The tour commenced in early January 2016. Though this tour includes 5 ODIs and 3 T20s, it is the one day internationals that caught my attention.
Be it ODIs, T20s or tests, India is considered a lion in its den. The team had suffered a hammering in ODIs against South Africa, but had bounced back in style by thrashing the same team in the test matches at home. As visitors in Australia, Indians stayed true to their reputation by losing the ODI series – but not without a fight. The series went 4-1 in favour of the hosts, but the matches weren’t as lopsided as the score indicates. This series turned out to be a hunting ground for batsmen as the bowlers were preyed upon and plundered for precious runs.
Throughout the series, the Indian batsmen impressed as the bowlers depressed – a factor that contributed to Australia’s continual success.
The Men in Blue began the first match on a bright note, but at the end of the day the hosts drew first blood. Rohit slammed 171, and Dhawan missed out on a well-deserved century as India eased past a total of 300. In return, the partnership between Smith and Bailey proved devastating as the pair produced a hundred each to take Australia home. Interestingly the DRS was in limelight once again when Bailey wasn’t given a caught behind.
The second ODI started and ended on a similar note as that of the previous match. In both the matches Rohit cracked a hundred. As usual, India went past the 300 mark only for the hosts to successfully chase it down courtesy a splendid stand between Marsh and Finch.
Indians were not bogged down by the fact that they were 2-0 down. The visitors batted first yet again – this time in Melbourne Cricket Ground, considered the largest ground in the world. It generally favoured the team batting first. This time, India finished with a score which was just under 300. India had their best chance to win this match when they had the hosts cornered by sending four batsmen within a span of thirty overs. But Kohli’s century proved ineffective since Maxwell, well supported by Faulkner, produced sensational shots that ensured Australia triumphed.
After the victory, Man of Match Maxwell was exuberant about the result and even said that Australia was ‘desperate’ for a whitewash. In his own words, “We have to win this series 5-0, something we are desperate to do.”
The fourth ODI was to be played at Manuka Oval in Canberra. Only seven matches had been played there, with the team batting first emerging victorious six times. The hosts chose to bat first and piled up a score of just less than 350, and looked to easily take the series 4-0. But the Men in Blue proved a harder nut to crack, and were soon cruising at 277/1 with about 12 overs to be played. However, a brilliant spell from Richardson triggered one of the most remarkable collapses in Indian batting history.
Captain Dhoni took the blame for the loss since his quick departure from a very comfortable position was instrumental in giving the Aussies the upper hand. He was severally criticised by Erapalli Prasanna, who felt that it was time to hand over the ODI reins to Kohli, and was questioned about dropping Ashwin and Pandey after two games. However, Dhoni did receive favourable comments from former CSK compatriot Mike Hussey, who backed Dhoni to lead India.
After the demoralization of four consecutive defeats, India avoided a whitewash by successfully chasing the fifth match’s target. Pandey became the hero and Sharma just missed a century. For his overwhelming performance, Rohit was named the Man of the Series.
Ravi Shastri, Srikanth, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Sehwag have all had troubled times at the end of their careers and were denied glorious exits. MS Dhoni seems to be headed in the same direction. India’s most successful captain has had a difficult year – he has failed to win a single ODI, test or T20 series since October 2014. Moreover Kohli’s successful stint as a test captain by defeating Sri Lanka and South Africa, apart from reclaiming the top spot for India in tests, hasn’t made things better for Dhoni. He is certainly not the amazing finisher he once used to be. However considering his past glory, wonderful experience and calm demeanour, he is still the best bet to lead India to glory in the upcoming World T20.
Siddharth Kumar R (Mechanical)
Illustration by Prathiksha P (Electronics and Communications)