The Boxing day Test match between India and Australia ended in a draw but not without sheer drama throughout the Test match. Australia, one thought, batted a bit longer on the final day and set India a target of 384. India, batting to save the match, got off to a disastrous start . A hopelessly out-of form Shikhar Dhawan fell for a duck and newcomer KL Rahul surprisingly asked to bat at number 3, played yet another atrocious shot to get out, thus putting India in dire straits again. India were tottering at 2 for 5 and when Murali Vijay was give out wrongly leg before by Kumar Dharamsena to Josh Hazelwood’s delivery for 11, India were staring defeat yet again with a the team’s total a mere 19/3.
Very much like in the first innings, Indian vice-captain Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane put on stellar show. The duo have been magnificent in this series. They have scored runs all round the wicket and have been very aggressive in their approach. Whenever the Aussie quicks bowled short the duo never shied away from playing the pull shot with precision. Their partnership of 85 runs took the match away from Australia. Kohli stroked a fine 54. He was cheered on from the stands by his Bollywood actress girlfriend Anushka Sharma who seemed quite happy to watch Kohli in Melbourne rather than face the heat for her film PK, which has generated a huge controversy. Earlier there was diktat that BCCI would not allow girlfriends on tour. But Kohli it seems has got his way once again and Anushka was seen sitting at the MCG stands along with other wives at MCG.
Rahane on the other hand played a watchful and controlled innings of 48. Rahane is clearly taking giant strides as a world class player. And his batting with shots all-round the wicket and his technique and temperament has wowed commentators like Aussie legend Shane Warne and former India skipper Sourav Ganguly.
Australia have no one but themselves to blame for the result of this match. Their fielding was clearly sloppy according to their high standards. They dropped some sitters in this match much to their agony and huge sigh of relief for the Indian team. After Rahane and Kohli’s dismissal and Pujara’s flop show, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ravichandran Ashwin saw that India did not suffer any more hiccups and the duo played out the remaining overs for the draw. Dhoni was unbeaten on 24 with Ashwin on 8; India finished at 174/6 in 66 0vers. With four overs to go both skippers Smith and Dhoni agreed to end the match.
Well, if one has to pick the contest of the match, it has to be between Virat Kohli and Mitchell Johnson. The duo were at their verbal best to outsmart each other. And going by the match stats alone, Kohli has had the last laugh.
Though India managed a draw in Melbourne, Australia regained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with a 2-0 lead before the final Test in Sydney from January 6-10. The high points for India in this series has been the brilliant batting of the trio – Virat Kohli (499 runs at an avg 83.16), Murali Vijay (402 runs, avg 67.00) and Ajinkya Rahane (348 runs, avg 58). There best knocks of 169, 144 and 147 respectively are memorable.
The super flops have been Cheteshwar Pujara, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma. Debutant K L Rahul’s shot selection in both the innings showed that he was unprepared for International cricket. And shots suggested that he was batting for the sake of it. Dhawan’s repeated failures at the top as an opener is nothing new. He was struggling even before he went to Australia. So wonder what forced the selectors to pick him ahead of Gautam Gambhir. Agreed that Gambhir did not fare well in England. But did the others shine?
Indian bowling on the other hand has nothing much to write home about. The number of times Australia scored 500 plus runs (three times) in three Tests tells the sorry state of Indian bowlers. In Adelaide Australia scored 517 in the first innings, Brisbane it was 505, Melbourne it was 530. Though Umesh Yadav has picked 10 wickets in 2 matches, Mohammed Shami 9 wickets in 2 matches and Ishant Sharma 9 wickets in three matches, they have been very expensive. And that is worrisome for the side going to defend the World Cup in 2015 on these very tracks. With yet another Test series loss abroad, it is perhaps time to seriously ponder and hand over the Test captaincy to Virat Kohli. Kohli may have lost in Adelaide but the flair and freshness in Indian approach impressed many. So why not back him?