The Border-Gavaskar Trophy is one of the most awaited contests in Test cricket. The build-up of the series was intense, but the Australian team failed to assert their dominance against India. The world’s no. 1 Test team is now down by 2-0 in the 4-match test series. Steve Smith said that a series win in India would be greater than winning the Ashes, as Australia has won only a single Test series in 19 years.
The Indian team wrapped both games on the 3rd day and emphatically retained the Border-Gavaskar trophy. The hosts need one more win over the Kangaroos to seal their spot in the final of the World Test Championship. The Australians dominated in their last 2 Test series against West Indies and South Africa at home and were looking forward to extending their winning campaign against India, but failed to do so. Let’s look at the reasons why Australia faced humiliating losses against India.
- Inability to play spin
Before the series, a video showed Australian batters in the nets being bowled by a young spinner whose action was similar to Ravichandran Ashwin. Everyone in the cricketing circuit thought it was a clever tactic, as Ashwin has been successful against Australia and has taken over 100 wickets against the Aussies. Aussies were confident of countering Ashwin this time, but everything went in vain. In the first match, Ashwin sent both the openers back to the dressing room in no time. Later in the second innings, he got a 5-wicket haul bowling Australia out at 91. But Ravindra Jadeja had a fairytale return as he picked up 5 wickets in the 1st innings and 2 wickets in the 2nd to give Australia their first Test loss since July 2022.
The story also continued in the next contest, where the duo picked up 3 wickets each in the 1st innings. The spinner duo dismantled the Australian batting by picking all 10 wickets amongst themselves in the second. Jadeja registered his career-best figures of 7-42, and Ashwin dismissed three batters.
2. Indian lower-order batting heroics
In the 1st fixture, Indian captain Rohit Sharma was leading the batting unit even though his fellow batsmen were sent to the dugout by debutant Todd Murphy. After scoring 120, he finally departed, but the score was 229 for 6 wickets, with India in the lead by 52 runs. Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel put together a partnership of 88 runs for the 8th wicket, with Jadeja departing after hitting 70 runs. Axar Patel and Mohammed Shami kept the scoreboard ticking by adding 52 runs for the 9th wicket. Together Jadeja, Axar, and Shami scored 191 runs putting India in a strong position with a lead of 223 runs.
In the second test, Australia provided some spark and reduced the Indian top order to 139-7. Ashwin, Axar, and Shami again scored crucial runs and took the scoreboard to 262. This could not happen for the tourists as their lower order tumbled after the collapse of the top order.
3. Ineffective Spin Attack
India are known for producing spin pitches, so whenever a team tours the sub-continent country, they prepare accordingly. Australia selected Nathan Lyon, Ashton Agar, Matthew Kuhnemann, Mitchell Swepson, and Todd Murphy in their spin unit.
In the opening game in Nagpur, Australia chose off-spinners Nathan Lyon and young Todd Murphy to lead the spin attack. Todd Murphy was effective and accumulated 7 wickets on debut, but Lyon struggled initially and later picked up a couple of wickets. There was no depth in their spin attack. While Indian spinners ripped apart the Australian team, the visitors could not shine with the ball as they failed to establish authority on Indian soil. With Lyon struggling to find his rhythm, the load was massive on the debutant, and later the duo was seen worn down by the Indian batting.
Many pundits slammed the selection of both spinners in the 1st match as there were significantly fewer variations and wanted an extra spinner in the playing XI. Matthew Kuhnemann debuted in the second game, but he could register his mark. With one experienced and two newcomers, the spin unit failed to put the Indians on the back foot.
The Australian team was sensational in the test series against South Africa and West Indies. They won 2-0 in both series and were top-ranked in the game’s longest form. They looked invincible, and this may have boosted their confidence. Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, and Usman Khawaja are 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 7th in the Test ranking. All of them were scoring runs whenever needed. However, Ravindra Jadeja had different plans, and they might not have prepared to play his bowling because they estimated that he wouldn’t be a threat as he returned to cricket after nearly 6 months.
The batsmen could not handle the pressure, as there were constant collapses in both outings. Many game experts questioned the shot selection as more than a quarter of the batters lost their wickets by attempting the sweep and the reverse sweep shots. Many believed that the batting unit was striking out of panic and losing wickets quickly.
While Pat Cummins sits at the top in the bowler’s ranking, they suffered setbacks as pacers Mitchell Starc was not fit for the series opener while Josh Hazlewood has been ruled out of all the games.
5. Unbalanced Playing XI
The first match saw the return of Peter Handscomb in Test cricket after 2019, but also the team management decided to bench Travis Head, who troubled the bowlers in both series before traveling to India. The team selection was criticized by many pundits who thought Head deserved to be in the squad. Ashton Agar could have also been picked as an all-rounder. Also, the Australian team only chose 4 bowlers to take on the field, while India opted for 5.
Head was later picked in the Delhi match and was striking aggressively in the 2nd innings. He seemed to trouble the spinners but fell short of scoring a half-century as he departed for 43 off 46 deliveries.
Matthew Kuhnemann replaced Scott Boland. But he could not make an impact compared to Todd Murphy. The team also faced a setback as David Warner was injured while playing in Delhi and is out of the series.
Australian team management must work on their team selection, set the right tactics, and prepare their players psychologically for the remaining games, as they could still aim for a draw in the series.