Indian skipper Virat Kohli’s final act on the field of the 2020 tour of Australia was to throw his right hand up in the air and shake his head in despair. That summed up the Indian team’s state of mind in many ways. Such was the aftershock of their lowest ever-Test score that it would take them more than just time to heal their deep wounds. The bad news is their inspirational skipper will not be available to bail the team out of the rathole that they find themselves in.
Moreover, the Boxing Day Test is just three days away and to make matters worse, Indians will be without the services of in-form bowler Mohammed Shami.
What head coach Ravi Shastri and skipper Virat Kohli maintained holds true in many ways. India wasn’t necessarily ill-disciplined. Captain Virat Kohli curiously insisted that the ball “didn’t do much” all innings and that his team’s only sin was a lack of intent. On almost any other day, the batsmen would have played and missed far more often than they nicked off — but this was a day like no other.
What would sting them more is, the game was essentially theirs. Better fielding combined with a fair assumption that the Adelaide collapse was a once in a lifetime event makes the MCG contest a closer one than last Saturday’s events would suggest.
Nonetheless, the situation is simple and quite complex for India: Lose the Boxing Day Test and they need to win the remaining two Tests to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
That India in Australia needs to bounce back and they need to bounce back first.
India in Australia: What could’ve been
Test match cricket, especially India in Australia is all about grind over the course of five days where little moments matter.
There was day one, when India was 3-188 and with Virat Kohli well on his way to a century until Australia was handed the cricketing gift of all gifts when the Indian captain was run-out by Ajinkya Rahane. Later, Australia was 7-111 in response to India’s first innings 244, and only salvaged a score of 191 thanks to Tim Paine’s gritty 73 under lights on a day, where India dropped as many as five catches.
Day three started with India 62 runs ahead and with nine wickets in hand. How different this series could be if Australia’s quicks hadn’t bailed the batsmen out in Saturday’s all-time cricket anomaly.
Ironically, history gives us an interesting insight and India some hope. The challenge that confronts India now is similar to Australia’s in November 2011. The Aussies slumped to their lowest Test score for over a century, a meek 47 all out against South Africa-only to come back and win the next Test.
In a Covid-19 environment where escaping the cricket bubble will prove near impossible for the Indians, they must find a way to balance learning from Sunday’s collapse and forgetting about it altogether.
Will it be seen as unrepairable damage inside the Indian camp? A blip on an otherwise clear radar? Or will it be reviewed extensively? Each false shot analysed in slow motion to pick apart 92 minutes of error-riddled batting. Either way, coach Ravi Shastri has a critical role to play in the wash-up.
#AUSvIND | Both Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill had a hit at the nets in Melbourne on Wednesday.
— India Today Sports (@ITGDsports) December 23, 2020
India in Australia: What needs to change
India in Australia faces an uphill task and has three Tests to find the right balance between defence and attack. Doing so without Virat Kohli adds a layer of difficulty, but it cannot be forgotten that when Tim Paine was dropped in Australia’s first innings, the tourists led by 143 runs.
Ravi Shastri and stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane will be mulling over the team-combination to counter the pace, bounce and more importantly Australia’s momentum in Melbourne.
India’s troubles begin at the top with the openers and in particular Prithvi Shaw. His technical flaws meant he survived just eight deliveries in Adelaide and is set to be replaced by his U-19 World Cup teammate Shubman Gill.
The 21-year-old is yet to make his Test debut but has looked fairly assured during the limited-overs leg of the tour and even in the tour games. He will either assume the opener’s role or could even slot in the middle-order. Another change that is on the cards is Rishabh Pant – who hit a whirlwind 73-ball ton in the practice match – in place of Wriddhiman Saha – who did not live up to expectations during the Pink-ball Test.
India will sorely miss Mohammed Shami’s new-ball spells, and according to multiple reports-Mohammad Siraj is all set for a Test debut.
KL Rahul could be another name in the mix and if selected, India would hope that he can replicate his limited-overs form at the MCG, the venue where he made his Test debut six seasons ago.
Finally, it is natural for Indian cricket fans and players as much to be angry and gutted at the performance at Adelaide, and the only thing that could soothe their wounds is a reaction in Melbourne.
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