India it seems have not learnt any lessons after the debacle at Brisbane. Indian bowlers in particular have let the team down yet again. After the honours were shared on the first day of the third Test at Melbourne with Australia with the day ending at 259/5, India appeared happy with the progress of play. But the second day, proved to be a horror show yet again. India bowlers were once again treated with disdain by Australia’s stand-in skipper Steve Smith who scored yet another century. He seems to be enjoying the Indian bowling attack and what is more important is that whenever Aussies needed a big innings, Smith has helped them out with a captain’s knock and has got wonderful support from the Aussie lower order.
Here too, at Melbourne, his partnership of of 110 with wicket-keeper Brad Haddin (55) and 50 with Mitchell Johnson (28) allowed Smith to score his third hundred against India in this series, making him the first Australian to pass three figures in each of his first two Tests as captain. Smith has clearly become the nemesis of the Indian bowling in this series. His 192 was yet another majestic effort. He has completed 1000 runs this year. In this series against India alone , Smith has plummeted 567 runs at a stunning average of 189.00.
Smith had during the knock got great support from the tail, whether it was Mitchell Johnson in Brisbane with 88 or Ryan Harris with a 88 ball 74. Mitchell Johnson too hit out in a flourish a fast 37 ball 28 adding to India’s woes as India’s listless bowlers gave away 314 runs for the last five wickets and Australia posted a huge total of 530. The runs gave by Indian bowlers while taking wickets tell the story. Ishant Sharma 0/104 off 32 overs , Umesh Yadav 32.3 overs and 3/130, Mohammed Shami 29 overs and 4/ 138, Ravichandran Ashwin 44 overs and 3/ 134.
In fact one can say Indian bowlers have been very generous. They have for the sixth time have conceded 500-plus totals in 2014. The only other time this happened was when England conceded 500-plus six times in 2006. In this series alone Australia have posted 500 plus runs three times. This stat alone tells the sorry story of the Indian bowlers in Australia.
Former India skipper Sunil Gavaskar in his column wrote that it looks like India are yet to find a way to dismiss Steve Smith in this series. Smith has relished the Indian bowlers’ inability to bowl to a plan and their short-ball theory has not worked at all. Aussie opener Steve Rogers while talking to reporters after the first day’s play was all praise for his skipper Steve Smith saying: “Smith is just growing day by day and it’s scary to think how good he can be. Someone threw at a ball back at him today and he had the confidence to say a few words back at him, so it looks as if he knows he belongs and he knows he’s of the better players in the world at the moment.”
Though Umesh Yadav, R Ashwin picked up two wickets each and Mohammed Shami scalped 3, India’s lack of delivering the killer punch after taking five Aussie wickets early has come back to haunt Team India again. And Australia it seems are on their way to yet another massive total.
That means India will be under a lot of pressure when they come out to bat. The team management has taken a bold decision by dropping the out of touch Rohit Sharma and giving Test debut to Karnataka batsman K L Rahul – another protégé of Indian batting legend Rahaul Dravid. KL Rahul over Suresh Raina is a bold gamble. Now only runs from his end will justify his selection otherwise tongues would start wagging.
India in chase of 530 , got off to good start . But once again Shikhar Dhawan failed to convert the start. He fell for 28. His repeated failures prompted Sanjay Manjrekar to pose a pertinent query: How long will the team management repose faith in Dhawan if he plays this way? His opening partner Murali Vijay it seems is batting in another planet. There were many voices questioning his selection ahead of seasoned campaigners Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, but Vijay has not let the team down. He has been the star of the batting line-up . Look at his scores in the series : ( 55 & 99 Adelaide) , ( 144 & 27 Brisbane) and again in Melbourne he is unbeaten on 55. Vijay has a stunning average of 94.50 in the series and has scored till now 378 runs. He is followed by Virat Kohli (276 with an average of 69.00).
Cheteshwar Pujara should consider himself lucky that he is still there in the middle. Brad Haddin had dropped an absolute sitter off Josh Hazelwood when Pujara was on 14. He must make this count. Moreover, Pujara has been very nervy and his footwork leaves a lot to be desired. India at 108/1 is good reply. But have we not been in this situation before only to collapse the next day? Indian fans would be hoping that Team India on a good batting track shows some will and intent. And Indian bowlers should learn from the Aussies how to bowl in a disciplined way. Indian bowlers bowled needless short balls, while likes of Shane Watson, Ryan Harris , J Hazelwood and Mitchell Johnson have bowled simply proper line and length. That is the real difference between the Indian and the Aussie bowlers in this series.
Brief scores : India 1 for 108 (Vijay 55*) trail Australia 530 (Smith 192, Harris 74, Rogers 57, Haddin 55, Watson 52) by 422 runs