By Karthik Parimal
The Australian cricketers have always been an expressive bunch. It is a trait that is vivid prior to the commencement of a series, irrespective of the opposition. Oftentimes, a current player, or a member of their alumni, is seen making a statement, either to push buttons or to simply express something as a matter of fact. Or, in some cases, both. In the past, they possessed the artillery on the field to back their pre-match taunts; they had substance. Steve Waugh’s entourage of stalwarts were so adept at it that they spasmodically won games even before the first ball was bowled.
It’s a strategy that has paid rich dividends for the Australians in the past, and hence, it’s understandable that the current crop of players have looked to follow suit. “Definitely, we have the resources to beat India. [Mahendra Singh] Dhoni is under pressure after recent results and we have the upper hand in pace bowling and our batsmen are among runs,” said an assertive David Warner before the first Test at Chennai. One could understand where Warner was coming from, since England — a side with a well-documented history of underperforming in the sub-continent — claimed its first series victory on Indian soil in 28 years. It was also India’s first series loss at home in eight years.
Sensing that the hosts were aggrieved, helpless and currently at their lowest ebb, the Australians certainly believed that this was their best chance to conquer the Indian frontier. For the first time in years, the once-feared batting line-up was devoid of the services of Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and, also one of its regular openers. It was also believed that the Indian bowlers, sans Zaheer Khan, would seldom cause distress, for if the out-of-form Ravichandran Ashwin, and Pragyan Ojha, were handled, then there would be little to worry about. In fact, the Australian dressing room was probably thrilled to see the latter’s name excluded from the team sheet during the first two Tests.
However, from Day Two of the Chennai Test, the visitors went gone down a slippery slope. Despite sporadically showing restraint, they conceded key moments of the game, and were beaten by huge margins. The hammering the Australians received at Hyderabad resulted in their tenth-biggest loss in Test history. As if the severity of defeats weren’t distressing enough, internal turbulence has only made matters worse. Against a demoralised side, it’s safe to say that the Australians have squandered the opportunity to build on a solid foundation. Most batsmen, barring Michael Clarke, have been found wanting against spin, and cracks much wider than those on the sub-continent tracks have been surfaced in the line-up.
Whether Australia can recuperate quickly from this unnerving tour remains to be seen. Having arrived in India with the intention of sharpening their knives before the back-to-back Ashes series, while simultaneously proving to their detractors that the ammunition to confront decent spinners was indeed present, the Australians have digressed quite alarmingly. They appear to be more perplexed than before, and this does not augur well for a team that will soon be undertaking some major assignments. Many from the cricket fraternity have already thrown their weight behind the statement that this is one of the weakest touring Australian teams in a long time. There is little possibility of that perception changing after the Delhi Test.
As for India, it is commendable that the youngsters have stepped up to the plate and have shown signs of carrying the mantle forward. Whether this performance means anything for the future tours of South Africa, New Zealand and England is difficult to say, but for now, they can give themselves a pat on the back. Like Dhoni said, albeit in a totally different context, it’s sometimes good to live in the present.
Moreover, you can’t ask for more when the scoreline reads a perfect three out of three. A fair idea of India’s improvement could have been deduced had it immediately toured South Africa after the ongoing series, without the Indian Premier League (IPL), Champions Trophy or the West Indies triangular tournament to play in between. There is no denying the fact that the current bunch has the potential to script noteworthy performances away, but this topic can be put on the backburner for now. It would be foolhardy to predict how the newbies shape up eight months from now, against one of the most fearsome attacks in the world.
Australia, though, will know that they’re in a rut and are prone to be a butt of jibes, especially from the rival camp. It will be some time before they can back their pre-series verbal duels with results on the field, there is no denying that, but for now they will have to find a quick, efficient way of reversing the tide.
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/