The hard work of six months and thirteen Test matches culminated with a convincing series win for Team India at Dharamsala, their ninth consecutive series win in all formats. Under interim captain Ajinkya Rahane, the Indian team stuck together for an all-round performance to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
While there was a lot to talk about from the final Test, here are five major highlights from the final Test at Dharamsala:
#5 KL Rahul’s consistency
His temperament was under question, he was fairly inconsistent and he needed to step up his game and be counted. It started off with his 199 at Chennai, and has continued in the Australia series, fetching him 393 runs from four matches.
His sixth fifty of the series is the most by any Indian against Australia in the Test series, and goes to show how crucial he has been for Team India’s plans at the top of the order, providing strong starts to release the pressure on the middle order. At Dharamsala, it was imperative for Rahul to spend time in the middle, considering Virat Kohli wasn’t part of the playing XI.
He scored a fifty in the first innings to lay the groundwork, and battled a tricky passage of play on the third day’s evening to make sure India doesn’t lose a wicket. He then guided India through the small chase, remaining unbeaten, and making sure India doesn’t falter.
#4 Ajinkya Rahane’s captaincy
Pushed into the captaincy cauldron after Virat Kohli’s sudden departure, Ajinkya Rahane had little time to fit into the role. On the morning Kohli left the field, Rahane’s team leaked a lot of runs. However, the very next morning, he was out with some clearly made out plans.
In the final Test, he insisted on having his own combinations, making sure that Kuldeep Yadav was one of the five bowlers that played. Yadav made his debut, and bamboozled the Australian batting in the first innings with his variations.
Rahane also showed that you don’t have to be vocal to be aggressive, displaying his intensity in his field setups. In the slips, he took responsibility, taking some blinders even though others couldn’t match up to his standards.
Lastly, he stepped up and dissolved all the pressure to finish off chase, scoring a breezy knock to make sure that the small target didn’t pose any threat to India.
#3 Aggressive fast bowling
According to Sourav Ganguly, Umesh Yadav has been a find of the season, and there are no two ways to look at it. Quick yet wayward when he started playing Tests, Yadav has evolved into an intelligent bowler who has learned to channelise his aggression and work on his strengths. He managed to push the Australian batsmen on the back foot, even testing them with vicious bouncers to complete his domination. He picked up 17 wickets from four Tests, including three in the final Test.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been unlucky to be on the benches often, but the pacer has always proved his worth when he is in the playing XI. He combined with Umesh for a deadly opening spell, one which saw him making David Warner and Matt Renshaw sniff bouncers, and eventually pocketed the wicket of Steve Smith, the most crucial of the lot.
#2 Kuldeep Yadav’s dream debut
22-year old Kuldeep Yadav was one of India’s star performers in the 2014 U-19 World Cup, but needed to polish his game to go to the next level. His unconventional chinaman bowling is his biggest strength, one which helped him edge out his competitors to become the first chinaman bowler to play a Test.
He made an instant impression, grabbing eyeballs with the turn he extracted from the pitch. His dismissals of Peter Handscomb and Glenn Maxwell will be remembered for quite some time, especially because it came from someone making his Test debut. His crucial wickets helped India restrict the opponents to 300 in the first innings.
#1 Ravindra Jadeja’s all-round performance
Once playing under the shadows of Ravichandran Ashwin, Jadeja has truly risen to create an identity of his own this home season. In this series, he came to his own, especially on instances when Ravichandran Ashwin couldn’t extract much turn from the pitch. Bowling his trademark lines on or just outside the off stump, Jadeja managed to stifle the batsman time and again.
With the bat, he stitched together a crucial partnership with Wriddhiman Saha, possibly the partnership that shaped the match. His 63 runs were indispensable for the Indian team to gain a lead that eventually turned out to be the difference. He was rightly adjudged the Man of the Match and Series. What a way to celebrate becoming the No.1 bowler in the world!