Virat Kohli and Team India displays admirable resolve

Virat Kohli’s men had an unbeaten run in 19 Tests and it needed an Australian outfit to provide a reality check, in the first Test at Pune. It is to the credit of the Indians that they came back strongly—recovering from an insipid first innings (189) that almost ruined the skipper’s decision to bat first — and found the resolve to win the second Test here by 75 runs.

Indian cricketers celebrate their victory against Australia in Bengaluru on Tuesday.   -  Photo: G. P. Sampath Kumar

A Test series against Australia, even an emerging team at that, can be nerve-wracking and soul-sapping. If contests against the West Indies squads of the 1970s and 80s were considered as acid-tests for the other teams, doing well against the bristling men from Down Under is deemed as a badge of honour over the last two decades.

Virat Kohli’s men had an unbeaten run in 19 Tests and it needed an Australian outfit to provide a reality check, in the first Test at Pune. That 333-run defeat rankled the Indians, but as Kohli rightly said, it also offered them an opportunity to look hard at their deficiencies that got glossed over during a bull-run.

It is to the credit of the Indians that they came back strongly — recovering from an insipid first innings (189) that almost ruined the skipper’s decision to bat first — and found the resolve to win the second Test here by 75 runs. An ecstatic Kohli termed it as the ‘sweetest victory’.

Post-Pune swagger

Australia, that had downplayed itself ahead of the series in a quirky turn to its mind-games with the opposition, had a swagger after the Pune triumph. The chatter was back, throws were fired in close to the batsmen’s head and bowlers extended their follow-through to make hard enquiries. India countered with its own version though Ishant Sharma’s contorted facial expressions in a skirmish with Smith was an eyesore.

Importantly, India did not buckle down. Its bowlers were restrictive on the second day when Australia sought an impetus to pocket a sizeable lead. The visitors managed 237 for six, a decent number on a spin-friendly pitch. Yet, the host grimly hung onto the contest, albeit playing second fiddle.

If the mountain of overs that Ashwin has bowled in the last year weighed heavily on his shoulders and dulled his fizz off the pitch, Ravindra Jadeja put his hand up and bagged six wickets.

Australia forged ahead by 87, still a handful on this surface but India proved equal to the task. K.L. Rahul extended his good run from the first innings into the second outing at the crease (90 and 51).

Cheteshwar Pujara (92) and Ajinkya Rahane (52) dished out decisive knocks and Wriddhiman Saha resisted. Slowly, that old truism of the sum being bigger than the parts emerged into view.

A target of 188 was a steep ask at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium. Australia suffered the review-horrors besides finding a fiery Umesh Yadav too hot to handle and was eventually trapped in Ashwin’s web (six for 41). If comebacks can be gripping, this was it. It is a win-against-odds that will hold India in good stead in the years to come.

Fresh chapter

In 2001 when India came from behind to defeat Australia 2-1, it ushered in a fresh chapter of many success stories. The latest win, a starter as such since two more Tests remain at Ranchi and Dharamshala, could have a similar effect.

It isn’t a perfect story yet. The opening combine has not settled; Kohli, by his exalting standards, has found meagre runs; and Ashwin’s workload has to be managed well.

There is also the small matter of playing spin better, as Steve O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon have had their moments. But hope lies in things like the performances of the ‘Man-of-the-Match’ Rahul, the spells of Umesh, the chutzpah of Jadeja and the overall attitude of the team.

“We win together, we lose together. We stay as a team,” Kohli said. In the days ahead, the challenge would be to remain blinkered to the game while the off-field debates over Smith’s brain-fade in seeking a review on the concluding day, has now snowballed into a ‘us’ against ‘them’ battle.

Countering the Aussies isn’t just an exposition of skill-sets, it also probes into mental fortitude but the Indians seem to be adequately prepared.

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