If the Melbourne Test highlighted some traditional aspects of Indian cricket, it also brought into focus some startling new facts. First, the things we are familiar with.
The theory that we are kings only at home, stands confirmed. Once again, in conditions, not entirely batsmen-friendly, the batting collapsed. If some of the seniors looked unequal to the challenge, the younger stars were found out technically.
That the batting should consistently fail abroad is a bit of a mystery because, unlike in the past, players don't lack experience or awareness about the conditions, pitches and opposition. Australia is not a suspenseful journey into the unknown, yet the batsmen come up short when tested.
The India batting was healthy only when Virender Sehwag savagely launched into the bowling and Sachin Tendulkar, as Kapil Dev remarked, played like Sachin. Apart from this, it seems the curse of being poor travellers and slow starters continues to haunt India. This Australia trip is also unfolding according to that stereotype, and India are no different from the nervous, fumbling athlete who has a false start.
India's well-known inability to knock over the opposing tail was cruelly exposed. In the second innings, four down for nothing, Australia were tottering but after the middle order fought back, the India bowlers could not subdue the tail. The question is: If top batsmen can be prised out by sharp pace, why not the lower order? After the match, a baffled MS Dhoni admitted that he could not explain this, and was searching for a satisfactory answer.
The defeat in Melbourne provoked Sunil Gavaskar to comment that India have lost the chance to win in Australia, Ian Chappell felt the Wall (Rahul Dravid) required reinforcement and angry fans unleashed a steady barrage of criticism.
But in all this noise, the positive takeaways slipped under the radar. That India took 20 wickets in the match is a massive achievement, considering that we hardly got anyone out in England.
Umesh Yadav bowled impressively to twice slice through the Aussie top order. He and Isshaant Sharma were quick, enthusiastic and threatening all the time. Not to forget the remarkable comeback of Zaheer Khan, whose body stood up to the strain and his swing bowling was as crafty as ever.
(The writer is a cricket administrator and views expressed are his own)