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Pujara, bowlers pulled off historic series win

by Sahir Usman Jan 07, 2019 • 23:24 PM

Kohli and his coach Ravi Shastri, both World Cup winners, rate this series win above the One-Day Championship victories in 1987 and 2011, though not many may agree with them. The two World Cup victories have changed the course of Indian cricket, the second one coming at a time when the Test team was getting to the top.

Someone will point out that Australia's record after winning the Ashes 4-0 last year is rather appalling across the formats and so they were bound to be smashed as they had no bench strength to replace the failing players and the domestic Sheffield Shield is in clash with the ongoing Big Bash.

For a change, the Australians are left counting the positives from the lost series. They would not like to look at the stats showing the last time they were forced to follow-on. Had Kohli not decided to bat again at the MCG, the Australians would have followed on in successive Tests, a record in itself.

What actually made India a team to fear is that for once it did not have to depend on Kohli. Every Test saw someone or the other chipping in with a big score and the rest stitching useful partnerships. They all played around the solid Cheteshwar Pujara, who three hundreds in three Tests ensured stayed on top. His contribution has to be right on top as he blunted the much touted Australian pace of the three of the world's best.

For Kohli, Hanuma Vihari facing new ball for 66 balls and staying with debutant Mayank Agarwal for 16 overs is the high point of the collective fight of the team, while Pujara nursed Vihari and Rishabh Pant, who ended up as the second highest scorer in the series with 350 runs, including a big unbeaten 159 at the SCG. For Pant, a world record for catches to boot, though he has to improve standing up and his calculative diving. 

It is not that the Indians did not have problems. They had to go into the Melbourne Test without their regular opening batsmen Murali Vijay and Lokesh Rahul, both with a good record in Australia on the previous trip, and with Agarwal and promoting a middle-order batsman Vihari for his sound technique.

They had to make do without their most experienced spinner Ravichandran Ashwin for three Tests, though missing Ishant Sharma for the Sydney Test did not cost them much as his replacement Kuldeep Yadav returned with a five for. In fact, Kuldeep's all best figures came in England and Australia in different formats, six for 25 at Nottingham ODI and 5 for 24 at Old Trafford T-20 and now five for 99 in the Sydney Test.

Kuldeep came in as a trump card for the fourth Test, otherwise the entire series was manned by the pace men. Between Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah they shared 38 of the 70 Australian wickets that fell. Both Shami and Bumrah had six-wicket hauls in an innings and Ishant's best was four.

If Bumrah and Ishant bowled tight, Shami was more attacking in buying his wickets. The year 2018 saw the Indian pacers - Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav in the reserves - doing as well as the feared West Indies pacers in the 70s-80s. The record speaks for itself. In 14 Tests in 2018, the Indian pacers claimed 179 wickets, far better than their previous best of 125 in 1979 at the beginning of the Kapil Dev era.

Kohli's team simply was too good, outplaying and outclassing Australia.

Veturi Srivatsa/IANS

Also Read: Sourav Ganguly hails India's maiden win in Australia