Young brigade comes to the fore

A set of youngsters served India well during their 4-0 series win over Australia
Last Updated 25 March 2013, 19:26 IST

There is this mischievous profile of Ravindra Jadeja in Wikipedia, where the readers can edit information, that sarcastically calls him a philanthropist, a two-time Laureus sportsman of the year, and, more indignantly, a Nobel prize winner!

For long, the Saurashtra player, who has two triple tons to his name in Ranji Trophy, has been unpopular among majority of cricket fans and experts alike. Branded a limited-overs specialist, his selection to the Test side was met with as much surprise as ridicule.

However, after finishing the series against Australia as the second highest wicket-taker, the all-rounder may expect some kinder reactions from the fans. Not that he would be bothered but the left-arm spinner, who capped off a memorable series with man of the match award in the final Test following a fine all-round show (43 runs and 7 wickets), will surely be delighted at justifying the unflinching faith that skipper MS Dhoni placed on him.

Once referred to as the ‘rockstar’ by his Rajasthan Royals’ captain Shane Warne, Jadeja made crucial contributions with the ball throughout the series before assuming the lead role in the Delhi Test. The 24-year-old made more news for making Michael Clarke his bunny, dismissing the Aussie skipper five times in six innings, but his bowling was much more than that. Jadeja gave little away when the ball wasn’t doing much keeping the pressure on and he was virtually unplayable when he was able to get the ball to turn.

No doubt, Jadeja’s was the most compelling story of the India-Australia series. It was also one of the several success stories around which India constructed their most robust resurgence. Having hit the nadir after the two 0-4 whitewashes in England and Australia, India needed a similar drubbing of their opponents to atone for the humiliation. They suffered a reversal against Alastair Cook and company, crashing to a 1-2 loss to plumb the depths and not many would have backed India with genuine confidence to fare any better against Australia.

India, though, found multiple heroes at various stages of this ridiculously lopsided clash to record their best performance in a series, a 4-0 triumph.  It all began in the opening Test in Chennai with Dhoni leading from the front. His blistering 224 clearly set the tone for India’s domination. His knock did leave the Australians demoralised, but before he took over, Sachin Tendulkar’s 81 and Virat Kohli’s 107 in the first innings at Chepauk ensured that India didn’t surrender the early momentum.

R Ashwin, the highest wicket-taker with 29 scalps from four Tests, then came into his own with a 12-wicket haul for the match that scarred the Aussie psyche against the turning ball. The tall bowler did struggle against England but he was man enough to admit that he had a problem. He worked on his shortcoming in the short gap and came out with flying colours. The off-spinner didn’t win a single man of the match award, yet he walked away with player of the series honour underlining his overall impact.

No praise can be too high for the way Cheteshwar Pujara batted in the series. The right-hander’s double ton, the third hundred of his fledgling career, in Hyderabad was top drawer stuff but the ease with which he slipped into the opener’s slot in Delhi was equally impressive. The Saurashtra batsman braved an injury to his finger to comfortably guide India through a tricky fourth-innings chase with a confident unbeaten half-century.

Pujara’s opening role was necessitated by a finger injury to Shikhar Dhawan who took the world by storm with the fastest century by a debutant in Mohali. The left-hander’s 174-ball 187 injected life back into the Test that was heading towards a draw after the first day’s play had been washed out. His partner M Vijay, too, showed signs of realising the huge potential that he had left untapped. Both his hundreds -- 167 in Hyderabad and 153 in Mohali -- were overshadowed by knocks from Pujara and Dhawan but the immense value of those knocks wasn’t lost on anyone. The right-hander finished as the top run-getter with 430 runs to herald a new chapter in his career.

In a series where spinners ruled the roost, bagging 65 of the 78 wickets to fall for the bowlers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar had his moments with the new ball. Twice in two Tests -- in the first innings at Hyderabad and in the second innings at Mohali -- the UP pacer grabbed three wickets apiece to set the match up for India.

Not but not the least -- Dhoni’s captaincy. With his job hanging by the thinnest of threads, Dhoni pulled the rabit out of his hat to not only script a great turnaround in India’s fortunes but clearly established himself as the undisputed leader.

(Published 25 March 2013, 19:26 IST)

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