Every captain that leaves his country’s shores for an away cricket tour plans to return victorious no matter what is the strength of his team. Virat Kohli’s thoughts would have been the same when he left India for Australia after a successful campaign against the visiting West Indies. I would not blame him for having his doubts given that India had lost both the away tours of South Africa and England earlier in the year. It wasn’t that the Indians did not play well on both the outings. But as was admitted by one and all there were some tactical blunders in those two tours drawing scepticism from cricket fans around the world about India’s status as the number one team in the world.
On this Australian tour, everything fell into place for Virat Kohli and his men to a nicety. Much was written about Virat Kohli’s ability as a captain and as a batsman. His previous exploits in Australia were discussed threadbare. But surprisingly another quiet man in the team put up his hand and got counted. Chateswar Pujara simply decided to bat on and on at his own merry pace much to the annoyance of the bowlers. And the best bowling attack in the world got tired to the extent that they were bored of bowling to him. His 512 runs, with three centuries that he scored simply ground the bowlers into subjugation. Just imagine bowling 1258 balls to a man who scored 512 runs in four Test matches.
The Indian bowling unit also came out looking not only good but is rated among the best in the world today. Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma with help from Ravichandran Aswin and Ravindra Jadeja virtually dictated the terms to the Australian batsmen. If it was Bumrah and Ashwin with six wickets each in the first Test which India won, it was Mohammed Shammi who grabbed nine wickets in the second when Australia won. It was in this Test match that Kohli scored a century in the first inning.
In the third Test match, Pujara and Bumrah were at it again. While Pujara scored another patient century, Bumrah ripped through the Australian inning to take six wickets in the first and another three in the second inning to win the match for India. Were it not for the rain in the last Test match at Sydney that interrupted play, there is only one way the match could have gone and that is India’s way. With Pujara and Rishab Pant posting century India enforced the follow on when rain stopped play in the match. India had won their first Test match series 2-1 in Australia since their first quest on the Australian shores in 1947.
In the ODI’s too India played creditably and won the series 2-1 after conceding the first ODI to the Australians. Mahendra Singh Dhoni pleasantly surprised one and all by scoring three half-centuries in all the three matches and leading India to victory in the last two matches. That certainly confirms his place as the wicketkeeper of choice for India in the ICC World Cup this English summer. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, who did not bowl in the Test matches, bowled well in the ODI’s and Yazuvendra Chahal who played only in the last ODI finished with figures of 6 wickets of 42 runs.
The Indian team has left for New Zealand where they will play a number of ODIs and T20 internationals with the Kiwis before they return to India. The two teams, India and New Zealand are ranked at number two and three in the world ODI rankings respectively and both the teams will be looking to assert their supremacy over the other. The Indians will be going into the series with a confidence of being the undisputed victors in Australia which few teams can boast off when leaving Australian shores. The upcoming contest between the two teams will be a keen contest.