A win in less than three days! That too by an innings and 132 runs. India will have their tails up after the comprehensive victory in the first Test over Australia, the leaders in the Test championship points table. Never mind the chatter about doctored pitches. That’s just noise in anticipation of an inevitable loss.
The Nagpur loss will hurt the Australians even more since they slumped to 91 — their second-lowest total against India — in the second innings. That too in a session. It’s humiliation, much like India’s capitulation for 36 in the 2020-21 series. Interestingly, Cricket Australia shared the video of the Adelaide debacle on social media ahead of the Test, ostensibly to ruffle Indian feathers. Wonder if Cricket Australia will share the video of 91 all out. Indian cricket fans sure will remind them throughout the series.
Australia have only themselves to blame. They won the toss and batted first — a massive advantage on a wicket expected to deteriorate. But the batsmen simply failed to drive home the advantage, more so due to inept batting against spin. From then, the Aussies were on the back foot, and India ensured there were no comebacks for Pat Cummins’s team.
Rohit Sharma’s batting master class
Indian skipper Rohit Sharma, no doubt, will be pleased with the performance, although some of the frontline batsmen failed. Sharma’s batting master class on a turning wicket reminded me of his rousing form against the Joe Root-led England in 2021. The batting of Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel gives India plenty of heart. The Australians must have winced at every run scored by Mohammed Shami, as it underlined that there was no devil in the wicket. It was merely a matter of application.
Can the Australians pick themselves up ahead of the Delhi Test on Friday (February 17)? Of course, they will. After all, they all wear baggy greens. So they will come out fighting, but fighting spirit alone is not enough. Do they have to skill to play the Indian spinners? The short answer is: No.
Only Steve Smith played spin with some comfort, although Jadeja bamboozled him twice in the game (one was a no-ball). But at least the former Australian captain showed the skill to play the turning ball. I expect Marnus Labuschagne to come good at some stage. He did well in the first innings, but still, it’s a steep learning curve for him. Labuschagne is too good a player to fail repeatedly, so he will work on his game.
Even then, I can’t see Australia winning a Test. That’s because Ravichandran Ashwin and Jadeja are a winning combination on Indian wickets. Even on good wickets, Ashwin can pose problems; on turning tracks, he can be unplayable with his guile and variations. Don’t overlook Axar Patel because he can wreak have on the home turf: ask the Englishmen.
Two things work in India’s favour. They have an excellent pack of spinners, and the Indian batsmen are better at playing spin than the Australians. That’s why India came back into the game even when debutant Australian off-spinner Todd Murphy sliced through the middle order.
So former Indian coach Ravi Shastri’s prediction of a 4-0 series win is likely to come true.