January 7th, 2019 – a day that will forever be celebrated in Indian cricket. This is the day that India beat Australia – in Australia. A result that was, until recently, unfathomable for an entire generation of cricket fans. To be fair, Australia has not always been invincible at home. South Africa alone has inflicted three home series defeats on the Aussies in last 10 years. Still, this win is special for two reasons very specific to India.
Why This Matters For Indian Cricket
Firstly, it’s a redemption of sorts for all those times when India came agonizingly close to achieving this feat in previous attempts, like the tours of 2004, 2008 and “that” Sydney Test. Secondly, it’s a validation for this current team, who have promised so much and painfully fallen short on the recent tours of South Africa and England. This historic series win proves that the strides the Indian cricket team has made in recent years have not only made them more competitive outside the sub-continent but have got them closer to building a world-beating outfit going into the first ICC Test Championship.
Let’s take stock of individual performances that shaped this series and see where the two teams end up after this tour:
India Player Ratings
Cheteshwar Pujara (10/10)
He scored a duck. He ran himself out, again. Nevertheless, this series will be remembered for the exploits of Cheteshwar Pujara. If you thought Indian batting progressively got better from Adelaide to Sydney, then a large reason for that was India’s number three who forced the Australian bowling unit into submission. He faced more than 1000 balls, batted for the duration of almost an entire test match and took the wind out of the Australian attack. The 521 runs he scored was merely a byproduct of his wall-like stay at the wicket. It’s fair to say Pujara has finally met the burden of expectation on his shoulders and that is no small praise for the class of his batsmanship.
Jasprit Bumrah (9/10)
Becoming the joint-highest wicket taker and a bowling average of 17 makes him the best bowler of the series. He was simply unplayable during some of his spells in Perth and Melbourne. Yes, the pitches were conducive to his style of bowling and the opposition’s batting wasn’t the best. That said, outsmarting the likes of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood in their own backyard is no mean feat. All India has to worry about now is managing his workload and they will have a genuine world class pace asset at their disposal for many years to come. A single point deduction for less-than-stellar effort in Sydney.
Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami (8/10)
A consistent showing by India’s senior pacemen meant that the pressure on the Australian batting line up was relentless. Shami, in particular, was very impressive in Perth. Ishant provided crucial breakthroughs and kept Australia’s openers in check. However, what particularly stood out was the high fitness levels of the pair that helped them last four tests, within a month, without compromising on pace.
Virat Kohli (7/10)
Sizzled in Perth, strung crucial partnerships across the series and still couldn’t be his imposing self of 2014. However, that was a very high standard to begin with. He seemed much more affirmative and aware as a captain compared to his leadership in England. The selection calls can still be surprising at times and he hasn’t necessarily read the conditions all that well. But those shortcomings are not entirely his. What is undeniable though is that he has managed to instill a culture of extreme fitness, raw passion and perseverance of excellence that may serve Indian cricket well beyond his time. The fact that he clearly values the success in this format so heavily bodes very well for the health of the global game.
Mayank Aggarwal (7/10)
Imagine being handed your debut cap in front of 75,000 fans at the iconic MCG on Boxing Day and then being asked to open on the first day of your test career against one of the best bowling attacks in the world. Not many would be able to overcome those odds and the sense of occasion. But Mayank Aggarwal did. His 195 runs came at the average of 65 in just two tests. He might have just half-solved India’s long standing search for two openers that can perform outside the sub-continent. The one place where Kohli would want him to focus on would be to convert those 70-somethings into big hundreds. And given his domestic record, that shouldn’t be too difficult of an ask for him.
Rishabh Pant (7/10)
The second highest run-getter of the tournament, powered by his 1st-innings assault in Sydney, again showed why he is so highly rated by experts within the setup. He also created a few records for number of catches behind the stumps. A case can be made for him to be slightly higher in this list but what still counts against him is lack of a true defensive game against a bowling attack with their tails up. His mode of survival against Nathan Lyon earlier in the series was compulsive hitting. As long as he can develop a half-decent defensive game, I am sure he will be ahead of Wriddhiman Saha in the pecking order, when the latter returns to the mix. Half a point, though, must be given for entertainment provided through stump mic.
Ravindra Jadeja and Ashwin (6/10)
The role of the spinners, in presence of a stellar fast bowling trio in helpful conditions, was pretty much to hold one end tight. Both of India’s frontline spinners did that job admirably. Australia found scoring against them extremely difficult, despite them not being as big a wicket-taking threat as Nathan Lyon. Ashwin’s fitness over the last one year could still be a cause of concern for team management.
Rohit Sharma and Hanuma Vihari (5/10)
They scored about the same number of runsin the series. They both contributed to one critical partnership each, while getting dismissed when they looked good for more. Vihari also gets a bonus point for stepping up when team needed him to open in Melbourne. Neither of them can be sure of their position going into the next season.
Ajinkya Rahane (4/10)
A real disappointment on the tour for India. He could have done so much more to help India’s cause as he got starts on more than one occasion. India’s best player when they were last circling the globe has lost much of his shine within a year.
Umesh Yadav (3/10)
Missed his opportunity to impress in Perth and rightly lost his spot in a highly competitive bowling line-up.
KL Rahul and Murali Vijay (1/10)
Injury to Prithvi Shaw gave the once-first choice openers a chance to redeem themselves. But, this Australian tour might have just finished the international career of Murali Vijay and set KL Rahul up for a long wait. Rahul’s recent showing on Koffee with Karan also doesn’t help his case as he would have hoped to get back his spot with decent performance in the limited over leg. In any case, expect Mayank Aggarwal and Prithvi Shaw to be India’s new opening pair by process of elimination.
India Overall Review
There is no denying that this has been a historic series for India and a win they will cherish for a long time. Don’t let the detractors fool you – there is no guarantee that the presence of Steve Smith and David Warner would have changed the score line drastically. As it is, 2-1 is hardly a true representation of the way India dominated two of the four matches and were the better team in the third. India should be especially proud of this new bowling depth they seem to have preternaturally unearthed. The tour also finally gave Virat Kohli an equal ally in Cheteshwar Pujara, who he can rely on for consistent performances as they look to conquer the Test arena.
Australia Overall Review
This loss will sting for a while for the Aussies. Yes, they missed two of their best batsmen but the performance they put up in Melbourne and Sydney was still inexcusable. Even they would acknowledge that a 2-1 scoreline is a generous assessment of how things went down. Chances are this loss at home may result in some big changes in the batting department. Test careers of Shaun March and Mitchell Marsh are hanging by a thread. Aaron Finch may not get another chance at the top when Warner returns. The bowling department also underperformed but I doubt they will face any drastic changes in personnel just yet. The form of Mitchell Starc coming into a World Cup year should be a matter of concern but that’s about it. Nathan Lyon again proved that he continues to be underrated as a bowler on the world stage by being Australia’s highest wicket taker in the series. However, Pat Cummins was the stand-out star for Australia in this series. His relentless efforts with the ball got him wickets while his determination with the bat irritated Indians to no end. This Australian team, while clearly in transition, has a long way to go before they can think about taking their rightful place in this new world order of international cricket.
All in all, a series to savor for the Indian fans. They must now be hoping that this Indian team can live up to their potential and maybe, just maybe, bring the inaugural ICC Test Championship trophy home in 2022.
Both India and Australia will participate in the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, which will also stream live on Sling TV starting May 30, 2019.