Wednesday, January 6, 2021

The MCG Story

Undoubtedly, one among the top 5 test wins for India. Going in with 5 bowlers after getting bowled out for 36 at Adelaide. That is what this win is all about. Doing that in absence of your Captain and best batsman makes it even more special.

Let's look at the number of people missing from India's best test 11. Virat Kohli, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami, 3 absolute match winners missing. Add Rohit Sharma for the experience. Then Umesh breaks down right when he was on song. If India had gone with 4 bowlers, the match would have been lost then and there.

I have believed Mohammed Siraj is India's 4th fast bowling option behind Bumrah, Shami and Ishant since 2017/18. Some of my friends have laughed at this choice of mine. Even while he was called "Chenda" or "Drum" for his IPL woes, I was of the firm conviction that he deserved to play ahead of Umesh in tests, especially in Australia. The lad has done absolutely magnificent job coming after the sad demise of his father, who supported the youth all through the hard toil. Some special success stories do carry a tinge of moistness at the corner of the eyes. Perhaps it was just meant to keep the lad grounded and he would keep scaling greater heights.

Shubman Gill still is raw, flashy but perhaps the best batsman of his generation. He also is very quick in scoring. That adds positivity to batting. Hope he's nurtured well by the team management.

A lot of people hate Rishabh Pant. But his test records are the best for an Indian wicket-keeper after 13 tests. He's the only Indian wicket-keeper with test centuries in Australia and England and only second Asian behind Kumar Sangakkara. His keeping is work in progress. But he has 50 plus catches and stumpings after 13 tests. He's ahead even there. Perhaps, he deserves a lot more support than all the hate he's getting. And he didn't bat badly at the MCG, involving in a crucial 50 plus partnership with Rahane in first innings that pushed India ahead after 4 wickets were lost quickly.

Jadeja is already a legend. His bowling average is lesser than Kapil Dev and Ian Botham and batting average is higher. Does that sound good ? Then remember he's the finest fielder we have in India. Can there be a more valuable player ?

Ajinkya Rahane has saved his career and his team in one single masterly show. Hats off to the understated Khadoos Mumbaikar.

Pujara and Mayank have had pretty ordinary series so far. But let's remember so has Steve Smith. It has been a bowler's series so far with Australia managing 200 just once in 4 outings and just. India lost first test after one hour of sensational fast bowling at Adelaide. We were pretty harsh on the team, Kohli and Shastri. Team has won a fabulous victory now. Kohli deserves his paternity leave. It's just Cricket and not war.

Some appreciation for the much maligned Shastri too is due. It isn't easy to lift the morale of a team bowled out for 36. Shastri and his coaching team did exactly that. Hence they deserve this mention. We've seen total disintegration of the team a number of times in the past. Star studded teams have returned losing 4-0 and 4-0 in England and Australia. Hence this come from behind win is great.

Finally the success of Ravi Ashwin and Jadeja as bowlers. We had great spinners in the past too. Kumble still is the mountain Ashwin is trying to surpass. A lot of spinners from the past suffered because our pace bowlers were simply inadequate and ineffective. Kumble mostly came on to bowl when opponents were 80/0 from 20 overs or 100/0 from 19 overs or even worse. Ashwin and Jadeja are bowling at middle order batters, after the top order was jolted by our pacers. The incredible consistency of Bumrah, Shami, Ishant etc allows Captain to bring Ashwin earlier and lure batsmen to make mistakes. This isn't taking any credit away from Ashwin and Jadeja. But their success has been possible also because of the best fast bowling unit India has ever had.

Overall a truly happy win. Pujara is bending too much in his stance. He just needs to allow his spine to be a little more erect, the way he did during the previous series down under.  That would make India even better. This series so far has been a bowler's series and promises to remain that way. Hence scores like 41, 28 and a 50 might make huge difference. Remember Australia didn't have a single 50 in the second test while India had a century, a 50 and a 45.

Test Cricket is alive and the series is kicking. Much better than the overdose of shorter format Cricket that has been dished out from different corners. Can't wait for the third test.

Govind Raj Shenoy for DieHard Cricket Fans

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