India vs Australia | Takeaways: Virat Kohli’s coming of age as captain and Australia’s batting beyond Harris

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India vs Australia | Takeaways: Virat Kohli’s coming of age as captain and Australia’s batting beyond Harris

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Bastab K Parida


Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja combined to pick 5 wickets on the third day's play in Sydney as India tightened the grip to secure a 3-1 series victory. On a day, two spinners dominated the proceedings, Virat Kohli’s brilliant captaincy and field placements attracted many plaudits.

Coming of age of Kohli’s captaincy

Calling Virat Kohli a terrible skipper has become a trend on social media and no one left a stone unturned when the Indian skipper didn’t field a single spinner in Perth where Nathan Lyon walked away as the man of the match. However, the MCG saw a renaissance of Kohli’s astute captaincy as he brilliantly plotted Aaron Finch and Marcus Harris’ dismissal in the first innings and set-up Usman Khawaja by putting in a leg gully. If that was a Test that saw Kohli’s coming-of-age, then Sydney saw him finally living up to it. 

The Marnus Labuschagne dismissal can be considered as a fine example. In the 48th over of the game, Labuschagne found the gap between two mid-wicket fielders to smartly collect a four. Kohli sensed that the batsman was more reliant on going across the line of the ball and to exploit that, he brought himself to straighter short mid-on while moving Ajinkya Rahane, who was fielding at short mid-wicket, a little squarer, which meant the on-drive was not possible then. Labuschagne became the victim of such planning as he didn't notice the smart adjustment in the field and was caught by Rahane. That was a plan well laid out by the Indian skipper which points out to his evolving tactics as a captain.

Australia’s batting woes are evident and they need to address it

It is true that Australia have been without their two top dogs - Steve Smith and David Warner - but no one can argue against the fact that their batting has been lacklustre lately and the time is running out to pull up their socks. The Test series may not have any serious implication on how their fortunes will be in the World Cup, but the time has come to address it as soon as possible. A total of four individual centuries were scored in the entire 2018, which is the lowest ever in any year in which they have played at least 10 Tests. While the struggle to score big can be attributed to the quality and depth of the Indian attack, but the fact is Australia have failed to accelerate after that tough opening period in most games.

In Sydney today, Australia lost six wickets with Kuldeep Yadav picking three and Ravindra Jadeja accounting for a couple of wickets. This is baffling because of those six players, as many as five of them were dismissed while picking attacking shots. In the entire series, as Cricviz database has it, 58% of Australia’s dismissals have come from attacking shots. This was never a traditional factor for Aussie batsmen, rather one which surfaced recently. Their struggle against Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid the last time they toured England, although for ODIs, was also the result of their propensity to play more attacking shots. Unless they change it at the earliest, 2019 won’t promise them much.

Kuldeep shows why a leg-spinner is important in Australia

While innovation and trend have clearly the bigger role to play in Test cricket now a days, ignore the history and the past performances at your own peril. While Australia’s hard and bouncy pitches suit pace bowlers, wrist spinners can generally spin the ball on most surfaces, as shown by the likes of Shane Warne, Stuart MacGill, and Richie Benaud. However, ever since a guy called Nathan Lyon started dictating the terms in Australia, world cricket have blinded with the finger spinner belief in Australia. Looking at Lyon, people conveniently forgot that Muttiah Muralitharan averaged 75.41 across five Tests in Australia and Harbhajan found the conditions hard to overcome.

Virat Kohli, a big advocate of the fact that “every game is a new one and history doesn’t matter” didn’t trust his only wrist-spinner in the team, and played Ravichandran Ashwin in the first, Hanuma Vihari in the second, Ravindra Jadeja in the third Test of the series. Taking nothing away from any one of them - they played some brilliant cricket - India missed a trick by not having in Perth, a Test where they maintained that two of their spinners were absent. Kuldeep is the pure prototype of a spinner ideally suited for Australia. 

Today, after the 30th over, the old ball was in their hands and they started dictating terms. While they maintained the shine on one side of the ball so as to can generate reverse swing, that Mohammed Shami was happily generating, Kuldeep and Jadeja picked up five wickets, giving away a mere 126 runs between overs 30 and 80. While the wear and tear on the pitch played a part, Shaun Marsh and Tim Paine’s lack of understanding of Kuldeep Yadav also helped India. During that period, Harris struggled to score 16 runs off 40 deliveries before he inside-edged Jadeja onto his stumps. In the entire day, Kuldeep did one thing - he kept on doing one stuff regularly and didn’t try to go for variations. He kept on focusing to bowl on a disciplined channel and then used the track to get three wickets. 

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