The third test of the Border-Gavaskar trophy has just concluded and it leaves many unanswered questions. India’s miserable performance is definitely one thing we all must be talking about but that is not the only cause of headache or heartache. The strategy followed by the management of the men in blue has left many cricket pundits bamboozled. The reason why a worthless wicket-keeper batsman like Srikar Bharat is being pampered is unknown. And above all, one must take off the hat as a mark of respect to Nathan Lyon who now has been the highest wicket taking spinner against India on our home soil. No Shane Warne, no Muralidharan, but Nathan Michael Lyon.
Firstly, performance of our top order batters in the longest version of the game has been an area of grave concern for quite a while now. Do we have any consistent batter in the entire line-up ? Senior players like Sharma or Kohli must take responsibility for the consistent collective failures of the batting unit. There is not a single individual in the side with the ability or intention to even emulate their much celebrated coach Mr.Wall. Pujara has the intention but even after playing 100 test matches, he is still the same inconsistent player he used to be when he was newbie. Rohit Sharma has never been your go-to man in red ball cricket. A couple of years back he was not even certain of his spot in the test side. Much has been talked about Kohli’s kingly comeback since the Asia Cup last year but that form has not been replicated in the longest format till now. Gill is still raw and needs time to settle down. He should be given more assurance about his position and only then his best can be expected to come out. Same thing can be said about other rookies, too.
If you look at this Aussie side, this is perhaps one of the weakest pace attacks they have brought to India till date. Hazelwood has been ruled out. Cummins is on and off. So is Starc. There has not been a single test yet in the series where they could play with any two of the trio. And they suddenly adopted a new strategy of going Full Monty with three spinners. Three spinners in an Aussie side! And India did not come out of their age-old strategy of winning home matches by welcoming the guests with flat tracks assisting the spinners from the very first day. None of the three matches played so far has lasted for more than three days. This is not at all a good advertisement of test cricket. And after suffering humiliating defeats in the first couple of matches, this time the Kangaroos bounced back and gave us a dose of our own medicine. Barring the wicket taken by Starc and a run-out, all our 18 wickets have been taken by the spinners of Australia. Just think for a while. If we could think a little out of the box and made a pace friendly track this time and challenge the pace-depleted Aussies, would not that have been an interesting ploy? With Shami, Umesh and Siraj, we already have an enviable pace battery capable of troubling any great side of the world on any given day. But who cares? Too much dependence on Jadeja and Ashwin had to backfire at some point of time and this test was that occasion only.
I really do not want to spend a whole paragraph on the reason behind Srikar Bharat’s inclusion in this team. Have never seen a worse wicketkeeper-batsman donning the Indian jersey in a test match. Why are we afraid to go on with Kishan ? Why did we cull Saha citing age as the factor in the first place? How old is Jimmy Anderson by the way?
Lastly, it will forever be remembered as Nathan Lyon’s match. His brilliant figure of 11 wickets at the rate of 9 runs a piece tells the whole story of the match. The Indians actually had to pay the price of underestimating him or his spinning partners all of whom did decent jobs to take the match away and catapult their team to the World Test Championship Final. Even the great Warnie never had such enviable figure on Indian soil. With just 21 shy from reaching the milestone of 500 test scalps, Nathan Lyon is surely a legend in his own rights.
It would be unjust to end this article without mentioning the brilliance of Steven Smith as the captain of this side. He is donning the hat of the Aussie Skipper after almost four and half years and showed glimpses of his shrewd brain every moment he was in charge. Kudos to the rejuvenated Aussies under his able guidance.