Beaten lock, stock and barrel

Mickey Arthur and Michael Clarke...a failed combine.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Australia showed poor tactics when picking the playing XI for the first two Tests. In Chennai, Australia was a spinner short, while in Hyderabad it fielded an extra spinner. The worst came in Mohali where four players were excluded on disciplinary grounds. Australia had never looked so weak on a cricket field, writes Vijay Lokapally.

The sub-continent has always offered a different kind of challenge and a sense of intrigue with teams coming to realise the essence of becoming complete performers. It was not that India could not be beaten at home, but it was something that not many teams could achieve.

That England did it recently was a tribute to its preparations. Tactical planning by coach Andy Flower led to the team’s 2-1 triumph despite it losing the first Test. Australia was clearly short of preparation and paid dearly by succumbing at every step.

The defeat in Mohali exposed Australia’s weakness in all conditions. Suspect against spinners, the Aussies also came a cropper against the seam and swing of young Bhuvneshwar Kumar. This was totally out of character for a nation that had dominated world cricket for a long period, winning three World Cups in a row and conquering all opposition in Tests. This was just a shadow of that glorious team.

There was merit in the argument that Australia showed poor tactics when picking the playing XI for the first two Tests. In Chennai, Australia was a spinner short, while in Hyderabad it fielded an extra spinner. The worst came in Mohali where four players were excluded on disciplinary grounds. Australia had never looked so weak on a cricket field.

True, it was a team in transition but coach Mickey Arthur was at pains when defending Australia’s poor performance. At various stages the Australian players confessed the defeats hurt and left their fans dejected. It was a learning process, some maintained, but the team remained in a state of shock as Australia hit its lowest with three defeats.

Ricky Ponting in actionin the 2010 Bangalore Test. It took him a while to come to terms with Indian conditions, says the former Aussie skipper.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

Australia was at its worst in Mohali. Reduced to a four-day contest after rain washed out the first day’s play, the defeat in the Test left Australian cricket bleeding. Having scored 400 in its first innings, Australia failed to seize the initiative and left India a worthy winner as Bhuvneshwar produced a stifling spell in the second innings that crushed Australia’s hopes of putting India under pressure.

Former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting was quoted in the media back home, “I think we are all a little bit disappointed that the team haven't been able to play a little bit better — everyone knew going there it was going to be a tough tour for Australia, I found the first three of four tours I went there I couldn’t score a run. It wasn’t until a few tours down the track that I started learning about playing spin bowling and coping with the conditions that I started to work it out. Those guys on that tour will be a whole lot better off next time they go there and are confronted with conditions like that. We’ll keep our fingers crossed and hopefully they can finish on a winning note.”

Ponting could not have said it better. Former India great Sunil Gavaskar too pointed out the inexperience factor as the key reason for Michael Clarke and his men producing mediocre fare. The failure against spinners was compounded by the inability to tackle the movement that Bhuvneshwar enjoyed. The absence of Ponting and Michael Hussey, both retired, exposed the brittle nature of the Australian batting.

Australia’s lack of form was collective. A lot was expected of Clarke but he was made a bunny by Ravindra Jadeja, who got him out five times. The lack of quality spinners meant Australia had to rely a lot on its fast bowlers, but India had the batsmen to counter them. The double centuries by Cheteshwar Pujara and M. S. Dhoni left the Australian attack bruised and the good work by Shikhar Dhawan and the in-form Murali Vijay gave India the platform to dictate.

There will be lot for Australia to introspect after the India experience. It was a bitter learning experience for Clarke and his men.

The Scores

Third Test: India vs. Australia, Mohali (Chandigarh). March 14 to 18. Result: India won by 6 wickets.

Australia — 1st innings: E. J. M. Cowan c Kohli b Ashwin 86, D. A. Warner c Dhoni b Jadeja 71, M. J. Clarke st. Dhoni b Jadeja 0, P. J. Hughes c Dhoni b Ojha 2, S. P. D. Smith st. Dhoni b Ojha 92, B. J. Haddin b Ishant 21, M. C. Henriques b Ishant 0, P. M. Siddle lbw b Jadeja 0, M. A. Starc c Dhoni b Ishant 99, N. M. Lyon (not out) 9, X. J. Doherty lbw b Ashwin 5, Extras (b-8, lb-12, nb-3) 23. Total: 408.

Fall of wickets: 1-139, 2-139, 3-151, 4-198, 5-244, 6-244, 7-251, 8-348, 9-399.

India bowling: Kumar 9-0-44-0, Ishant 30-8-72-3, Ashwin 43.5-9-97-2, Ojha 28-5-98-2, Jadeja 31-7-77-3.

India — 1st innings: M. Vijay lbw b Starc 153, S. Dhawan c Cowan b Lyon 187, C. A. Pujara lbw b Siddle 1, S. R. Tendulkar c Cowan b Smith 37, V. Kohli (not out) 67, M. S. Dhoni lbw b Starc 4, R. A. Jadeja c Haddin b Siddle 8, R. Ashwin c Haddin b Siddle 4, B. Kumar c Haddin b Henriques 18, Ishant c Haddin b Siddle 0, P. P. Ojha b Siddle 1, Extras (b-5, lb-13, nb-1) 19. Total: 499.

Fall of wickets: 1-289, 2-292, 3-384, 4-412, 5-416, 6-427, 7-431, 8-492, 9-493.

Australia bowling: Starc 23-5-74-2, Siddle 29.1-9-71-5, Henriques 15-1-62-1, Lyon 31-4-124-1, Doherty 24-8-87-0, Smith 10-0-63-1.

Australia — 2nd innings: D. A. Warner c Dhoni b Kumar 2, E. J. M. Cowan lbw b Kumar 8, P. J. Hughes lbw b Ashwin 69, S. P. D. Smith b Kumar 5, N. M. Lyon c Dhoni b Ojha 18, M. J. Clarke c Pujara b Jadeja 18, B. J. Haddin lbw b Ashwin 30, M. C. Henriques c & b Jadeja 2, P. M. Siddle b Ojha 13, M. A. Starc c Ashwin b Jadeja 35, X. J. Doherty (not out) 18, Extras (lb-3, w-1, nb-1) 5. Total: 223.

Fall of wickets: 1-2, 2-35, 3-55, 4-89, 5-119, 6-123, 7-126, 8-143, 9-179.

India bowling: Kumar 10-1-31-3, Ishant 9-1-34-0, Ashwin 31-9-72-2, Jadeja 16.2-6-35-3, Ojha 21-6-46-2, Tendulkar 2-0-2-0.

India — 2nd innings: M. Vijay st. Haddin b Doherty 26, C. A. Pujara lbw b Lyon 28, V. Kohli c Hughes b Siddle 34, S. R. Tendulkar (run out) 21, M. S. Dhoni (not out) 18, R. A. Jadeja (not out) 8, Extras (w-1) 1. Total: (for four wkts.) 136.

Fall of wickets: 1-42, 2-70, 3-103, 4-116.

Australia bowling: Starc 10.3-1-51-0, Siddle 11-2-34-1, Lyon 5-0-27-1, Doherty 7-2-24-1.