Ravindra Jadeja
India's Ravindra Jadeja plays a shot during the third day of the fourth and final Test against Australia at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on March 11, 2023. Jadeja’s batting and left-arm spin were pivotal in India’s 2-1 series win. Image Credit: AFP

My prediction went awry. So, what’s new? When some constants become variables, there’s little I can do. A placid pitch and unlikely batting failures undermined my forecast.

I had predicted a 4-0 whitewash after Australia’s capitulation in the first Test at Nagpur. My view was not based on their second innings collapse. They made only 91, but more glaring was the batters’ leaden-footed approach (Steve Smith was an exception), which was a recipe for disaster on pitches that assisted spin. And I expected India to provide turning tracks for all the Tests.

The second Test in Delhi confirmed my belief as the Australian batters continued to be at sea against the turning ball. In the past, I had also warned that spinning wickets can be a double-edged sword, recalling India’s rare home series defeat to England in 2012 when Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar shared 19 wickets by outbowling the Indians.

That nailed the lie that Indians are good players of spin bowling. India have also crashed spectacularly against the part-time left-arm spin of Michael Clarke in Australia and India. So rank turners can backfire on India. That’s precisely what happened in Indore.

India’s Indore debacle

Indian batting coach Vikram Rathour attributed the first innings debacle to the dampness in the pitch when batting first. That turned out to be a lame excuse since the Indian batters stumbled in the second essay as well. Only Shreyas Iyer looked good after his technique survived the stern examination by Aussie spinners Matthew Kunhemann, Nathan Lyon and Todd Murphy.

My prediction was soon shredded. I knew that Smith and Marnus Labuschagne would improve as the series progressed, but the super show by Usman Khawaja and Travis Head was a complete surprise. Looks like even the Aussie selectors didn’t have much faith in Head, having dropped him in the first two Tests. Khwaja was simply brilliant in Ahmedabad and shut India out of the fourth and final Test.

read more

The Indore loss must have weighed heavily on India’s mind, and that could explain the docile Motera pitch to prevent the Australians from squaring the series. Look how the tables were turned. I didn’t see that coming because I had expected India to provide spinning wickets: much like how they beat Joe Root’s England in 2021.

Now you know how my prediction of a 4-0 rout became a 2-1 win in reality. Worse, India needed New Zealand to beat Sri Lanka to qualify for the World Test Championship final.

That is not a comforting thought before India head to the Oval in London to take on Australia in June. That will be a different ball game. My prediction: an Aussie win. Hope it goes wrong again.