Winning a series down under has always been the dream of each and every Indian captain. The fact that Australia hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Indians is no hyperbole. The series played in 2003-04 happened to be the last instance where the Indians managed to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy on Australian soil. Sourav Ganguly’s men succeeded in keeping the Aussies at bay throughout the series and managed to salvage a commanding draw in the 4th and final test match of the series after scoring in excess of 700 runs in the first innings. Consequently, the series was squared and the Indians managed to retain the silverware.
Approximately 15 years down the line, Virat Kohli’s men have defeated the Aussies comprehensively across formats. It certainly would be no hyperbole to state that there’s a wide gulf that separates the current bunch of Aussie cricketers from the ones who played in the 2003-04 series. Back then, the Aussies had some of the finest cricketers in world cricket. You had the likes of Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, and Michael Bevan in the batting department. The bowling department was no less impressive, with tried and tested names in Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, and Glenn McGrath tormenting the batters frequently.
Coming back to India’s historic series victory down under, one has to say that the Indians have played quality cricket throughout the series. The taste of this series victory is sweet because not once did the Indians succumb to pressure during the series, and even more so because they read the conditions pretty well. Some calculated risks were taken. There were quite a few gambles that paid off, and in the end, the Indians succeeded in rewriting the history books.
The Indians have managed to tick quite a few boxes this time around. Here are a few of them.
Pujara is the Resurrected Wall
First thing’s first, Pujara’s heroics with the willow in hand were instrumental in steering the ship out of troubled waters on quite a few occasions. The 30-year-old’s monk-like presence out in the middle sucked the life out of the Aussie pace battery. The team had Pujara playing the sheet anchor’s role every time the team lost an early wicket. A test series that saw no Aussie batsman reaching the three-figure mark also saw Pujara notching up as many as three centuries. The iconic Adelaide Oval saw Pujara scoring an imperious 123 in the first test match of the series. The lad from Saurastra was seen holding the fort even as wickets kept tumbling.
Before the commencement of the series, everybody talked about Kohli and his excellent record against Australia in Australia, but the focus shifted from Kohli to Pujara within no time. In an era of hot-shot Twenty20 cricket, Pujara brought back the joys of playing the waiting game. He just kept batting and batting, and batting.
At times, even legends of the game find themselves in a spot of bother. With MS Dhoni receiving a lot of criticism because of his diminishing returns with the willow, it was time for the veteran to give a fitting reply to all his naysayers. With 193 runs in 3 ODI matches at a staggering average of 193, the 38-year-old has once again silenced his critics. It goes without saying that, at 38, he is not even half the player he once used to be, but his calming presence in the dressing room is enough to guide and motivate the multitude of youngsters surrounding him. Also, as many as three back-to-back fifties against the Aussies away from home would do Dhoni’s confidence a world of good.
No Overdependence on Kohli
Every single time Kohli fell cheaply, we had a player anchoring the innings. Pujara played the sheet anchor’s role throughout the test series, whereas Dhoni played the guiding light’s role in coloured clothing. The series that began with countless talks regarding the team’s overdependence on Virat Kohli ended with each and every player contributing to the team’s cause in some way or the other.
You had Bhuvaneshwar Kumar picking up wickets with the old ball in Adelaide. You also had Dinesh Karthik teaming up with Dhoni to get his side over the line after Kohli fell with the team needing some 60 runs in six overs. You had Chahal ripping the heart out of the Australian batting order at the MCG. It turned out to be a balanced affair.
The Bowlers Were Just as Good as the Batters
For the first time ever, we got to see an Indian side wherein the bowlers possessed adequate wicket-taking abilities. The likes of Bumrah, Shami, and Kuldeep ran berserk and were instrumental in bundling out the opposition. It wasn’t just about Bumrah’s brilliance or Shami’s control, but about the bowling department’s progress as one integrated unit.
To Draw the Curtains
With just 10 ODIs remaining before the 50 over World Cup, India’s middle order looks pretty much settled, provided Dhoni remains stationed at number 4. The series victory over Australia, across both formats, would keep the team in good stead. It is an achievement that’d motivate them to go out all guns blazing when the mega event begins in May this year.