The bilateral series between India and Australia is over. I can’t recall the last time any team beating comprehensively beating the Ausies in this fashion. Ever since I have been watching this exciting sport (which is about 30 years), I have never seen Australia visit for a cricket tour and come back without managing a single win or a draw. The only two games that they didn’t lose were the two ODIs that were rained out and technically they did get a draw out of practice tour game. India on the other hand showed all the reason as to why they deserve to be the #1 ranked test side and how they can maintain it going forward. It has come full circle now, as ten years ago (1999-00), India had the embarrassment of losing all their games to the mighty Australians down under.
This series, even though a short one, reminded us of those days in late ‘90s early ‘00s when Steve Waugh and his boys would just steam roll any side in the world during test cricket, irrespective of whether it was home or away. Agreed, that India has to do a better job on their away record, especially in Australia, South Africa, and Srilanka, nations where they have not one a series in last 2 attempts. However, I believe, this is a good start. Remember, prior to Waugh’s record-breaking streak of Test win as captain, It took a while for Australia to enjoy success in India, South Africa and West-Indies. So, yes it is a building process. What India has shown (Since Sydney 2008) is they can bounce back even from adverse conditions. They did that in Srilanka (2010), against South Africa (2009-10) to comeback and level the series and have shown tremendous character in crucial game situations against England (Chennai) and Australia (Mohali) to snatch a win.
In fact, since the infamous Sydney test India has not lost a single one to Australia in the last 8 attempts and has won 5. This is the longest drought the Australia is suffering against any other test playing nation. It is also to be noted that the up rise in Indian Cricket has coincided with the downfall in the Australian Cricket. Ever since the famous four have left the scene, Australia record has been 16W-10L-6D in 32 tests. Not only the success rate has dipped to 50% (from the 73% during the famous four era when they won 76 of 104 tests) but 12 of those wins have come against West-Indies, Pakistan, and New Zealand. While India and South Africa have beaten them 4 and 3 times respectively. If you take the 6 Tests against the depleted West- Indies side out of the equation then the success rate drops further to 43%.
The problem with current Australian side is lack of consistency and bench strength. Remember the 2006-07 Ashes when a classy Damien Martyn had to retire after 3 tests, just because he had a few low scoring innings, or even back to 2005 Ashes when Hayden’s place in the side looked in trouble until he scored a ton in the last test and now we have average blokes like Marcus North hanging on what seems forever in spite of series of inconsistent performances. Genuine hard-workers like Stuart Clarke have to sit-out while any Tom, Dick, and Peter George seem to get a test cap. Gone are the days of Warne the magician and the best they can produce is a Hauritz.
The other major problem with Australia is the leadership. Ricky Ponting is undoubtedly the best Australian Batsman of this decade, but, unfortunately when it comes to captaincy, he is nowhere close to his last three predecessors. In his first 4-5 years, he successfully deployed the “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke policy” very well, but he hasn’t been up to the mark in dealing with attrition. He has made some tactical blunders like bringing in slow bowlers at Nagpur to improve the over-rate when seamers had dominated a session and given his team a hope of leveling the series, or not using Shane Watson – the bowler, at all on the last day at Mohali, even after Bollinger was indisposed. His reluctance to bowl first since the Ashes 2005 loss, probably caused them a test against Pakistan in 2010.
What was startling to see in the recent series was the lack Australian “Team Collective performances”. We witnessed some individual brilliance in the 1st innings of both tests but then second innings, on both occasions, was a complete team failure. India outplayed them in skills as well as thinking. Even in the ODI, in spite of a White blitz, Australia had to watch India youngsters just take the game away in a professional and calculated assault. This victory is not just disappointing but also demoralizing for the Australians. The only reason Punter is hanging on the Skipper’s tag is because his deputy is not lighting the score-boards on fire. Pointing, who not too long ago must have been dreaming about probably being the only captain in the world to win three World Cups, now has to avoid being the only Australian Skipper to lose three Ashes.
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav