India complete formalities

Hosts post eight-wicket win over Australians to go one-up in four-Test series

India complete formalities

India’s victory was a mere formality to be completed on Tuesday, the fifth day of the first Test. They did it in just 81 minutes, plucking the last Australian wicket without leaking too many runs and then scaled down the small target – 50 – in 11.3 overs for an eight-wicket win. 

It indeed was a clinical effort by India over the last five days with them finding men suited for each occasion at the right time. 

Off-spinner R Ashwin exploited the dust bowl at Chepauk to grab 12 wickets from the match, skipper MS Dhoni produced a defining 224 – for himself and the team – to provide India the decisive momentum, Virat Kohli chipped in with a hundred at a most crucial time while Sachin Tendulkar was in his fluent mode and prevented Australia from snatching early advantage.

In many ways, all these aforementioned men needed those outings to escape from the past failures and questioning glances. For the time being, Ashwin will not be grilled for his inability to cash in on turners in the recent past, questions will not be asked about Dhoni’s captaincy and his place in the Test side as a batsman, while the recent dry runs of Kohli and Tendulkar will be pardoned.

But even in the hour of a victory that provided more positives, one hitch is so glaring – continuing failure of the openers. The prolonged slump of Gautam Gambhir had forced the selectors to replace him with Murali Vijay in the squad for the first two Tests. But the Chennai right-hander failed to make an impression at the MA Chidambaram stadium, his home ground, giving his wicket away playing loose shots in both the innings.

He fell to James Pattinson on both the occasions, trying to play expansive drives and unless he finds a way in Hyderabad to play more compact cricket he may have to make way for either Gambhir or Shikhar Dhawan for the third Test. However, Dhoni had a couple of words of comfort for his team-mate at Chennai Super Kings.

“If you look at the stats you may say that (it is a worry) but you need to give them a fair amount of time. Vijay has played this game, and let’s continue with him and give him some time and that comfort of saying he is wanted here,” Dhoni offered.

Virender Sehwag too is in a similar situation. Playing with corrective glasses, the Delhi Dasher was a remote shadow of his destructive self in the first Test, often prodding around like an amateur.

But Dhoni expressed his confidence in Sehwag, and hope that he would find his range sooner than later. “About Viru pa, I’ve said this plenty of times before, when he scores runs, he looks a fantastic player. When he doesn’t score runs, you can question the shot he played or the way he played. He’s someone who’s always played with that sort of flair.

“There was not much pace in this wicket. In the first innings, he was unfortunate because he middled the ball, yet it came back and fell on the stump. In the second innings, there was not much pace for him to play freely. So, I think we just need to give him more time… at times we get very critical about stuff like this. We all know he is someone who can change the course of the game; he’s an attacking player. So, let’s go forward with that kind of an attitude,” Dhoni explained in detail.

Despite that strong backing by his skipper, even Sehwag will be aware of the need to have big runs against his name. Here, he might have been unfortunate in the way he was dismissed in the first innings, but in the end calculations only runs matter and so far he has not showed any signs of regaining his run-making ways.

In that context, he has a model to follow in Sachin Tendulkar. The master batsman too was going through a trough recently, but a stint for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy and Irani Cup helped him iron out certain flaws, and now appears as keen as ever.

At his beloved Chepauk, Tendulkar showed his confidence on the day, smashing Nathan Lyon for two successive sixes to bring a quick end to the chase. It was also a beacon for the way ahead.

With the second Test starting in a few days’ time at Hyderabad, heroes of the first Test should attempt an encore, while the foot-draggers should aim a revival.

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