India have finally won a Test series in Australia and it has come under the captaincy of Virat Kohli. These are both headlines which will resonate for years to come. India’s under achievement in Australia, in Test cricket, and Kohli’s captaincy are topics that have generated a lot of debate for a while now. Does this victory prove that this bunch is one of the finest Test teams to have left the Indian shores? Is Virat Kohli the best Indian Test captain already? Such questions need a deeper understanding of the circumstances in which this victory has come but for now Indian cricket faithfuls can rejoice and bask in the glory of a remarkable win.
This series was touted as India’s best chance to finally open its account down under and Kohli and his men have responded. Who were the architects of this win, let’s find out in Hindustan Times’ Report Card.
1) Murali Vijay – Rating: 1/10, Verdict: Very Poor
For Murali Vijay the series started with a stroke of luck as Prithvi Shaw’s injury in the practice match paved the way for his comeback into the playing XI. But once in the middle, Vijay did very little to show that he merited a comeback. An aggregate of 49 runs from 4 innings meant the Tamil Nadu opener was dropped after the Perth Test. This could be the end of his international career.
2) KL Rahul – Rating: 2/10, Verdict: Very Poor
Two India coaches (Bharat Arun and Sanjay Bangar) had given two contrasting accounts of the KL Rahul situation in the lead up to the series. While Arun was of the opinion that the stylish opener needed to be ‘persisted with’ despite his failures, batting coach Bangar said that Rahul needed to take more responsibility as he was no longer a young player. Rahul did nothing to show that he needs to be persisted with and nor did he take any responsibility. His tentativeness around the off stump led to dismissals and he looked like a pale shadow of a player who had promised so much with his defensive skills and stroke making ability. His highest score of 44 came in the second innings in Adelaide but the stroke that he played to get out showed he isn’t the same player. If he is not sent back to domestic cricket to rediscover himself, India will certainly lose a great talent.
3) Mayank Agarwal – Rating: 9/10, Verdict: Very Good
The Karnataka opener has been scoring bagful of runs in domestic cricket as well as for India A, but he had so far quietly seen himself being ignored despite poor performances by the openers turning out for India. Prithvi Shaw’s great initiation into international cricket must have been frustrating as he was ignored for the Australia tour too. Agarwal though got a lucky break as he was called in for the last two Test matches and his moment arrived at the historic Melbourne Cricket Ground. Playing his maiden Test with the series keenly poised at 1-1, Agarwal impressed everyone with his attitude and technique as he scored 76 and 42 to lay the foundation of a big win for India. He backed it up with a 77 at Sydney and this could just be the start of a great career at the international stage.
4) Cheteshwar Pujara – Rating: 10/10, Verdict: Excellent
A lot has been said about Cheteshwar Pujara’s mediocre numbers outside Asia but this series will put an end to all the negativity surrounding Team India’s best Test batsman. Coming into the series, Pujara’s record in Australia wasn’t anything to write home about, but that was going to change. His 123 and 71 at Adelaide was as gutsy as Dravid’s match winning performance at the same venue 15 years ago. He failed at Perth and so did India. Pujara scored a fighting 106 in Melbourne and that tipped the scales in favour of the tourists and his 193 in Sydney was a masterclass in how to extract the last drop of energy and spirit from the opposition. Pujara ended the series with 521 runs at an average of 74.42, the world can say whatever.
5) Virat Kohli – Rating: 8/10, Verdict: Very Good
For past several series, the narrative around Virat Kohli has been about how he is India’s only hope with the bat when they travel outside the sub-continent. While others might have chipped in, Kohli has been the fulcrum of India’s batting. Thankfully it wasn’t the case in this series. By his own lofty standards, a century and a half-century in 7 innings with returns of 282 runs at an average of 40.28 isn’t Kohli-esque. This series was more about Kohli the captain and the leader in him stood out. He was in control of every situation and this victory should be seen as the coming of age of Kohli the captain. Is he the best ever? the jury is still out on that.
6) Ajinkya Rahane – Rating: 4/10, Verdict: Below Average
The Indian vice-captain played a crucial knock of 70 in the second innings at Adelaide, which was reminiscent of the fighter that Rahane has been overseas for India. He followed it up with a 51 on a tough pitch at Perth but that is where his series ends in terms of meaningful contributions. Rahane’s abilities in the five-day format has been on the wane and that does not augur well for Indian cricket. If the likes of Hanuma Vihari continue to do well, Rahane could find himself in a spot of bother.
7) Hanuma Vihari – Rating: 5/10, Verdict: Average
Hanuma Vihari might not have scored a half-century on this tour but he did enough to show that he belongs at this level. Asked to open the innings in the third Test and then brought back down in the middle order in the fourth, Vihari showed a lot of adaptability and played the role of the team man. Should stay in the mix for a while to come.
8) Rohit Sharma – Rating: 4/10, Verdict: Below Average
The man who remains an enigma in Test cricket flattered to deceive again. His rich vein of form in white ball cricket again led to his comeback to the Test side but his shot selection yet again showed why he doesn’t fit in five-day cricket. His unbeaten 63 in the first innings at Melbourne came at a crucial time for India. Needs to do a lot more to cement his place in the Test team.
9) Rishabh Pant – Rating: 9/10, Verdict: Very Good
The young wicket-keeper batsman ended the series as India’s second-highest run getter with 350 runs from 7 innings at an average of 58.33. Pant showed great maturity both as a batsman and as a wicket keeper as he also ended the series with 20 catches. His shot selection in certain game situations and keeping against spin are areas he needs to work on, but India has found MS Dhoni’s successor for sure.
10) Ravichandran Ashwin – Rating: 7/10, Verdict: Good
Ravichandran Ashwin played just one match before getting injured. He picked up 6 wickets at Adelaide and played a crucial role as India’s bowlers made life difficult for the Australian batsmen. But with injuries haunting him of late and the likes of Kuldeep Yadav coming up fast, Ashwin needs to be fit and running to stay on the perch among spinners.
11) Ravindra Jadeja – Rating: 7/10, Verdict: Good
Jadeja was introduced into the playing XI in the crucial third Test and he delivered straight away. He ended the series with 7 wickets from three innings and also scored a handy 81 at Sydney to further add to Australia’s misery. His ingenuity as a player is crucial for this Indian team and Jadeja has done no harm to his chances of being a genuine all-rounder for India once again.
12) Kuldeep Yadav – Rating: 7/10, Verdict: Good
Kuldeep Yadav witnessed proceedings from the dressing room until the jamboree reached the spin friendly environs of the SCG. Kuldeep had to bite the dust and how in Lord’s earlier this year but Sydney was a different surface and the left arm wrist spinner got enough assistance from the track to trouble the battered Aussies. He finished with his second five-wicket haul in Test cricket and continues to rise in the ranks.
13) Mohammed Shami – Rating: 9/10, Verdict: Very Good
Shami’s best performance, 6/56, came in a losing cause at Perth but he produced the crucial wickets for Kohli whenever he was called in. Shami’s potency has never been in doubt but it is his consistency that has bothered the team of and on. But the medium pacer was at his best in the series and made the ball talk. He ended the series with 16 wickets and as India’s second best bowler.
14) Jasprit Bumrah – Rating: 10/10, Verdict: Excellent
21 wickets at an average of 17 and economy rate of 2.27, what else can a captain ask from a premier pace bowler. Jasprit Bumrah bowled with menace, purpose and poise and won India the crucial Melbourne Test by picking up 9 wickets in the match. He can bowl short, he can bowl the yorker and he can bowl the cutters, all at a very good speed. Bumrah is taking giant leaps towards becoming the best fast bowler in the world across all formats.
15) Ishant Sharma – Rating: 7/10, Verdict: Good
Ishant Sharma played the first three Test matches and did justice to his role as the leader of the pace attack. His consistency and discipline was impeccable and although the Delhi bowler ended with 11 wickets, the pressure he created from the other end often led to wickets taken by other bowlers. Ishant Sharma 2.0 continues to impress.
16) Umesh Yadav – Rating: 2/10, Verdict: Poor
There is a reason why Umesh Yadav has had to sit out even when India has a captain who backs pace bowlers and the reason was evident in the Perth Test. Drafted into the team, Yadav was indisciplined as he sprayed the ball all over and returned with match figures of 2/139. Has to tighten up his line and length if he wants a consistent run in the team.