I believe the heading of this thread is appropriately titled as the tag of a “2-1 victory” for Australia is somewhat misleading, which is why there is no insinuation of any praise for the Aussies in the heading. For the first time in a long while Australia failed to appear dominating in every session of a Test match. For the first time in a long while Australia looked vulnerable against a simple yet potent gameplan. And certainly, for the first time in a long while a visiting team made Australia toil and think hard on their own soil. We are all entitled to our opinions and some of you may think I am exaggerating India’s performance here, but the truth is that hardly anyone could have contemplated such a competitive series.
At Melbourne, after seizing the initiative on the first day India lost ground and easily appeared to be a lacking team. But the way India fought back in Sydney was a wonder, so much so that many pundits claim that it was the standard of umpiring that led to India’s defeat, not Australia’s ostensible superiority in the pace department. Perth was an eye opener where the Indian pacers outbowled their Australian counterparts whereas Australia received a significant jolt in Adelaide, where India’s first innings score of 526 more or less ruled out the chances for an Australian victory at the venue. The reason why the Aussies played cautiously is because they knew they could not win this Test, and they gave respect to the Indian bowling attack because they knew if they would take chances, as they continuously did in the previous matches, they would lose wickets quickly hence paving way for a possible Indian victory. That would make the series 2-2, which would have unthinkable ramifications for the tag belonging to Australia that says Australia are an “invincible” team.
Sure, on paper India are a weaker side. Before this series no one could imagine that RP, Sharma and Irfan could match or supersede the effectiveness of Australia’s bowling attack. Indian batsmen, though legendary in their reputation and skill, are still vulnerable to the “inconsistency bug”. And India’s fielding is in no way world class. Having said all this and having admitted that the tag of 2-1 victory is somewhat misleading compared to how competitive this series was, it is remarkable how Indians played above their potential. 2 out of the 4 top batsmen in this series were Indians, whereas in the bowling department there is not much of a difference between the performance of RP and Clark; although Clark took 1 more wicket than RP, RP bowled about 30 fewer overs than him, so it is safe to suggest that 2 Indians also featured in the top 4 bowlers in this series. Australia only surpassed the 400 run mark 3 times this series (and may I add, twice in the same match), whereas India although passed the 400 run mark 2 times, both times it scored more than 500.
What is worth greater praise is how the Indian team remained focused and united, especially following the Harbhajan episode. This series has opened a new chapter in the book of many Indians players. Sachin Tendulkar has returned to his late 1990’s form after a long time and is appearing as dangerous as ever to the opposition’s bowlers. Laxman was consistent and that is his biggest asset this series- he scored 1 useful knock in almost every match. Laxman is often kept away from the spotlight because of Ganguly and Dravid but this series has really exposed his unflappable temperament and reliability, which will do wonders for his profile in the future. Amongst Indian bowlers, Kumble was impeccable with his line and length and tested every batsman. He played an immense part in India getting Australia out for less than expected. His batting has also shown as tremendous improvement and now it would be folly to not call him an “all rounder”. It is strange how captaincy can affect an individual’s confidence so much that he can start doing things people don’t normally expect from him. RP was consistent and left a mark in every match. Continued performances like these are likely to elevate him to the status of India’s best pacer soon. Pathan returned to his new-ball form after a long time and looked threatening. He bowled with a gameplan and appeared positive, which is an excellent sign for the future as his body language was not very convincing before this series. If that is not enough, Pathan also played a couple of useful knocks with the bat, averaging 21. Sharma although not garnering many wickets under his belt has nothing to worry about, as he managed to unnerve Australian batsmen and in all honestly, was quite unlucky on a few occasions, too.
Special mention has to be made of Kumble’s captaincy. The only thing lacking in Kumble’s tactics was his occasional defensiveness, although that is a trait seen quite frequently in Subcontinental captains, so perhaps it can be ignored. A captain has to be intelligent, not necessarily in the “academic” or “intellectual” way, but he has to motivate his players, constantly focus and tweak his gameplan according to the situation, and use his resources wisely in order to strike the iron whilst it his hot. I saw a huge difference between the captaincy of Kumble and Ponting. One captain was extracting world class performances from relatively less feared pacers, whereas the other captain mostly failed to swing momentum when the going was getting tough for his team.
Let me reiterate here that this article favours India because I did not expect them to perform in this manner and likewise, I did not expect the Australians to get dominated by India so often. A new glorious era for Indian Test cricket may already have begun, where a bowling coach (Prasad) is appearing increasingly effective, a captain is managing his players extremely well and complementing that with immaculate bowling and useful batting and where a new coach, Kirsten, can’t really ask for more and if anything, will set higher targets for his team to achieve. Yes, we all know the result in 2-1 in favour of Australia, but Australia had to toil, think hard and even appear clueless at times to achieve that result. The mighty Aussies have been wounded in their own backyard and the world will remember the fight for a long time to come. As far as I am concerned, Australia will have sleepless nights and India should relax now, as they have done their homework and have little, if anything, to complain about. Well done team India.