India’s triumph over Australia a moment to remember, and one to learn from for hosts

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January 07, 2019 16:31:01

Eventually, the Sydney weather showed Australia the mercy India would not.

It was an ending more befitting the hosts’ series than that of the triumphant visitors, as the quite literal doom and gloom took over and ensured the game and series ended with a whimper.

Imagined scenes of Virat Kohli charging around the infield, fists clenched while roaring to the heavens at the fall of the final wicket were replaced with befuddled groundsmen and hand after hand of 500 in the players’ changerooms. Cricket is a punishing game, but arguably never more so than when it can’t be played.

India deserved more, but it’s unlikely Kohli’s men would care.

That the series ended in such underwhelming fashion should not take away from the size of India’s achievement. This side has come to Australia and done what the teams of Tendulkar, Gavaskar, Dev, Kumble, Shastri and Dravid never could — leave as winners.

At the height of its powers in 2004, Australia’s series victory in India was considered era-defining, the greatest accomplishment of Australia’s greatest generation. This reverse result and these Indian players must be held in similar esteem.

Indian stars deserve to become the stuff of legend

Kohli’s series probably fell short of whatever KPIs he had set himself in November, but he would do well to forgive himself. Australia’s obsession with the Indian captain blinded it to the threat of the others, and still couldn’t stop him peeling off the most skilful century of the series in Perth.

He has brought spark to a summer that has lacked star power. Kohli embraced his natural role as public enemy number one, though his actual villainy extended only to some over-celebrating and disputing one contentious catch. He led with distinction and is worthy of his place in Indian cricket history.

But he was far from the only star. Cheteshwar Pujara lurked and lingered and sucked the life out of Australia, torturing Australia’s bowlers for hours on end. The scorecard will tell you he got out a few times this summer, though that may just be an urban legend.

Similarly Jasprit Bumrah will likely be a bowler who will linger in folklore, the six-foot trundler who bowled off three steps with elastic shoulders, and blasted out Australia like few before him. Conventional cricket wisdom would tell you an Indian fast bowler, let alone one with an action like that, can’t come to Australia and beat them at their own game. He’s sure made a mockery of that.

There’s Rishabh Pant, who burst onto Adelaide Oval with an explosion of untapped energy and by Sydney had concentrated it with laser focus. Mayank Agarwal came in halfway through and caused a minor meltdown — how on earth can India have a batsman like that on the bench, if Australia can’t even find one to start?

The Indian bowling group — quietly led by Bumrah but with show-stopping performances from all of Mohammad Shami, Ishant Sharma, Ravi Ashwin, Ravi Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav — hatched themselves a plan so cunning you could brush your teeth with it, but crucially distanced themselves from previous tours’ Baldrick-esque efforts by executing it with terrifying precision.

It was an ambush, really. India sniffed opportunity and promptly snuffed out its opposition, undeterred by history or the false dawn of Perth.

Cool Australian heads can prevent another Argus

That level of assuredness and preparedness stood in such stark contrast to Australia who, for reasons which have been debated to death, were caught on the hop and fell woefully short.

The result at Perth Stadium, which brought with it such hope for the rest of the series, now serves only to help draw comparisons between this series and the Ashes of 2010/11, the last time a touring side snuck through Australia’s gates and dismantled it so thoroughly.

The aftermath of that particular series was catastrophic. Many of the problems faced by this current team date back to the reaction to that very loss, only highlighting further how crucial it is Australia nails the next step.

Because if two days of rain has had one advantage, it’s that Australian cricket has had time to take a deep breath. It’s difficult to think strategically when the next crisis is only a session away, but when puddles are forming on the covers and the result is a foregone conclusion, things can seem somewhat less dire.

The fact is that none of what has happened over the past month should be a surprise for Australia. For years we’ve known of the shortage of genuinely world-class, long-form batting talent, and for months that Australia would be facing this summer without the only two exceptions to that rule.

This series offered a handful of players a chance to stake a claim at the level. Only one really did. Many people will debate whether or not they were the right people to have received that chance in the first place, but the truth is there is no real evidence to suggest any of the other candidates would have performed much better.

But that’s all behind us now. For all the anger and frustration and Facebook comments and talkback calls and Shane Warne tweets, the series has been won by the better team, Australia was unable to solve a decade’s worth of issues in a fortnight and all that’s left to do is plan for the future.

That future is Sri Lanka in a few weeks, but also England in a few months. Beyond that is the simple task of rebuilding the entire landscape of Australian cricket to ensure there will be no further generation gaps in the country’s batting stocks.

It’s all connected. Every step should be made with the next step in mind, every selection one for the future as well as for the now. This summer might feel like a disaster, but there is still ample time for it turn into the beginning of something, rather than the middle of the longest malaise.

Think that sounds like a long shot? India has just won a Test series in Australia. Nothing is impossible.

Topics:

cricket,

sport,

sydney-2000,

nsw,

australia



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