When Australia landed in India for the four-match Test series, nobody had given them a chance to even win a single Test match. But the result at Pune not only shocked the Indian fans but also stunned the cricketing fraternity.
Having enjoyed an unmatched home dominance in the last 18 months under Virat Kohli, the Indians endured an embarrassing 333-run defeat on an extremely spin-friendly condition. In fact, there have been many talking points from O’Keefe’s stunning 12 wickets that sent the home side packing, to the nature of the pitch that was offered at the MCA stadium.
Now the action shifts to Bengaluru and there are plenty of unanswered questions from the composition of the teams to the form and consistency of the players from both the teams. Let’s take a look at the key questions ahead of the clash.
#5 Can the Indian batting unit survive if Virat Kohli falters in Bengaluru?
Virat Kohli’s form with the bat has been one of the main reasons for India’s 18 matches unbeaten run. From scoring double hundreds at will to helping the team to secure a nervy draw against England at Rajkot – the Indian skipper’s contributions were priceless. However, in Pune, Kohli got out for a duck in the first innings and managed just 13 runs in the second when chasing a humongous target of 441.
Looking at the Pune fiasco, it is clearly evident that the Aussie bowlers have put seeds of self-doubts in the minds of the Indian batsmen including Virat Kohli and it could be dangerous for the team to rely on their skipper like they have done throughout the home season so far.
There is no denying that Kohli’s resilience and his stupendous form would surely be tested once again against the mighty Aussies but if he fails for the second time, the rest of the batting unit must stamp their authority, which they haven’t done so far at the expense of their skipper’s failure.
#4 Will the Australian spinners replicate their Pune heroics?
For the first time in 13 years, Australia had won a Test match in India, thanks to the Aussie spin duo of Nathan Lyon and Steven’O’Keefe. Nobody had really fancied the spinners after they were smashed by the 22-year-old, Shreyas Iyer, to all parts of the CCI in a warm-up game ahead of the first test.
But five days later, with their probing line and length, they bundled out the Indian team for 105 and 107 in both the innings.
Steven’O’Keefe was the chief architect with the ball as he registered his biggest haul by a spinner in India with 12-70.
Despite Australia throwing dozens of spinners to the subcontinent in the past like Jason Krejza, Nathan Hauritz and Xavier Doherty nobody had made an impact like O’Keefe did in Pune. After the mind-boggling performance, the expectation would be high on the 32-year-old spinner and It’s interesting to see whether he could cause chaos in the minds of the Indian batsmen once again with his natural variation and accuracy in Bengaluru.
#3 Can Ajinkya Rahane come good?
Despite Virat Kohli and Anil Kumble making it clear that Karun Nair’s one triple hundred cannot overshadow the two years of consistency from Ajinkya Rahane, it’s difficult to say that the Mumbai batsman has been repaying the faith of his captain and coach. Rahane’s place in the side has always been a debate when it comes to ODI’s and T20’s but the same cannot be said in Tests.
It is due to the fact that he has established himself as one of the most consistent batsmen in the team, averaging close to 54 in the Tests since last summer. However, at present, Rahane’s struggles on the turning tracks are indeed very clear. After his magnificent 188 against New Zealand at Indore, he has looked a pale shadow of his former self in the next ten innings, scoring just one fifty-plus score.
As India desperate to level the series in Bengaluru, Rahanae’s consistency is going to be vital for the team. If he fails with the bat in the second Test then the writing would definitely be on the wall for him.
#2 What’s going to be the composition of the teams?
It’s unlikely that the Aussies would make any changes for the Bengaluru Test, after thrashing Virat Kohli’s men for a whopping 333 runs. However, former fast bowler, Jason Gillespie has admitted that the all-rounder Glenn Maxwell deserves a spot in the playing XI on Saturday. The 41-year-old wants Maxwell in place of Mitchell Marsh, though the latter played a handy knock of 31 in the second innings.
Considering the slowness of the Bengaluru pitch in the past, Maxwell’s loopy off-spin could prove to be very effective if the team management decides to go with the 28 year-old-all-rounder.
On the other hand, India might drop Ishant Sharma as the speedster’s lack of ability to bowl wicket-taking deliveries more consistently has been a big concern for the team. He bowled a total of 14 overs at Pune in both the innings and went wicketless. The Delhi pacer’s indifferent form could bring the canny Bhuvaneshwar Kumar into the equation.
Kumar has the ability to plague the Australian top order if the Chinnaswamy deck assists swing bowling initially. After Virat Kohli admitted in the press conference on Friday that the team is considering two or three combinations for the Bengaluru Test, there is a chance that Kumar could get the nod ahead of Sharma.
#1 What’s at stake for India in Bengaluru?
After the pitch in Pune came under instant criticism, the spotlight would be on the 22 yard-strip at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. Owing to the fact that the Indian batsmen were hounded by O’Keefe’s quickish deliveries in Pune, the Chinnaswamy track is likely to be prepared on the slower side.
There is no denying that if the result goes in favour of the visitors for the second time in a row, the curator is the one who would be condemned by the fans on the next day. So keeping that in his mind, curator Sriram took a cautious approach by not revealing the nature of the track on Tuesday. “No I can’t speak on this,” replied the curator of the Bengaluru pitch.
In the first Test, although the pitch made life difficult for the Indian batsmen, there is no excuse for the team’s sloppiness on the field. The Aussie captain Steve Smith was dropped thrice in the second innings with two being regulation chances.
The use of the DRS was also inefficient as they wasted all four of the reviews while fielding and had only one successful review while batting. Therefore, apart from the pitch in Bengaluru, the mistakes that India committed in the previous Test will also be keenly monitored when they step into the field on Saturday.