Having let slip the advantage in Perth after a hard-fought win in Adelaide, India got it right in the remaining two Tests – winning in Melbourne and drawing the final. And with that India took a slice of history with them with their maiden 2-1 win Down Under.
From Cheteshwar Pujara’s superlative batting to exceptional show of fast bowlers, several factors shaped India’s victory. DH picks up five such crucial factors.
1. Cheteshwar Pujara’s batting:
The right-hander set the tone for the series with a century and a half-century in India’s 31-run win in the opener in Adelaide. Awarded the man of the match for his effort, Puajara set the template for batting on these pitches that even Virat Kohli had to acknowledge and adopt.
The Saurashtra batsman scored two more centuries to tally 521 runs for the series, the most by any batsman on either side, at an average of 74.42 that made him more valuable batsman than his skipper Kohli.
He was rightly adjudged as the man of the series for making the biggest difference in India’s historic win.
2. Fast bowlers
For the past year, we have been watching India’s fast bowlers make a big impact. From South Africa to England, they fired out the opposition in both innings more times than any Indian attack in the past in a single series.
With batting coming to party in Australia, the Indian quicks looked even more lethal. Jasprit Bumrah (21 wickets), Mohammad Shami (16), Ishant Sharma (11) and Umesh Yadav (2) claimed 50 Australian wickets between them, making Australian batsmen quake in their boots.
They bowled consistently fast, nagging lines and lengths to leave a big impact on the outcome of the series. Where Indian pacers received plenty of praise, the much-hyped Aussie quicks copped a lot of flak.
3. Kohli’s captaincy
Kohli is an excellent batsman and an emotional captain, but his passion often made him overlook prudence – be it his choice of players or bowling changes or sometimes field placements. On this trip, he appeared to have made some progress.
While he did maintain an arm’s distance with rival players on the park, he appeared calm while dealing with his wards. His handling of Pujara, at least on the face of it, was excellent and his marshalling of bowling resources was expert.
Some of the field changes that resulted in immediate wickets also reflected his growing cricketing acumen and showed that he was flexible with ideas and not rigid with set plans. And even though his batting was cold by his standards, he was the third highest run-maker with 282.
4. Change at the top
After K L Rahul and M Vijay let the team down badly with dismal shows in the first two Tests, India summoned the services of Mayank Agarwal who flew down to Melbourne during the long gap between the end of the second Test and the commencement of the third.
India sacked both first-choice openers in a radical step, gave a debut to Agarwal and gambled with Hanuma Vihari as the make-shift opener. Vihari didn’t score much but spent more than 18 overs seeing off the new ball while Agarwal trailed a new blaze with a sparkling 76.
That gave India the right platform to build on strengths. Agarwal notched up 42 in the second innings, the highest Indian score in the innings, and struck another half-century (77) at the SCG in the final Test as India thrived on a confident start.
Last but not least. Captains often play down toss factor as crucial to outcomes but on difficult pitches with potential for deterioration, it’s important to bat first when the conditions are best for batting. India won three tosses on the tour won two of them and dominated the other one. Australia won the toss in Perth and won the lone match of the series.