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Dhoni has dealt body blow to Australian confidence

india Updated: Feb 27, 2013 02:32 IST
Ian Chappell

The most satisfying cricket victories are when a team not only defeats the opponent but also establishes a psychological advantage that has the potential to produce even more favourable results later in the series.

That's exactly the win India produced in Chennai. They beat Australia comprehensively and in the process, dominated their opponents' strongest attack and confirmed the suspicion that they were vulnerable to good spin bowling. The fact that India held the upper hand against all but the indefatigable James Pattinson was probably their greatest achievement.

It was the equivalent of a heavyweight boxer landing his best punch in the opening round and his opponent grinning at him and saying; "Is that the best you've got?"

It was clear from their selection - not only for the first Test but in the lead up matches -that Australia didn't have much faith in a second spinning option. Now they may have to backtrack and decide on one for the next Test.

Once a team is virtually dictating their opposition's selection policy, guess which side is in trouble.

One-man army
Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the architect of much of the pain inflicted by India. He set about destroying the Australia bowling with a ferocious and brilliant counter-attacking ploy and then drove home the thought that spin was their Achilles' heel by opening the second innings with a twin-tweaker combination.

This was a totally different captain Dhoni from the lacklustre leader in Australia. There he tended to let the game roll on, not only with his field placings, but also an unimaginative selection policy. If revenge is a dish best served cold then Dhoni found the ideal recipe for steamy Chennai.

For their part, the Australian selectors asked themselves one question for Chennai; "What is our best attack?"

What they failed to do and will need to address before the second Test, is ask the follow up question; "But what is our best attack under these conditions?"

Thanks to Dhoni's brilliant strategy in Chennai, the Australian selectors could find themselves damned if they do (make multiple changes for the second encounter) and damned if they don't (alter a losing combination).

That places India in a mighty strong psychological position after only one of four Tests.

India's bowling hero was also unrecognisable from the wayward off-spinner who toiled manfully but was rarely successfully in Australia. R Ashwin tried too much variety on Australia's hard pitches and consequently his line and length suffered and he was punished. He learned his lesson in Chennai and mainly relied, especially in the first innings, on a hard-spun off-break with subtle variations of pace and flight that often left the batsmen floundering.

It was a classic example of a thoughtful spinner making an adjustment on a helpful pitch where he still had to fool the batsmen in flight before eventually beating them off the wicket.

For Australia, the biggest gain was Moises Henriques, who stood out among the inexperienced batsmen with his calm temperament and well thought out technique. The other big achievement was keeping the India openers quiet twice and that will cause some concern, as this has been an on-going problem.

India have given Australia a huge headache leading into the second Test. Somehow, they have to find a bowling attack that can restrict India because they can't afford to chase big totals with a fragile line-up against spin bowling.