India report card: Cheteshwar Pujara, Jasprit Bumrah orchestrate landmark Test series win

Virat Kohli on Monday became the first Indian captain to win a Test series in Australia, after no play was possible at the Sydney Cricket Ground on the final day of the series. India, ranked No 1 in Tests, came to Sydney 2-1 up after wins in Adelaide and Melbourne to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, and the draw in Sydney gave them a landmark Test series triumph on Australian soil.

CricketCountry ranks the 15 players who featured in the four Tests.

9.5/10

Cheteshwar Pujara: M 4 I 7 Runs 521 HS 193 Avg 74.42 100s 3 50s 1

The most important overseas performance for India of all time? The question has to be asked, given this is the first time any Indian team has won a Test series in Australia. Pujara faced 1258 deliveries, comfortably the most by any batsman; he scored the most runs and the most centuries; he shored up India’s batting where others struggled, including Kohli. His hundreds all came in victories, which is what stands out. In Adelaide, in facing 450 deliveries 123 and 71, he laid down the marker for how to to bat in Australia. With his awe-inspiring batting, Pujara’s message was bold: this is how you win Test matches, and I am damn good at doing it.

Jasprit Bumrah: M 4 Overs 157.1 Runs 357 W 21 BB 6/33 Avg 17 SR 44.9

In Australia, Bumrah claimed a series-leading 21 wickets in four Tests to emerge as the leader of India’s attack. Smart, aggressive with lovely wrist position and quick to hustle batsmen on some up-and-down surfaces, Bumrah’s bowling was a treat to watch and his consistency startling for a bowler in his first year of Test cricket. Started strongly in Adelaide with six wickets, with superb spells on days two and five. On the last day, Bumrah’s extraction of Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine and Pat Cummins in three separate spells proved massive, and without his strikes the result could have been different. Bowled better in Perth without wickets to show for, then turned in a performance for the ages at the MCG. During his career-best 6/33 in India’s win, Bumrah eclipsed a 39-year-old Indian record. The dipping yorkers that accounted for Shaun Marsh and Travis Head either side of lunch were terrific.

8/10

Mohammed Shami: M 4 Overs 136.4 W 16 BB 6/56 Avg 26.19 SR 51.2

You cannot fault the man for not trying. Big heart, big-match bowler. Shami was a constant threat – especially to Australia’s left-handers from around the stumps – while always hitting good speeds. In Adelaide, his five wickets were a big reason for India going up 1-0. Collected career-best figures in Perth, four of which came in the span of 15 runs after lunch on day four, while breaking Anil Kumble’s record for most wickets in away Tests during a calendar year. Only three wickets in the MCG win, but twice he got the nagging Cummins. A smart bowler who punches above his weight, Shami was a vital cog in India’s landmark series triumph.

Mohammed Shami picked up is best Test figures on day four in Per
Mohammed Shami picked up is best Test figures on day four in Perth. ©AFP

Mayank Agarwal: M 2 I 3 Runs 195 HS 77 Avg 65 50s 2

Handed a belated Test debut  after being called up to India’s squad after the Perth Test, Agarwal made an immediate impact with 76 as opener before being undone by a smart short delivery on the ribs which he tickled to Paine. In the second innings at the MCG, as Cummins ran through India, Agarwal stood tall with 42. Played excellently at the SCG, where a maiden Test hundred in his third innings was there for the taking until he found long-on when looking to hit a second six off Nathan Lyon in one over. As a fielder, held three catches, two of them sharp. Against the gloomy backdrop of KL Rahul and Murali Vijay repeatedly failing, Agarwal’s batting was refreshing. He looked the part in Australia and will surely open with Prithvi Shaw once the teenager recovers from injury.

7/10 

Virat Kohli: M 4 I 7 Runs 272 HS 123 Avg 40.28 100s 1 50s 1

Kohli’s biggest role in the series, before a ball was bowled, was to lead India to victory. He did that admirably in the end, in what is his most successful overseas series so far. That he didn’t dominate with the bat is irrelevant. His 282 runs at 40.28 are still the third most for the series, of which that 82 in the first innings at the MCG helped Pujara set up a deciding total. His 123 in the Perth defeat was, man to man, the best individual innings of the series. That India lost that Test – which equaled their worst year ever – owed to in part Kohli’s misjudgement of the pitch, with a fourth fast bowler and no frontline spinner proving a very bad decision. That error aside, Kohli’s field placements were sharp, particularly in the last two Tests. Hopefully his respect for Pujara would have increased multifold.

Ishant Sharma: M 3 Overs 103 Runs 262 W 11 BB 4/41 Avg 23.81 SR 56.1

Led India’s attack admirably, thought out-bowled by Bumrah and Shami. Didn’t get wickets in clusters, but had a good series to cap a successful year in which for the first in his career Ishant averaged under 30 (41 wickets at 21.80). Of his 11 wickets, seven were part of Australia’s top six and he claimed Travis Head three times. Was at his best in Perth where he claimed career-best figures of 4/41 in Australia, during which he snuffed out Australia’s last two wickets to put himself on a hat-trick. Had no-ball issues in the first two Tests, with statistical analysis revealing that the umpires missed calling 16 no-balls by him across two innings.Was left out for the SCG Test, surprisingly.

The replacement killer: Ravindra Jadeja stepped up in R Ashwin's absence.
The replacement killer: Ravindra Jadeja stepped up in R Ashwin’s absence. © AFP

Ravindra Jadeja: M 2 I 3 Runs 90 HS 81 Avg 30 50s 1 Overs 89 W 7 BB 3/82 Avg 28.57 SR 76.2

Like in England, Jadeja played when Ashwin injured himself. The difference was that he made a mark in two Indian victories. Kept a lid on runs while dismissing Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Marsh (twice), Marcus Harris and Paine in the MCG win, then in Sydney dismissed a well-set Harris and Shaun Marsh. Two single-digit scores were followed by 81 at the SCG in a record seventh-wicket stand of 214 with Pant. Can’t really ask more from a skilled allrounder who always finds himself deemed surplus to India’s requirements when an overseas Test starts. It may be time to look at Jadeja ahead of R Ashwin.

5/10

Rohit Sharma: M 2 I 4 Runs 106 HS 63* Avg 35.33 50s 1

In his first Test since January, Rohit batted well to get to 37 before a needless shot across the line cut him off on 37 and raised questions, once again, over his temperament. Missed out in Perth with injury, returned for the MCG Test where he made a fluent unbeaten 63 and 5 – an innings that ended with a poke to slip. Flew home to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. When India next play Tests, Rohit should have moved past Hanuma Vihari for the No 6 spot.

4/10

Ajinkya Rahane: M 4 I 7 Runs 217 HS 70 Avg 31 50s 2

Continues to confound. How has India’s best overseas batsman from 2014 to 2016 ended up like this? The two times he got to 50, Rahane looked very good. In both innings, his intent stood out. In each innings, his dismissals rankle. In Adelaide, flashed a booming drive to second slip for 13 and reverse swept to backward point, when on 70. In Perth, his quite sparkling 51 ended early on day three to cue India’s downfall, and in the second innings he slashed a drive to point. Then came Rahane’s biggest mistake: speaking before the MCG Test, he said he could get a century and possible convert it to 200. He made 35 in two innings, and signed off the series at the SCG with 18.

Seven innings, two fifties: It was another disappointing series for Ajinkya Rahane.
Seven innings, two fifties: It was another disappointing series for Ajinkya Rahane.
© AFP

Hanuma Vihari: M 3 I 5 Runs 111 HS 42 Avg 22.20 Overs 35 W 2 BB 2/53 Avg 47 SR 105

A bits and pieces cricketer, Vihari was singled out for his part-time off spin before he had bowled a ball. Played in Perth, batting at No 6, and scored 20 and 28 and claiming the wickets of Marcus Harris and Shaun Marsh for his only wickets of the series. Was promoted to open as India batted first on day one at the MCG, facing 66 deliveries for eight runs while helping Agarwal play out an hour and 20 minutes before he was removed by a Pat Cummins bouncer. Got a snorter in the second innings, on 13. Back at No 6 for the final Test, Vihari looked far more comfortable as he eased to 42.

2/10 

Murali Vijay: M 2 I 4 Runs 49 HS 20 Avg 12.25

The end is near, if not already here. In four innings, the 34-year-old has managed 49 runs with a best of 20. Thrice he was dismissed by Mitchell Starc, which is further indication, if needed, that Vijay’s reflexes aren’t what they were. At Adelaide Oval, playing his first Test in nearly four months, Vijay got 11 off 22 balls and 18 off 53. In Perth, he made 0 and 20.

KL Rahul: M 3 I 5 Runs 57 HS 44 Avg 11.40

Five innings, 57 runs, of which 44 came in one innings. Around that knock which promised so much more, Rahul has scores of 2, 2, 0 and 9. Are his problems mental or technical? Experts have and continue to debate this, but no matter which angle you observe the 26-year-old’s batting, it is stark that he is a batsman in a terrible funk. Dropped for the MCG, Rahul returned at the SCG and fell in the second over, the same way as usual: edging to the slips. As the veteran cricket reporter R Kaushik wrote in these pages after Rahul’s second failure in Perth, his fate may no longer be in his hands anymore.

One Test:

Kuldeep Yadav 

Got a chance in the final match and made it count with 5/99 in Australia’s second innings. On the pitch where India racked up 622/7 declared, and on which Nathan Lyon bowled 57.2 overs and conceded 178 runs, Kuldeep claimed big wickets despite not being at his best. Three of them were specialist batsmen. Kuldeep is no one-trick pony.

Kuldeep Yadav claimed 5/99 as Australia were all out for 300
Kuldeep Yadav claimed 5/99 as Australia were all out for 300. © Getty

Umesh Yadav

Played as the fourth bowler in Perth and didn’t make a difference, conceding 138 runs in 37 overs for two wickets.

R Ashwin

Much was expected from India’s most experience spin bowler, but once again he was hampered by injury. After taking six wickets in the Adelaide victory, Ashwin missed the second and third Tests on account of an abdominal strain and then, after some confusion, was named in India’s squad of 13 for the SCG Test. As it panned out, he did not play and Kuldeep stepped in with five wickets.