India did everything right in the Boxing Day Test, showing admirable resilience to bounce back from defeat in Perth and carve out a commanding victory. Virat Kohli won a significant toss, but the toss is only the starting point of any match. From the moment they batted first, India were in control.
The bowlers were again outstanding, as they were for almost the entire duration of last year. Not for the first time, Jasprit Bumrah was the outstanding performer with his hostility and accuracy. His rise to the forefront in red-ball cricket has to be the success story for Indian cricket in 2018, but while he walked away with a bulk of the wickets and the man of the match award, it was far from a one-man show. The other three bowlers, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami and Ravindra Jadeja, each played his part to perfection, and acting as a team, the bowling unit managed to conquer the slowness of the MCG surface exceedingly well.
India’s batting, particularly overseas, has come to rely heavily on Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat, and their partnership of 170 was vital to the big first-innings total India were eyeing. Once you get to 443, you are always in a position to dictate proceedings. But again, while Pujara and Virat were the obvious heroes, I feel no praise can be too high for the manner in which Mayank Agarwal batted on debut. He looked solid, assured, and completely at home, while in the unfamiliar role of an opener, Hanuma Vihari too held his own. He might have made only eight, but by facing 66 deliveries and putting on 40 with Agarwal, he took the shine off the new ball, and the pressure off Pujara and Virat.
Brilliantly placed to win their first series ever in Australia, India will approach the final Test full of confidence. Going by what Tim Paine has said, a turner is on the cards in Sydney which, in my eyes, makes the call of who should replace Rohit Sharma fairly obvious. Already, the fast bowlers have shouldered a heavy workload, and the inclusion of Ravichandran Ashwin will not just strengthen the spin department but also ease some of the burden on the quicks. As he has shown many times in the past, Ashwin has the technique to do well with the bat overseas. I would back him to make a successful return to the playing XI, just as I would back India to sign off with a win and bring back the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in style.