Chennai: This will go down as the “Summer of 36”. Team India achieved history of the notorious sort in going down for a bus route kind of number in their total of 36 (innings closed as last man Mohammad Shami retired hurt). The ignominy of being shot out for their lowest total since India played their first Test at Lord’s in 1932 is that of Virat Kohli’s team. Is this an aberration or is it a “representation of new India?” Only time will tell.
The previous low for India was on the 1974 tour of England when they were a miserable set of tourists, huddled at Lord’s against the blustery cold of Old Blighty as the ball swung and seamed. But this was a bright Australian summer day on which the ball hardly swung and moved off the seam only a smidgen.
This Team India of the new millennium sank without a trace, done in by precise bowling, the ball pitched up to a full length and aimed at the corridor of uncertainty by Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc and the stump-to-stump line as in Josh Hazlewood’s pinpoint accuracy.
Cummins was brilliant in using the in-tilt to draw the batsmen into playing at the ball and taking it away. Hazlewood carried out his plan of persistent accuracy around off stump. Up against such a planned assault, the worst of Indian batting erupted in indistinct footwork, hesitancy and bats presented to the ball held in hard hands and the outside edge drawn like moths to the flame.
Even skipper Kohli, who compiled that flawless innings of 74 — the highest in the match on a pitch that was nowhere near Adelaide Oval standards and far from ideal for a Test match played with the pink ball that does a lot more when new than its red cousin — in the first innings managed just one boundary before being taken low in the slips cordon, as indistinct a stroke as that of any others in the top order.
The last time a similar situation occurred may have been when Team India seemed to be on the cusp of making history but flopping was in Bridgetown, Barbados in 1997 when 120 was the fourth innings target. The West Indian attack was charged up that final morning, bowling the wicket-to-wicket line with an iron discipline and close catchers doing the rest. Young Tendulkar was the skipper then and a deeply disappointed man after India were bowled out for 81.
The best laid plans of men and mice can often go awry. But this seems to happen to Team India more often. A handy first innings lead and a bowling attack manned by such splendid men as Jasprit Bumrah and Ravi Ashwin had too small a bank of runs to defend even on such a pitch offering plenty of assistance. And Shami, the third prong of the seam trio, had to retire hurt after ducking, swaying and swishing at the ball like a man in a trance.
The Indian approach to bowling on this pitch was in sharp contrast to what the Australians did in keeping the ball up to the bat. The number of times Burns pulled Bumrah amply illustrated how the Indians were pitching it that much shorter. Bumrah had bowled so much better in the first innings to exploit the variable bounce.
The shabby ways of Team India were exemplified in the finish too with a dropped catch going over the line for six. The embarrassment was complete. This team didn’t have the mental toughness needed to win a Test match in what is the hardest country in the world to beat the home team in. Kohli’s men flattered to deceive and they will be without their leader in the rest of the series....