By Veturi Srivatsa
Can India regroup and make a series of it against Australia after their so-close-yet-so-far performance in the Adelaide Test? The answer is yes and no.
Yes, if they can take the positives from the first Test and add certain plus points. India will be bolstered by the return of their captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Australia’s loss of Michael Clarke. The batting was not all that fallible in both the innings, barring their losing the plot, post-dismissal of opener Murali Vijay.
No, if they go back to their wild old ways of bowling, refusing to learn from their mistakes, and batting mindlessly, swinging at everything that came their way to timidly play into the bowlers’ hands like they did in England and here three years ago.
Dhoni should take the hint from his deputy Virat Kohli, who in his absence led the side in the first Test, and should look his Australian counterpart in the eye to convey the message that he, too, means business.
Conventional wisdom tells us that a loss in the first Test invariably pulls a team down, more so in India’s case, going by their past record, but then this team showed the game and gumption to stand up to the Australians in the series opener that was played in unusual circumstances.
Australia played for their teammate, the late Phillip Hughes, while the Indians could not play for their hero and stand-in captain who brought them to the doorstep of a sensational victory on a turning fifth-day pitch.
Former Australian greats have triggered off a debate over the future of Dhoni as the captain. On the basis of Kohli’s showing as the skipper on his debut as captain, Ian Chappell and Mark Taylor want Dhoni sacked like football coaches, forgetting that he has been named for the entire series and missed the first Test only because of a thumb injury.
Even the Australian selectors did not treat Michael Clarke unkindly. They have named Steven Smith as his deputy who will lead the side till the captain returns. If Clarke doesn’t return to international cricket, as he himself fears he may not, Smith will carry on. It is only to assure Smith that he is going to be the future captain instead of going to the 37-year-old Brad Haddin as a stop-gap arrangement.
Kohli’s time will definitely come sooner than later, probably after the 2015 One-Day International (ODI) World Cup, and in his case, other serious contenders are sidelined, while the experienced guys are not sure of a permanent place in the eleven. Kohli has charmed quite a few, both at home and overseas, with his aggressive captaincy.
Normally, people are not too critical of a captain in his first Test. Kohli silenced the pundits by camouflaging his shortcomings with his brilliant batting, hitting back-to-back hundreds in the Test.
Interestingly, 26-year-old Kohli matched his wits with the 33-year-old Clarke and now at the Gabba, Smith, 25, will be battling it out with Dhoni, also 33.
While Smith said he wouldn’t tinker with the team’s philosophy and game plan much, Dhoni said every captain has a distinct style, sending a message to the opposition that the Gabba pitch doesn’t terrorise his side.
Dhoni is clear that if the Australians are thinking they can rattle the Indian batsmen by including Jos Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, two of the fastest purveyors of the new ball in the country, he has young men who not only can bowl equally fast but also seam and swing the ball prodigiously. For good measure, he has also reminded his hosts that India have won on some of the fastest pitches in the world — for instance Johannesburg, Durban and Perth — in recent years.
To buttress Dhoni’s argument, only on the last tour the Indians were completely routed. On the tours previous to that, in 2003-04 and 2008, they have done well to come close to winning the series but for some unforeseen happenings.
In 2003-04, Sourav Ganguly, like Kohli in Adelaide, batted India to an honourable draw at the Gabba that lifted the side’s morale to win the second Test and dominate the drawn fourth Test after losing the third. The side retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy after the 1-1 drawn series thanks to some splendid batting from Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman and they gave the bowlers enough to bowl at.
On the 2007-2008 Monkeygate series, India lost the first two Tests, the second one after taking a first-innings lead, scoring 532 runs in reply to Australia’s 463 in the first innings, but rallied to win the third at Perth by 72 runs. India posted over 500 runs for the second time in the series in the drawn fourth Test at Adelaide.
This only shows that Indian players can bat and bowl on the pitches Down Under. All Kohli needs is a couple of other batsmen to consistently contribute for the team. On these lively Australian pitches, Zaheer Khan, Rudra Pratap Singh, Irfan Pathan and Ishant Sharma bowled their hearts out to baffle the Australian batsmen in that series.
Now, India have bowlers clocking around 145 km per hour speed and all that Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami need to do is to maintain a good line and length. Ishant and Bhuvneshwar can be handful with their accuracy, swing and seam bowling. (IANS)