There's something Australian about Kohli's Team India

At the MCG, Australia did not surrender, rather it was beaten by the very brand of cricket which was once its most striking feature.

Pujara, Kohli and Rahane jubilant after winning the third Test in Melbourne.   -  Reuters Photo

Toe-crushing yorkers, dented helmets and bruised egos. There was something distinctly Australian about Team India's style of cricket at the MCG.

Led by a skipper who seems to be in love with the winning feeling, India was ruthless and aggressive in its pursuit of victory.

Perth had pushed it into a corner after a buoyant start in Adelaide, and a dull pitch in Melbourne threatened to put hopes of a 2-1 lead to bed before Cheteshwar Pujara's dour century, garnished by an uncharacteristically slow-moving fifty from Virat Kohli, shook things up.

Read: India goes 2-1 up to retain Border-Gavaskar Trophy

And then came Jasprit Bumrah. Blessed with an unflagging spirit and pace, he disdainfully exposed the opposition batsmen and in the process, emerged as a reaffirmation of India's newfound zing in the pace battery.

The current India team is, in some ways, a throwback to the 'invincible' modern Australian sides of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Match-winners rolled out of those effervescent Australian line-ups.

If Matthew Hayden didn't hammer you into submission, Ricky Ponting would, with a full flourish of his willow and on the odd occasion if he failed, Damien Martyn tore through the bowling with surgical precision.

Then Adam Gilchrist, walking in at No. 7 with his steamrolling intent, spoke as much about the side's depth as it did about its agenda — aggressive, attacking, winning.

Glenn McGrath with his unerring line and length and Shane Warne, like a wily virtuoso, then brought batsmen to their knees.

Also read: We are not going to stop here, says Kohli

In Melbourne, helped by a slew of partnerships, India first batted the host out of the contest before Bumrah and company blurred its scant hopes of a comeback in the slipstream of their own speed.

Tim Paine and Rishabh Pant, a banter duel both are having in the ongoing series.   -  Getty Images

 

Of course, Rishabh Pant's verbal surplus and Kohli's exaggerated physical posturing each time a wicket fell were exciting side notes to a refreshing win.

Flatter to deceive

Ahead of Australia's two-Test series against Pakistan in the UAE in October, its A-team had toured India for two unofficial Tests.

Having won the first four-day game in Bengaluru by 98 runs, Australia went to Alur with a rare 2-0 scoreline in sight and nearly achieved the feat but for Ankit Bawne's cameo — 28* off 18 balls — which helped India draw level with a six-wicket win.

The Australia XI showed the quality of getting stuck in, not throwing away wickets easily and grinding out the opposition, with Travis Head and Mitchell Marsh — both of whom played at the MCG — using their feet so well against the Indian spinners that it appeared as if Australia's keenness to dispel spin demons was translating into action.

Also read: 'We will go to Sydney to level the series'

At one stage, they had accumulated 69 runs in 34 overs, crawling at just above two runs an over. The risk-averse approach was antithetical for a side that prides itself on its aggressive approach, but that is what the situation demanded.

A few weeks later, Australia would battle out 140 overs to salvage a draw in the first Test versus Pakistan before surrendering to — a now familiar template in the subcontinent — a massive 373-run defeat with young seamer Mohammed Abbas grabbing a ten-for.

Air of invincibility, no more

For those who had watched Tim Paine and Nathan Lyon stave off a nervous last over from Yasir Shah in Dubai, believing what had just transpired in Abu Dhabi must have felt like the fears of the worst pessimist coming true.

The air of invincibility that once adorned the Australian team had been poked by a harsh reality that the opposition no longer felt that it was infallible.

A part of the reason why Australia did so well first under Steve Waugh and later under Ponting, was that other teams always felt the need to play out of their skins to beat them.

Mind games often preceded on-field cricket and the first seeds of victory were sowed at a press conference rather than on the 22-yards.

Fast forward to the Boxing Day Test, and the tables have turned.  Tim Paine sledged, Rishabh Pant sledged back. Starc, Cummins, Hazlewood bowled fast. Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma bowled faster. And the batsmen were history.

At the MCG, Australia did not surrender. It was beaten, by the very brand of cricket which was once its most striking feature.