Ravindra Jadeja’s (C) bowling has been a huge revelation for India in the series against Australia © PTI
By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Amidst a bit of drama, India clinched the series 3-0 in the dying minutes on the fifth day at Mohali. While the first day was lost due to rain, the home side made up for it with a dominating performance that has inflicted more misery on Australia. The resounding scoreline has given India numerous reasons for joy as they head into a long haul overseas. The machinery seems to be in place and a 4-0 victory will take the cake with the cherry on top of it.
If one is to analyse India’s last two victories, one would find that a solitary huge partnership has made the game for India. Given the platform set by the openers, India should have gone on to make a bigger score. For the second consecutive game, the middle-order has failed after a big stand upfront. At Hyderabad, India lost wickets in a heap after the Cheteshwar Pujara-Murali Vijay show. The pattern was eerily similar at Mohali as India managed only 210 runs after a fantastic 289-run opening partnership. While the two collapses haven’t damaged India’s chances, introspection is nevertheless required.
Peter Siddle’s point perfectly illustrates the situation as he said that the huge partnerships have hurt Australia. That one partnership at the top has set up the game for India. Take that away and there isn’t much to talk about. The exception was the first Test at Chennai; where it was a complete team effort with the bat led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s heroics.
Nevertheless, the biggest positive to emerge is Murali Vijay as he has given ample evidence of his Test temperament. Living in the shadow of his Indian Premier League (IPL) exploits, the Test player Vijay was eclipsed. That player has come to the fore. What is impressive is that he is ready to spend time at the crease and convert starts into big scores. The usual cross-batted and flashy strokes we see from him in the IPL were put away as he was very orthodox and level headed in his approach.
In context of the upcoming tour to South Africa, Vijay’s rich form is encouraging. You need someone to stay in the middle and show patience in such testing conditions. Dale Steyn and Company would test him, but he has the right approach to tackle them. On the other hand, Shikhar Dhawan has become the toast of the town with his jaw-dropping knock on debut. The openers coming good are good signs for India. They will now fly to South Africa a more confident unit. The new firm would have to adjust their game, but there is a certain feel-good factor about them.
While, the partnerships may have made a huge difference, the batsmen have looked good individually. Cheteshwar Pujara continues to grow in stature as a solid player. With all the years of hard work at the domestic level behind him, he has the knack of guiding the innings and rallying the team around him. Still young in Test cricket, his maturity and cool temperament is laudable.
Sachin Tendulkar’s return to form has been a heartening development. His positive footwork and the intent to play strokes has been heat-warming. It shows that he is slow getting back in the zone. However, one doesn’t know if he would continue through to the South Africa tour. India would want him to travel to the Rainbow Nation as his absence would leave a huge hole in the middle.
Through all that, one must not forget Virat Kohli’s role in the last two games. During the collapses, he held firm at one end and was determined to see it through. The thing about him is that he grows with each passing game and his ability to learn from his mistakes is what allows him to do that. Rarely, do you see him committing the same error and even if he does, there is an expression of disappointment on his face.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni took things late in the run-chase at Mohali, but otherwise seems to have got his attacking mojo back in Test cricket. These victories are a big shot in the arm for his captaincy and his confidence would be back as a captain and as a batsman. Never a person to show his emotions, he would be a very happy man deep within.
The seamers have done their bit as well. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is very dangerous with the new ball. What he lacks in pace, he makes up for with copious movement. His early bursts have rattled the Aussies, before the spinners came on to make things tougher.
Ishant Sharma has struggled for quite some time, but his spell at Mohali was good and it is imperative that he builds on it. However, India needs a third seamer in South Africa and they should hope for Umesh Yadav and Zaheer Khan to be fit to give them options.
The spinners have stamped their authority at home with Ravichandran Ashwin leading the way. Pragyan Ojha missed out on the first two Tests and did a decent job at Mohali. Ravindra Jadeja’s bowling has been a huge revelation as many felt that it was only suited to the one-day formats. However, he needs to assert himself with the bat to establish his spot as an all-rounder.
The only fly in the ointment is India’s unwanted tendency of allowing the opposition’s tail to wag. That has cost them a few games away from home. They cannot let South Africa off the hook given their dominance there. All in all, things look good for India as the team has done well as a unit with each man rising to the occasion in the need of the hour.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)