Team India report card: Pujara, the topper this time

Virat Kohli’s side attained nirvana at the Sydney Cricket Ground, clinching the Border-Gavaskar Trophy for the first time Down Under in 71 years. Here’s a performance review.

Virat Kohli and company savour the moment after winning the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

India would have picked 10 more wickets had it not rained in Sydney on Monday. The untimely showers saved the Aussies further torture, but it couldn’t wash out the numbers. Leading the series 2-1 from Melbourne, a draw in the fourth Test threw the Border-Gavaskar Trophy on Virat Kohli’s lap, first time Down Under.

 

How Team India fared

Murali Vijay (2/10): Despite an impressive county stint with Essex last year, the seasoned campaigner looked out of place in Australia. The right-hander could manage only 49 runs in four innings in the first two Tests. Rightly, he was dropped for the remainder of the series. He found only four boundaries in the entire tour. Surprisingly, in the tour match, Vijay had dazzled with a 132-ball 129 against Cricket Australia XI.

 

Murali Vijay failed to live up to the expectations.   -  GETTY IMAGES

K.L. Rahul (2/10): Rahul looked possessed in the Indian Premier League for Kings XI Punjab last year. But the aggression started fading in England. He did a damage check with a hundred in the fifth Test at The Oval, but Australia successfully pushed him back to the cave. Vijay’s opening partner in Adelaide and Perth, Rahul managed 57 runs in the series; 44 of those runs came in the second innings in Adelaide — the only knock that had promise.

 

K.L. Rahul had a forgettable series with the bat.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Mayank Agarwal (9/10): The third opener for the series, flown in ahead of the Perth Test, impressed on debut. Back foot punch, cover drive, cut — he had all the shots in his book to combat the pace trio of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc. He finished with 195 runs — 76 and 42 in Melbourne, 77 in Sydney — in three innings; quite a find to solve the ‘opener’ problem.

 

Mayank Agarwal grabbed the opportunity with both hands.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Cheteshwar Pujara (10/10): The fact that Pujara won the man of the series sums up his mirror-cracking tour. Usually, it is Kohli who reigns supreme in overseas tours; Pujara quietly entered the top tier with three hundreds and a 71 that extended India’s lead in the Adelaide triumph. The new wall of India withstood more than 1,200 deliveries; twice batting more than 50 overs in an innings.

 

India found a new 'Wall' in Cheteshwar Pujara.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Virat Kohli (7/10): King Kohli scored a hundred in Perth which India lost, but the 257-ball 123 had immense determination and fight. The first innings 82 in Melbourne was crucial to maintain the tone that Mayank had set. He could still be in the learning phase as captain, but then, he will soon graduate with a distinction if India maintains its overseas form. It’s his team selection ideas that have come under scanner. At times, it is a double-edged sword. Kuldeep’s inclusion in Sydney was a surprise factor for the Aussie batsmen.

 

Virat Kohli was brilliant both as captain and batsman.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Ajinkya Rahane (6/10): If not great, it wasn’t too bad either for Rahane, who made a significant contribution, 70, in the second innings in Adelaide. The knocks of 51 and 30 in Perth had sparks. The 34 in Melbourne were valuable runs. The six catches in the slip cordon counted as well.

 

Ajinkya Rahane had a lukewarm series with the bat.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Hanuma Vihari (6/10): Vihari, playing in his first tour of Australia, showed a lot of character. The six points here is not for the flamboyant strokeplay in Sydney (42) or the hard-fought second innings 28 in Perth. It is for the heart he showed by opening the batting with Mayank in Melbourne. The part-time off-breaks proved handy in Perth. He dismissed two set batsmen in Marcus Harris, 70, and Shaun Marsh, 45.

Hanuma Vihari was character personified.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

Rohit Sharma (4.5/10): The hitman got a start in Adelaide, 37, but the manner of his dismissal didn’t justify his white-ball records. After somehow managing to slog sweep Lyon for a six — not needed at that point — he had a brain fade. He tried the same ploy in the next delivery to gift a top edge. The unbeaten 63 in Melbourne was overshadowed by the Pujara and Kohli show.

 

Rohit Sharma had his moments but couldn't really make a difference.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

Rishabh Pant (8/10): Pant had the time of his life in Australia. He took 20 catches, scored 350 runs — including an unbeaten 159 in Sydney — and kept his promise of baby-sitting Australia skipper Tim Paine’s children. The 33 and 39 in Melbourne were crucial knocks down the order. But the banter with Paine remains the highlight of his tour. “Temporary captain” was below the belt.

 

Rishabh Pant exhibited an entertaining brand of cricket.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Ravindra Jadeja (6/10): A perfect impact player, Jadeja did his  bit in Melbourne (2/45 and 3/82) and Sydney (2/73) and 81 with the bat. At No 8, he stitched a 204-run stand with Pant that took India to the mammoth total of 622. He may have taken only seven wickets in three innings, but all his victims were top-class players. Marcus Harris to Tim Paine, he troubled them all.

 

Ravindra Jadeja's contribution was vital for India's success.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Ravichandran Ashwin (7.5/10): Ashwin was the all-round star in Adelaide. The 62-run stand between him and Pujara for the seventh wicket helped India get to 250. He scored a fighting 25. With the ball, he unsettled the Australian top order with six wickets — three in each innings.

 

Ravichandran Ashwin played a key role in Adelaide.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

Kuldeep Yadav (8/10): It is not easy to go out and perform after warming the bench for three Test matches at a stretch. Kuldeep, however, showed no signs of gloom. Rather, his hunger to prove a point earned him the tactical breakthroughs. He gets eight stars for the five-for in Sydney.

 

Kuldeep Yadav bamboozled the Australian batsmen.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Jasprit Bumrah (10/10): He did no wrong. He can adapt to any condition anywhere in the world. Bumrah remains the pick of the Indian pacers with 21 wickets in eight innings. The 6/33 in Melbourne won India the game.

 

Jasprit Bumrah was sensational with the ball.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

Mohammed Shami (9.5/10): Shami maintained the parity with Bumrah to claim 16 wickets in eight innings. A constant from the first Test, the pair shared 37 wickets between them. Shami also got a six-for, in Perth, but India lost the Test match unfortunately.

 

Mohammed Shami claimed 16 wickets.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Ishant Sharma (9/10): He was left out in Sydney but that doesn’t take away the fact that Ishant led the bowling department from the start of the tour. The experienced one among the crop, he finished with 11 wickets that included a four-for in Perth. His previous experiences Down Under may have helped Shami and Bumrah in the joint endeavour.

 

Ishant Sharma spearheaded the Indian pace attack.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Umesh Yadav (3/10): Another veteran, Umesh only got one Test match and he couldn’t turn heads. The right-arm pacer picked up two wickets in Perth in the first innings, and conceded 61 without any wicket in the second.

 

Umesh Yadav couldn't deliver in the lone Test match he played.   -  GETTY IMAGES