Teamwork like never before
Seldom has Indian cricket witnessed a brand of fighting spirit displayed by this crop of players.
There has been enough and more said about the controversies that transpired in the India-Australia series for the Border-Gavaskar trophy. Perhaps even more than the cricket that was played. It was unfortunate as the brand of cricket played was a feast for the cheering fans.
An India-Australia series brings out the best in everyone as there is so much at stake. Australia may have lost the series but they certainly proved the naysayers wrong. They weren’t given much of a chance before the series but they have now proved that they are a team to reckon with.
India was visibly taken aback by the intensity of the Australian display. If their spinners were effective, their pacers made life difficult for the hosts. And Steven Smith was at the middle of all of this - orchestrating his band and leading from the front with the bat.
Test cricket is meant to have twists and turns and this series provided it in ample measure. While the pitches in the series have come in for criticism, the curator at Dharamshala must be lauded as it had plenty and more for all.
The pace bowlers got pace and movement, batsman got runs when they applied technique and the spinners came into the game in the second innings.These are the kind of wickets India needs to play on as the benefits are twofold - they improve as cricketers and great cricket is produced.
Playing like a unit
For Virat Kohli and the team management, this series will be an eye opener as the team fared better on good Test wickets when compared to absolute turners.
Making all this possible was perhaps the greatest teamwork that India displayed in a long while. While batting has always been a great strength for India, I have always believe that it’s important to take 20 wickets for winning a Test Match.
To my delight, the Indians played five bowlers at Dharamsala and in doing so, rectified their mistake from the last match. Playing Kuldeep Yadav proved to be a master stroke.
The youngster’s 4 wickets in the first innings were crucial for restricting Australia’s total to 300 runs. Kuldeep, a rare commodity, had the visitors hopping about. The Australians were clueless as the sought to read the spin off the wicket, rather than from the hand.
The Indian fast bowlers bowled brilliantly through the series. Umesh Yadav bowled with hostility. It was a breakthrough series for him.
He has now evolved into a bowler who can intelligently use his pace, swing and control to fox batsmen. The two bouncers he sent down that screamed past Matt Renshaw were unlike anything I have seen from an Indian fast bowler in a long time. He is getting stronger with every series and the skills on display is only a reflection of his hard work.
Meanwhile, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar is doing his bit by picking up crucial wickets from the other end.This duo will be lethal when India play abroad on seamer-friendly wickets.
Ravindra Jadeja has grown by leaps and bounds. He scored runs every time India needed them. Who would’ve thought that he would end up with 6 half centuries in this domestic season - on par with Virat Kohli, Murali Vijay and KL Rahul.
His improved batting is an icing on the cake for the team. As a bowler too, he has gone from performing a containing role to often being the striking option for Virat Kohli.
For someone who was used to playing second fiddle to R Ashwin, this improvement has ensured that India’s spinning options were robust at all times during this long home series.
If there was one person that “missed out” in the entire series, it was Virat Kohli. A string of low scores culminated in an injury that ruled him out of the all important series decider.
While this would’ve perhaps been a deterrent in the past, India had another backup handy to fill in when needed. In Ajinkya Rahane, India has found a cool and composed leader to complement the red hot Kohli.
It was wonderful to watch a home-season dish out 13 Test matches with quality cricket and the Australia series serving as the mouth watering show stopper.
The series was a perfect advertisement for Test cricket and ought to be preserved in cricket's hall of fame. Every time there’s talk of the demise of the five-day format, series’ such as this serves as a reminder that Test cricket will always be the real deal.