By V.N. Prasad
Virat and Co deserve a big pat on their back on their impressive win over the OZs in the Test Series; 2-1. This is the first time that all the departments contributed effectively in achieving the results. Our pace battery in Ishanth, Bumrah and Shammi was lethal. Spinners Ashwin, Kuldeep and Jadeja were very good and well supported by young Vihari with his off-spinners. Vision to fly in Mayank to open the innings was too good — though a little too late. Not going by the scores, Hanuma Vihari was an extremely valuable addition. He seems good at No.6 and he should not be disturbed. I do not blame him for gloving catches behind stumps. Inconsistency in bounce caused problems to both the sides. Even Sunil Gavaskar — the best ‘Ducker’ the world has witnessed — would have had tentative moments on these tracks. The onus of finding No.2 rests with Ravi and Virat. Clearly, K.L. Rahul was disappointing. Down the order, Rishab Pant is shaping extremely well with the bat. The youngster needs to control ‘Rush of Blood.’ He times strokes beautifully. His efforts behind the stumps need to be sharpened.
Sydney Cricket Ground, popularly known as the SCG; it is a dream for any youngster to make it big in the archives of this magnificent venue. One such was created by the young Kuldeep on his debut appearance at the SCG on the 6th of January, 2019; when he returned with the figures of 5 for 99. The world is sitting up to watch this youngster grow in international cricket.
Coming to the series holistically, save Adelaide oval, all the other pitches fell much short of expectations. Despite indifferent conditions, our batsmen did well against one of the best pace combo of Starc, Cummins and Hazelwood. We do admit however that finger spinner Nathan Lyon dominated the spin. They were no ‘Push – Overs’ with the bat either. The top order OZ batsmen lacked the class. To imagine a side without an individual hundred in their own back yard must have raised many a brow — whereas our boys scripted five brilliant hundreds; and under difficult conditions. Particularly, Pujara’s centuries were a class apart. A big-match-temperament player that he is, he has his own ways to settle down before driving and cutting fluently. Nathan Lyon had the last laugh having him C&B at 193 at the SCG.
Consistency is now the key. Too much of chopping and changing needs to be avoided. Youngsters with proven potential to be blooded in and aging bones to be quietly sidelined. In this backdrop, I do not appreciate Dhoni coming in place of Panth. Panth needs consolidation. Combination of Kuldeep and Jadeja has to be weighed carefully against Ashwin. Ultimately, it is the think-tank of the team that should contribute to consolidation of efforts. BCCI and politics shall be out of the equation.
Tim Paine led the OZ team commendably in absence of stalwarts like Smith and Warner. He had a calm demeanor that was evident over the months. Virat mellowed down at the SCG and it enabled him to use his skills better.
Congratulations to team India and best to the boys in the ensuing ODIs.