India have shown greater fight on this tour of Australia and were in a position to win both Tests but in the end are 0-2 down.
The second Test loss should be more disappointing than the brave, never-say-die battle they lost in Adelaide. At the Gabba — a much more difficult surface for India — the team was in a great position to level the series after posting 408 in the first innings. When they had Australia reeling at 6/247 and still trailing by 161, the odds greatly favoured India.
However, at that point they took an unnecessary gamble by taunting Mitchell Johnson and in essence that was the end of the challenge. What should make the second loss more galling is it was basically self-inflicted.
Indian cricket should be more about playing smart rather than making smart-aleck comments. Out-thinking the opposition rather than out-talking them should be India’s modus operandi. Whether you believe in “let sleeping dogs lie” or “never upset a good player”, it rarely pays to provoke opponents who have a history of changing a game. Johnson bowling at the Gabba is a difficult proposition to face. Johnson bowling at the Gabba filled with the confidence of some valuable runs under his belt is a downright dangerous proposition. With Johnson having only bowled moderately well in the first innings, why not leave him alone?
Having aroused Johnson, India are now forced to face their Australian demons; a genuine fast bowler back in form and having exposed a weakness in the middle-order against short-pitched deliveries.
Pujara, Rahane and Rohit Sharma were all exposed at the Gabba, with only the latter having the wherewithal to overcome the problem. Pujara tends to stand and play the short rising ball, which is not a good option in Australia. Rahane is panicked into flailing at the short ball and whilst Rohit has the horizontal bat shots to tame those deliveries, he’s currently batting in a dream and is in danger of wasting his undoubted potential.
While all sorts of excuses can be found for the failure to capitalise on a winning position — poor practice pitches, incorrect umpiring — good teams tend to overcome handicaps. The fact that India have publicly bemoaned these factors tells you they’re more willing to make excuses than the extra mental effort.
India displayed great fight in rallying to defend a moderate target, but why wasn’t this effort and thoughtfulness on show when the game was on the line in the first innings? India’s losses could be blamed on inexperience without tampering with the truth. But if you don’t learn from your mistakes, you don’t improve, and I’ve seen India’s experienced players make these blunders before.