As Jason Behrendorff got off the plane at the Guwahati Airport on a cool Monday evening, he might well have been warmed by the memories from six years ago.
In the first ever international match at the ACA Stadium here, in 2017, the left-arm seamer was the player-of-the-match, in the second T20I of that India versus Australia series.
In only his second international game, he had taken four for 21; among his victims were Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. He had, in fact, broken the back of the Indian batting by dismissing its top four inside the fifth over of the innings.
Cut to the present, Behrendorff had to sit out the second T20I at Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday, as the visitor chose to play two spinners.
It didn’t gain much from that change of strategy against a young Indian top-order that could already be making the bowlers around the world feel a little uneasy.
Given the fact that Behrendorff was the bowler who earned some respect from the merciless Indian batters in the opening T20I – he gave away 6.25 runs per over while everyone else averaged at least 11 – he could get an opportunity to bowl on a ground that should be among his favourites. He isn’t the only member of the current Australian squad that figured in the comfortable eight-wicket win six years ago, though.
Glenn Maxwell, Travis Head, Adam Zampa and Marcus Stoinis were also there. If you are wondering how many of this Indian side played that match, the answer is zero.
That doesn’t merely indicate that India has moved on from the MS Dhoni era, but it also shows the amazing depth of its cricket. That this inexperienced Indian side is leading the five-match series 2-0 underlines the fact.
The Indians should be hoping to make it 3-0 on Tuesday and thus clinch the series with two games remaining. But as the World Cup final reminded us only a few days ago, cricket’s greatest charm is its uncertainty. And Australia, though it is without some of its big stars including skipper Pat Cummins, boasts some of the proudest men in sport.
But they need to come up with a much better show. After the Indian chase wobbled near the finishing line and gave them a glimmer of hope in the first game, they were outplayed in the last match. They lost by 44 runs, after the host plundered 235 for four.
India’s top three – Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Ishan Kishan – made fifties at a brisk rate, and the finisher Rinku Singh meant business yet again.
With captain Suryakumar Yadav also in form, not many would envy Australia’s bowlers, who have to find a way to reduce the boundary balls. The visiting side may not be as worried about its batting: Josh Inglis scored a hundred in the first match, while Stoinis, Tim David and skipper Matthew Wade scored rapidly in the second.
But the Aussie batters have to counter a balanced Indian attack that showed much improvement at Thiruvananthapuram, exemplified by Prasidh Krishna’s effort.
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