India vs Australia | Talking points from Day 1 at Dharamshala
On a day when India lost their captain due to injuries, fans were given a new name to sing as Kuldeep Yadav put on a show finishing with figures of 4/68. On the other side, Steve Smith continued his magnificent form as he racked up yet another century to take Australia to 300 at the end of Day 1.
Steve Smith justifies top spot in ICC Test rankings
Before the ongoing Border-Gavaskar series, most fans and pundits alike expected Australia to suffer the same fate as of New Zealand, England, and Bangladesh before them. However, in the first match, they shocked the cricketing world by beating the mighty Indians by 333 runs on a minefield in Pune. While Steve O’Keefe picked up 12 wickets and became the cynosure of all eyes, Steve Smith’s fighting 109 was overshadowed.
In the third Test he put up the numbers again as he managed an unbeaten 175 in Ranchi, but yet again a brilliant double hundred from Cheteshwar Pujara put him out of the limelight. But the Aussie captain has proved his worth with a brilliant hundred today as wickets kept tumbling at the other side. What is even more impressive is that the runs are scattered all around the field(50 on the off-side, 60 on the leg).
He has been the star of the show as far as the series is concerned with an astonishing average of 80.03. And calling him the best Test batsman in the world right now would not be an exaggeration for sure.
Kuldeep repays the faith
What a debut it has turned out to be! After Steve Smith asked India to field on a pitch that appeared to be a batting paradise, Rahane operated with his premier four bowlers until the 27th over before throwing the ball to Kuldeep. Instead of stemming the run flow, Kuldeep was focused on getting his length right for the first three overs, even as Steve Smith and David Warner were well-settled on the Dharamsala wicket.
The second ball of the first over in the international career was a length ball to which Warner edged to the wide of the first slip to bring up of his first half-century in the tour. That convinced Yadav and he immediately tried the short one in which Warner didn’t have any clue. Taken aback by the continuous changes in length, Warner tried to defend as much as he could, but another change in length- to be particular a googly proved to be the Southpaw’s undoing.
But Kuldeep wasn’t done yet. He picked up the wickets of Handscomb, Maxwell, and Cummins as well, but the striking aspect was more about the way he set up those wickets. He invited the batsmen to drive him and the odd ones left the batsmen bamboozled. He kept on adding variation to his bowling and ended the day with 4/68, a dream debut if there ever was one.
India have an abundance of captains
There were times during India’s home season when Virat Kohli proved his mettle as why he was touted as the perfect heir apparent to the colossal thrones of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. There is a settling feel about India when Kohli is on the field as he lets the bowlers express themselves to the fullest - allowing them to set the field according to their own wishes. He makes bowling changes that turn the game completely like saving Jadeja till the pitch suited his style in Ranchi.
So when Kohli was deemed unfit for the final Test, there would have been a lot of people waiting to see how Rahane would be able to deal with the pressure. Not only did the stand-in skipper get his plans spot on, his changes in bowling were also pretty damaging to the Aussie batting order. After the first wicket, the pacers were not able to impact the game the way he would have hoped so he switched to his spinners. But with Ashwin and Jadeja not coming up with the goods, he was not afraid to throw the ball to the debutant.
Although Kuldeep conceded 9 runs off his first two overs, Rahane stuck with him after lunch and he was rewarded for it and how. Later when Kuldeep looked like he was struggling a bit, he brought back Jadeja to keep the pressure on the visitors. It looks like his captaincy in the IPL appears to be paying dividends now.