The Australians defeated India at its own game on a viciously turning pitch used for the third Test at the Holkar Stadium.
The nature of the pitch earned it three demerit points from Match Referee Chris Broad. A definite blot.
This Indian team has a potent pace attack, exceeded expectations on foreign soil, and won successive series on the bouncy Australian pitches.
Why then such dry, wickedly turning tracks with uneven bounce where you can see puffs of dust from the first over of the Test?
India preparing such tracks, loaded in favour of spinners, where cricket happens in a fast-forward mode, stems from a deep sense of insecurity.
Talking to the media after the Test, Indian skipper Rohit Sharma vehemently defended such pitches.
The Indians seem to have got into a negative mindset where they believe the only way to win at home is to prepare such tracks.
Truth to tell, the Indian batters, hardly playing domestic cricket, are struggling on these very pitches where their footwork has come under sharp scrutiny.
This team lacks accomplished players of spin that India had in the past. Ironically, when replying to a question about former Indian cricketers criticising such tracks, Rohit’s response was, ”Former players, I don’t think have played on pitches like this.”
Visible in the answer was a lack of respect for some great former Indian cricketers. You do not have to look beyond the India-Pakistan Bangalore Test of 1987 to get an answer.
Pakistan was spun out for 116 on a minefield of a pitch on day one. India was eventually left with a target of 221 on a dustbowl.
And Sunil Gavaskar, playing with flawless footwork on such a devious track, made a chanceless 96 in one of the greatest knocks by an Indian.
Someone like Gundappa Viswanath was India’s finest bad-wicket batter. Is Rohit aware of all this?
Coming back to Australia, Steve Smith’s captaincy was tactically suave. A natural skipper who enjoys challenges, he’s put the Sandpaper Gate incident in South Africa, 2018, behind. Smith is a veritable bundle of energy captaining his side, shuffling his bowlers, moving his fielders constantly to put seeds of doubts in the batter’s mind, and running to have conversations with his bowlers.
Like he said, “Captaincy in India is like playing a game of chess. Every ball is an event.”
And, Smith, enjoying captaincy rather than feeling the pressure, made all the right moves.
Such as blocking a battling Cheteshwar Pujara with the ring field from square-leg to mid-wicket and forcing him to play that leg-glance to Nathan Lyon with Smith himself taking a stunning reflex catch at leg-slip.
He also slowed down the game when Shreyas Iyer was going great guns and his decision to bring back Mitchell Starc was an inspired one.
Lyon, with Matthew Kuhnemann and Todd Murphy offering him excellent support to maintain the pressure, teased and tormented the Indian batters with flight and spin, dip and drift. What a champion spinner!
Finally, Ravindra Jadeja’s unpardonable ‘no ball’ with which he ‘dismissed’ Marnus Labuschagne in the first innings was a huge moment in the Test. Labuschagne’s meaty partnership with Usman Khawaja laid the foundation for the Aussie victory.
Jadeja gave Australia a lifeline and the visitor lives to fight another day.
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