Australia’s second innings collapse was swift and comprehensive but wasn’t unexpected. There have been obvious signs for a while that this team could struggle against good spin bowlers and the retirement of Mike Hussey only added to the perception.
In the end, it’s proven to be a line-up heavily reliant on Michael Clarke, who has been strangely reluctant to move up the order in an attempt to short circuit the side’s early struggles under Indian conditions.
India are now in a position where they can erase the abject memories of Australia’s recent 4-0 whitewash by producing an equally devastating score-line in their favour.
India have produced the right recipe in each Test so far; establish a huge first innings lead and then let the pressure of probing spin bowling act like water torture on the hesitant Australia batsmen. In Hyderabad, the Indians extracted quick confessions without a lot of prompting.
One of the most pleasing aspects of the second Test win for India was that it was set up by two of the younger batsmen. I liked the look of both Cheteshwar Pujara and Murali Vijay on first sighting against Australia and nothing I saw on this occasion surprised. They have both matured into excellent Test match batsmen and worthy successors to some of the recently-retired practitioners, whose brilliance made India proud.
With a Virat Kohli century in the opening encounter, this is now shaping as a young India line-up that will be able to withstand the final transition phase when Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar leave. The way Sehwag is batting that’s likely to be sooner rather than later and also, not at a time of his choosing.
Australia must be concerned that they are 0-2 down after having benefitted from winning the toss in each contest. They couldn’t be in a much worse predicament had they batted second on each occasion but it won’t pay to think about the consequences if they are confronted with the worst of the batting conditions.
It’s all well and good for Australia to lament the batsmen’s lack of patience when compared with that of Pujara and Vijay in their mammoth partnership but theirs’ is an assurance born from confidence.
Lack of confidence
Clarke apart, the Australia batsmen don’t have the confidence in their skill to survive for long enough to prosper and that leads to either rash or hesitant shots, neither of which is designed for lasting success.
It’s hard not to have some sympathy for the Australian selectors as they don’t have too many options but their muddled thinking hasn’t helped matters. To suddenly go sour on Nathan Lyon after one outing, when they hadn’t included Glen Maxwell in the final tour match, wasn’t a move designed to boost the confidence of either player.
Having unsuccessfully hit India with their best attack in the first Test and then quickly backtracked and comprehensively lost the second, Australia are now in a deep psychological trough. If Clarke is searching for solutions, it’s no good looking at his opposite number. In Australia, MS Dhoni found himself in a similar position and he was bereft of ideas to stop the slide.