It was a dream come true as Team India grabbed the lead at the Adelaide Oval. A hard fought-win, but the Indians always had their nose in front and the home team had to do all the running in the home stretch to try and upset the applecart. It is not as if Team India had not led a series down under before. In fact, they did so in dramatic fashion, pulling off a great surprise at the same venue, that too after Australia had made 556 in their first innings.
Had Virender Sehwag kept his head on one of his greatest days at the crease at the MCG against a quality Australian attack in 195 that he had made in just a little over five hours on the first day, India may have created history long ago. Now the opportunity is even more real though the home team have already proved that they are not pushovers at home and that they will fight all the way to the bitter end. To seize the moment is entirely Team India’s and they do seem keen enough to change a 70-year narrative.
The clear highlight of the victory, albeit by a nervy 31 runs, was the combined efforts of the pace bowlers. If Team India have to take 20 wickets to win a Test away from Asia they must possess a fast bowling arsenal. However great Ravi Ashwin is as a crafty off spinner, it is unlikely a lone spinner can bowl the Aussies out twice. The battering ram has to be pace down under, more so in the second Test at Perth where India had made history by winning there for the first ever time 10 years ago under Anil Kumble.
The point to ponder is if the Indian batting will stand the test of a hard and bouncy drop-in pitch at the new Optus Stadium in Perth. The bounce and carry there might not match WACA of olden days when bouncers would carry for ‘six’ byes and batsmen would let even good length balls go secure in the knowledge they would go over the stumps. They are said to be making an effort to keep the reputation of the Western Australian city of producing firm and hard surfaces. Indian batting would certainly be challenged even if at least one of the top order batsman goes into the game with two long innings in Adelaide.
Cheteshwar Pujara’s masterclass of an innings suited the long format to the T on a pitch that was not allowing the ball to come on truly to the bat until much later in the match. The contest between bat and ball was fascinating in the Test match sense even if it may not have provided the kind of entertainment today’s fans looks forward to. To drop anchor in tough conditions needs a gritty and mature approach and only the Test specialists could be expected to do this. Even so, the Indian collapse of the second half of the second innings was uncalled for It was unprofessional too.
On the other hand, India’s pace attack may severely test a weak Australian batting line-up that is not as accustomed yet to taking all the pressures of Test cricket. A fast pitch might produce a cracker of a contest between two sets of fast bowlers who would revel in “fast” conditions. Indian quicks took 14 wickets at 23.8 in Adelaide while the Aussies only took 11 at 27.45. And given the catching form of India’s young wicket-keeper who was so very close to a world record 12thcatch in the first Test when he took a step to his left and then went the other way on seeing Nathan Lyon edging towards the slips only to fumble. Who knows, another record catching opportunity might come his way at the Perth Stadium.
The most endearing moment of the Adelaide Test came when Natahan Lyon came to the crease with Australia on the brink. Mohd Shami put in place an effort ball straightaway and a hapless batsman took his eye off the kicker from length as he put his body in the way and took it on his right shoulder. The bowler immediately apologised, asked the batsmen whether he was okay and got a thumps-up from Lyon in return. Who would have imagined that an India-Australia series would be played with such sporting spirit?
While we must thank the Australian ball tampering crisis for their change of heart and approach to the game, we must lend a thought to whether our young and bubbly ‘keeper Pant is overdoing the needling a little bit. Isn’t he guilty of sledging too? But then Team India must believe it is payback time and that is why the ‘keeper is being allowed to be so very voluble. Be that as it may, it is not the degree of the sledging that is going to determine whether Team India can make history down under by winning a series there for the first ever time. Nor will Virat Kohli’s manners of triumphalism determine the final result.