Indian cricket team’s undefeated run of 19 Tests was brought to an abrupt halt in Pune as Australia drubbed the world number one side by 333 runs in a match that ended within three days at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium.
In terms of runs, it was the fourth-biggest defeat for the hosts in Tests as the visitors took a 1-0 lead in the four-match series. Leading the charge for the Baggy Greens was off-spinner Steve O’Keefe, who picked up 12 wickets, while captain Steve Smith notched up his maiden Test ton on Indian soil.
With three more Tests to go, HT looks at what the team needs to do to bounce back in the next match, which starts in Bangalore on Saturday.
The team has rewritten a number of records over the past 10 Tests in the 13-match home season but dropping at least 23 catches in that period is perhaps something that they wouldn’t have preferred to. They crushed almost every opponent in style and hence it perhaps didn’t matter. But at Pune, Smith was dropped on four occasions in his second innings, and the right-handed batsman went on to score a memorable ton that simply took the game away from the hosts.
Apart from putting down sitters, the team also needs specialists to take up proper positions in the field. While there has been a number of combinations that have been tried at the slip corridor, the team is yet to settle down on a fixed set up. Even at Pune, Cheteshwar Pujara could be found near the ropes while substitute Abhinav Mukund had to step up for short-leg duty. It was surprising as Pujara could be seen practicing close-in catching at the nets earlier. Mukund dropped Smith twice — at short-leg and mid-on.
There are no cookies on offer for one to realise that this side is yet to come to terms with the system as a number of calls are still taken in haste. While teams usually opt for the decision review system only when they are convinced, Indians can often be seen availing them out of hope than conviction. While both the Indian openers availed it within the first six overs to walk back unsuccessfully in the second innings of the Pune Test, Matthew Wade and Steve Smith were lucky on the third day with a caught-behind and a plumb leg-before appeal turned down against them respectively.
For a side that had posted more than 600 runs on the board in three successive Tests before the Pune match, there shouldn’t be too many issues with the batting line-up. However, often, India has failed to find their openers providing them that platform. Murali Vijay and KL Rahul, the preferred opening pair for the side, averages just around 20 runs for the first wicket. In 13 matches that they’ve walked out to take guard together, the duo has stitched a 50-plus partnership only once.
Batsmen need to pile up runs
No matter how good a bowling attack is or how poor maybe the condition of a pitch, getting bundled twice in a Test for a little over 100 runs cannot be justified. Though it’s only once that they’ve faltered so badly in recent times and it would be harsh to be extremely critical of the batsmen, it cost the side a match that is bound to affect the morale of a team riding high on confidence. Kohli, too, underlined in the post-match conference that his batsmen had let him down in the match, and for India to bounce back in the second Test, the batsmen need to provide significant totals on the board for Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to run riot.