No Stopping The Indian Juggernaut
India’s home record is unparalleled, no team has this kind of formidable home record
There is just no stopping the Indian juggernaut. In their own backyard they are well and truly invincible and further proof if required has just been provided. When the No 1 ranked side goes down in two successive Tests, inside three days, by margins that brook no argument it only underlines that defeating India at home will remain a pipe dream for any visiting side.
It is another matter that India are the No 2 side and playing at home gives any team an advantage particularly India. And yet there is no way anyone could have predicted that the series would be so lop sided. This is an Aussie side that is well served in both batting and bowling. Some of the names in the team are among the modern greats with one of them being an all-time great and for them to succumb so meekly displays an absolute lack of fight and this is something that is not associated with Aussie teams.
Yes, it is true that India’s home record is unparalleled in its success. No team has the kind of formidable home record that India has. Not only have they last lost a series back in 2012 they have ridden roughshod over all opposition in the last decade the highpoint being a 4-0 whitwash of the Aussies in 2013.
These days it is not only a case of doing well at home and failing abroad as has been the case so often in the past. India has won the last two contests `Down Under’ and so to remain unconquered for four rubbers in a row (they also won at home in 2017) is no mean feat. And for all practical purposes it can be taken as four wins in a row for there is no way the Aussies can avoid defeat in the current series. For this they have to win both the remaining Tests and at the moment they are such a demoralised lot it would take a herculean effort to avoid another 4-0 clean sweep.
As is well known playing in India requires a very different kind of preparation given the pitches and the expertise of India’s spin bowlers. On the face of it one cannot fault the Aussies in this regard. From practising on improvised similar surfaces back home to picking four spin bowlers in the squad to calling upon an “Ashwin duplicate’’ to bowl to them at the nets at Bangalore they gave every indication that they were ready to take on India on level terms.
They obviously hoped that this would make up the lack of a practice match that they themselves declined. But all this has done is to underscore the fact that practice is one thing and the real test is quite another, facing an Ashwin clone is one thing and facing Ashwin is quite another.
Too much should not made of the surfaces provided at Nagpur and New Delhi. It is well known that Indian pitches have generally favoured spin bowling and as long as they are not rank turners on which the ball does tricks from day one it is acceptable. At Nagpur on the same track India got 400 and Australia fell well short of that figure in two innings.
That just underlined the fact that the Indian batsmen adapted themselves to the conditions better and they had the superior bowling attack. It was much the same story at New Delhi where Australia were on level terms halfway through till a shocking collapse in the second innings saw them go down meekly again. To lose ten wickets in an extended session at Nagpur followed by losing nine wickets well inside one session at New Delhi is simply inexcusable.
One has only to look back at the last series at home six years ago when Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe kept Australia very much in the hunt till the visitors went down 2-1 in a four-match series. Even in the last series that India lost to England in 2012 it was the good work done by the spin duo of Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann that saw England turn the tables for a well-deserved 2-1 victory.
This time round Nathan Lyon and Todd Murphy have tried their best to keep Australia in the hunt. The two off spinners one vastly experienced and the other a debutant have shown that India can be stretched even if there is the unusual spectacle of the Aussie pace bowling being reduced to an also-ran role. More to the point, however, it has been the shocking failure of the batsmen against the turning ball.
One can understand a bit of a struggle but this has been abject surrender. David Warner’s travails in India are well chronicled and one is just surprised that such a commanding batsman is reduced to a walking wicket in this country. Even more stunning has been the failures of Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith.
Last time out here Smith got three hundreds in the Test series even as his team (he was the captain) went down narrowly. Given his reputation, his technique, his intense concentration and his insatiable appetite for runs one would expect him to be among the runs even amidst the ruins around him. His failure has been quite inexplicable.
Labuschagne is another matter for even with his splendid record he is touring India for the first time so his failures could be viewed with some sympathy. As far as the others are concerned they have just been badly exposed about their incapacities against spin.
Under the circumstances one wouldn’t want to go overboard as far as India’s performance is concerned. One can only say it is par for the course though credit must be given where it is due – to Rohit Sharma, Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja for living up to their reputation.
However, it must be pointed out that there are gaping holes in the batting and while these kind of lop sided results tend to cover up for this weakness a closer contest will expose it. The batting has to come good in the remaining two Tests even if there is little doubt that the bowling will continue to weave patterns around the shell-shocked Aussies.