It was a clinical performance! India finished off their opponents with great efficiency! The Aussies were made to look a distant second and rather poor in the final analysis. India definitely were worthy of their series win. The Indian win was made to look even greater by the fact that the batting hero of the first test V.V.S. Laxman, was out with injury and so was Ishant Sharma and Gambhir. But this is where the depth in Indian cricket was evident.
The Indian victory was largely due to the magnificent third wicket stand between the stylish opener Murali Vijay and the little master Sachin Tendulkar. At 38/2 another quick wicket would have easily exposed the inexperienced Indian middle order which had Raina and the debutant 22yearold Cheteshwar Pujara following. However the class of Tendulkar and the resilient Vijay ensured that the Australians were kept at bay and how well they set about doing it!
And on the subject of Pujara, here is a young man who is bound to make incredibly big headlines for India very soon. Given the opportunity as the replacement of Laxman, the KKR right hander with a first class average of fifty plus rose to the occasion with a stylish and a dominant 72 in the second innings which included seven crisply struck boundaries.
The manner he treated the Australian bowlers batting at no. 3 and in only in his second innings confirmed his stature in the Indian cricket scene. Pujara by any stretch of imagination is a class player and knowledgeable coaches such as Dav Whatmore the former Sri Lanka coach and the current KKR coach was of the view that he is a far better player than the likes of Raina, Kholi and even Yuvraj at this stage of his career. He also felt that it will only be a matter of time for the youngster, who has now presented the Indian selectors with a new option in their line up and the ideal replacement when some of the big names decide to call it a day.
Murali Vijay – Indian larder is full of talent
If Pujara was the star for India in the second innings, I think the innings of the match was played by Murali Vijay the opener! Having played his entire test cricket purely as a replacement the 27th year old Chennai opener was once again on trial. Being given the challenge to survive first and then try and build the Indian first innings, he couldn’t have asked for anybody better than the little master Tendulkar who was described by another former Indian great Sunil Gavaskar “as the University of batting” as he possessed everything a batsman needed to know. Tendulkar helped Vijay to achieve his degree in batting by assisting him with sound advise to reach his first test century and what a moment it was the young man.
His solid batting against the pace men on a sluggish track and the manner he attacked the spin of Hauritz was commendable when you consider that both himself and the team India were under pressure. Tendulkar too found a great ally in Vijay who was so solid at the other end enabling the little master not just to reach 14,000 test runs but also his 49th test hundred first and his 6th double hundred afterwards!
I thought the Aussies were completely demoralized after the three hundred plus third wicket stand which enabled India to over take their first innings score. And in their second innings when the demand was for sensible batting, all Australia had to show was another fifty plus stand for the first wicket and the classic knock from their skipper Ponting who fell to the persistent Zaheer Khan who was once again excellent with the ball. The rest of the batting sadly lacked the fighting spirit which was once ever so prevalent in Australian cricket and simply folded up under pressure.
The Indian win confirms their status as the top test nation in the world though lets not forget that they are yet to beat Australia and South Africa in their own territory, which could be one question mark hanging over their position. However they will have a grand opportunity of proving to their critics the quality of their team, when they tour South Africa in Dec 2010 and Jan 2011 just before the world cup for a three test and five match ODI series.
This will be a real test of quality as far as India is concerned as they could expect the usual barrage of short stuff on green and hard tracks in South Africa. Nevertheless considering the quality of the Indian players they are sure to offer stiff resistance to the South Africans, which is bound to ensure a very entertaining series.
But what would be the case with the Aussies? They have three ODI games to salvage some lost cricketing prestige after slipping to the 5th place in the test rankings which has been their lowest for some time. Whatever the outcome of the ODI series, I believe the writing is clearly on the wall for some of their current players.
Ricky Ponting may be spared despite the call for his sacking from former players at least up to the Ashes as Michael Clark his deputy didn’t have the greatest of series with the bat averaging fewer than ten. Ponting on the other hand was second to Watson in the batting with a fifty plus average. The other player who may find his place challenged very strongly will be Mike Hussey whose average was just marginally over twenty four.
When two of your main players between them contribute less than thirty five runs per innings, any team is bound to struggle and one strong factor for the poor showing of Australia was due to the performance of Clark and Hussey with the bat. In the bowling Johnson picked up eight wickets at an average of more than thirty runs per wicket which is considered expensive.
Hilfenhaus and Hauritz had to bowl as much as fifteen overs per wicket which confirmed that the Aussies struggled to dismiss their opponents on brownish Indian tracks. Bollinger was the lone star for Australia claiming five wickets in the sole test he played before picking up an injury. But the rest of the bowling which included the young George had a trying and a testing time in the series and the only positive that the Australians will carry from the series is the experience gained.
I am definite that, many questions are bound to be asked, such as the question of Ponting as captain and the position of a few others in the team prior to the Ashes, with England already on high after their convincing wins last summer. The Ashes which was expected to be a close affair may end up to be a rather one sided one if the Aussies don’t show their known fighting spirit.
* Roshan Abeysinghe is a leading cricket promoter and an international cricket commentator