Champion teams turn adversity into opportunity. That’s exactly what India did as they sealed a stirring comeback against Australia with a comprehensive win in the third ODI on Sunday.
Outplayed in Mumbai, India hardly put a foot wrong subsequently against a strong outfit, riding on contributions from every individual to complete a packed run at home on an undefeated high. That will give them a great deal of confidence as they embark on a full tour of New Zealand.
The turnaround time is very little, the time zone is different and so will the conditions be, but there is nothing to suggest that this Indian team can’t handle those challenges with aplomb.
While the batsmen rightly took the accolades during the last two wins, the bowling group didn’t lag behind. Jasprit Bumrah’s value can never be exaggerated. Scant returns in the wickets column don’t do him any justice. The pressure he builds and sustains against the best batsmen in the opposition is noteworthy, and that pressure often results in wickets at the other end.
Mohammed Shami had his gameplan in place, coming up with a beauty to dismiss David Warner early, while he and Navdeep Saini continued to deliver yorkers with accuracy and regularity towards the closing stages. There was purchase for the spinners: it was good to see Ravindra Jadeja marry economy with wicket-taking and Kuldeep Yadav being brave enough to keep tossing the ball up.
Steve Smith produced a masterclass and got good support from Marnus Labuschagne, but Australia is heavily dependent on their top three and didn’t have a great deal of firepower later on. India’s excellence in the field, highlighted by Virat’s stunning catch to dismiss Labuschagne complemented the bowling and despite the exceptional Smith’s extraordinary century, Australia was perhaps 30 runs short.
India were dealt a blow through Shikhar Dhawan’s injury, but easily found a way around the mini-crisis. India are fortunate to have two of the all-time greats of white ball cricket playing simultaneously, and it was a treat to see how Rohit Sharma and Kohli went about the chase.
Australia might have believed bowling was their strength and hence opted to bat first but apart from Josh Hazlewood, their pacers were ineffective. Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar got assistance but couldn’t pick up wickets, thanks to the mastery of Rohit and Virat. They knew the significance of a big stand, given the relative inexperience of a talented middle-order.
As always, the big boys stood out by delivering on the big stage.