The Indian Team’s rise in Test Cricket to the top, under Virat Kohli, has been one well documented fairy-tale. The renewed passion and intensity with which this team plays is something to always look forward to. The ‘never say die’ attitude of their skipper has translated well onto his team, and they are now not afraid to give it back.
While they won the Test Series Down Under for the first time ever, they lost a closely fought England series by an embarrassing margin of 4-1, away from home. From then, it did become clear that something had to change at the root level even if it meant a change in the way the think-tank operates. While a lot of it has improved, a lot more is still remaining to be focused upon.
The Ashes this year has been a much needed revival for Test Cricket with all the 4 Tests played so far going into the fifth day. With the series being 2-1 in favour of the Australians, all the teams should learn from this Aussie team on how to operate in tough and swinging conditions.
However, we shall only focus on a few things that the Indian Test Team can learn from this Urn-retaining Australian Test Team. Let’s have a look at them.
Keeping behind the wickets
One of the things that left many of the Indian fans disappointed after the away series in England last year, was the keeping behind the wickets. It was sloppy to say the least. In that tour, England scored 2613 runs and India accumulated 2458 runs, playing an innings more. However, this is not the fact that is being highlighted here. Out of those 2613 runs, 100 alone were a result of some sloppy keeping by the Indians and if we take them out of the equation, England’s total amounts to 2513. The result might’ve been different as the pressure on the Indian batsmen would have been considerably less.
Coming to Australia, Tim Paine has been absolutely flawless with his keeping and captaincy so far, and more interestingly, he hasn’t let anything go past him except the occasional pacy bumper or a ripper from Nathan Lyon. In simple terms, Tim Paine has been very good behind the stumps. Compared to India’s 100 extras in byes only, Paine has given away only 12 runs. With still one match left and the series fairly in Australia’s hands, one can be assured that Paine will be as good as he’s been throughout the series.
Getting the pitch interpretations right
One of the major drawbacks for the Indian team in England (2018) has been one of the major positives for the Aussies. One thing they can pride themselves in is the fact that they’ve got the pitch reading absolutely right and their horses for courses selection method has been match-winning for them. If not for the last minute miracle in the Headingley, it would have been 3-0 by now. Their tactic of saving Starc for Old Trafford was, in short, impressive.
Back in ’18, in the Lords’ drubbing the Indian Team Management completely misread the green track and the overcast conditions, and decided to persist with two spinners instead of an extra seamer. The result was that they faced an embarrassing innings defeat.
Performance of the Aussie middle-order
The openers have struggled against the moving ball this Ashes 2019 but what is even more shocking is that the famed English middle-order has lost the battle against the Aussie middle-order. Smith, Head, Labuschagne, Paine, and Wade have all chipped in with some valuable contributions, which has ensured that Smith, in particular, has got the support that he needed to get to a big score. Labuschagne and Wade have been impressive in particular with the former being the perfect partner for Smith. Wade got the much needed century in the first Test, and played a perfect stabilising knock in the fourth game.
However, back in ’18, barring Virat Kohli and Rishabh Pant in the final Test, no one really stood up, and as a result, the chunk of the runs had to be scored by Virat alone. Moreover, the pace with which the middle-order scored runs wasn’t too much and that put pressure on the batsmen to follow. The Indian middle order needs to learn to step up in tough conditions and chip in with some valuable contributions every now and then. The Australian middle order barring Smith has managed to amass a total 891 runs in four games compared to the Indian middle order, which could only manage 861 runs in the 5 Test match series last year (Kohli’s figures have not been included).
Contributions from the tail
A wagging tail results in a few extra or bonus runs, which may make an important contribution to the end result of the game. One thing that the Indian bowlers and Virat Kohli were heavily criticised for was not getting the tail out cheaply against England and that hurt them in almost all the games that they played. One particular Sam Curran single-handedly took three games away, which were well within the reach of the Indians. Curran scored 251 runs coming in at No. 8 and took 8 wickets, most of them being the Indian top and middle order batsmen.
Australia on the other hand have been relentless throughout their games and didn’t show a moment’s worth of slackness at any given point of time. This would explain why the English tail failed to make any notable contributions. Dismissing the top and middle order cheaply meant that the Australian bowlers were well on their way to dismissing England for a paltry score. Not letting the tail, which consists of the likes of Archer, Woakes, and Broad get away is something that the bowlers can be tremendously proud of.
Consistency in team selections
Starting from the first Test, Australia threw up many selection surprises and what was even more surprising is that they stuck with the same XI for an extended duration of time. They waited to unleash Mitchell Starc at the right time and it did pay off. Not only did he contribute with the ball, he also scored a pivotal fifty in the Urn-deciding Test. When the management decides to stick with the same XI irrespective of the performance, the players feel settled and confident enough to reach their full potential. Their persistence with Travis Head and Matthew Wade paid off as they both chipped in with some contributions on a consistent basis.
The Indian think-tank on the other hand, chopped and changed their XI in almost every game and that’s what hurt the team morale the most. When the squad is being cropped and changed for almost every game, a fear of failure is instilled in the players and it is the biggest obstacle that a sportsperson can ever face in their career. Australia’s horses for courses theory worked well for them but the Indian team selection back in ’18 seemed just absurd at times and it didn’t make sense at all (like playing an extra spinner on a green track under overcast conditions).