After India’s astounding success over the last 18 months and Australia’s woeful recent record in the subcontinent, who would’ve thought that India would reach Bangalore trailing 0-1. But since that’s indeed the case, there’s added spice in the contest.
For the first time since the Test match in Galle in 2015, Kohli’s team finds itself in a slightly unfamiliar territory, for one more slip in the series would quash the hopes of regaining the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
Forget What Happened in Pune
Whatever could’ve gone wrong went wrong in Pune. The pitch was too dry for anyone’s liking, Smith called the toss correctly, Starc played a blinder, India capitulated in 38 minutes and then dropped too many catches. While it looks like a disaster that called for radical changes, it’s imperative not to look at it that way. Indian team is world’s best Test team and one loss can’t be considered the end of the world. Instead, it’s important to view it as a timely wake-up call and a reminder to never let the guard down. In the media interactions since Pune, Kohli and co. have shown the same attitude and now, the team selection should reflect the same. If the pitch isn’t as dry and flakey as Pune, there’s no reason to abandon the successful formula of fielding 5 bowlers. Though there’s indeed a compelling case to pick Kuldeep ahead of Jayant.
Australians Better Prepared in Pune
Even if we take into account the advantage of winning the toss, it’s only fair to acknowledge that Australians adapted to the challenging conditions better than Indians. They batted with more application, twice their bowlers exploited the conditions better than the Indian spinners and they caught better too. It’s evident that their preparation in Dubai leading up to this tour was impeccable. On the contrary, Indian team walked into this series on the heels of a high-scoring limited-overs tourney with England. If the pitch at Pune was also a typical Indian pitch, there wouldn’t have been any issues to adapt to the longer format but the nature of the pitch called upon a skill-set that Indians had practiced for a while. The long gap between the two Tests will bring the two sides closer, for India would be better prepared now.
One area that gets little attention but plays an important role is the utilization of the reviews. Kohli has used the review 39 times ever since India has started using the technology to review on-field umpire’s decisions but only 30 times he’s got it spot on. Like most new things, it takes time to get used to the idea of challenging the decision and devising a team methodology. During fielding, Saha becomes the most important person to guide Kohli and while his glove work has been admirable, his contribution in assisting his skipper is negligible. It’s not about seniority or having a powerful voice in a team’s eco-system but about being at the right place, and nobody is in a better position than Saha. He must have a definitive voice in guiding the skipper. Also, while batting it’s imperative to know when to burn a review. In the second innings of the first Test both openers consumed the reviews in the first few overs. Just because they get to use it first doesn’t mean that they don’t think it through. The fundamentals of the prevailing system is that unless you’re a 100% sure, do not refer a leg-before decision, for 9 out of ten times it’ll be the umpire’s call. You may agree or disagree with the concept but it’s imperative to follow the rules.
In spite of the hiding it got in the first Test, India start as favorites to win the second Test to square the series. Reaching the summit is tough but staying there is tougher, and India has next five days to show the world why it’s at the top of ICC’s Test rankings.