnessed in Pune, it’s highly unlikely that any changes will be made.
If anything, Hardik Pandya might just come in for Ishant Sharma. Pandya can bowl quick and could provide a much-needed cushion with the bat.
For a win to be attained, India must carry on with their five bowler strategy. The Indian all-rounders will have to up their game in the second Test and I am confident that they will step up and deliver.
The best thing that the hosts can do now is to stay positive, forget the happenings at Pune and start afresh in Bengaluru.