At the end of the four-match series, Bharat Sundaresan looks back at the hard-fought Test matches and picks out those who ticked the boxes, those who didn’t.
The unshakable force:
Murali Vijay landed in Australia as India’s No.1 opener in the present scenario, and left having scored more runs here — 482 at 60.25 — than any other Indian opener in history. Twelve months ago, he was considered a flat-track bully. Here, he proved that he had both the technique, the gumption and the patience to make loads of runs in testing climes. He was the biggest thorn in the flesh of the Australians after Virat Kohli. He left more deliveries than anyone and also hit more sixes than anyone else.
Shy boy to bully-slayer:
When Ajinkya Rahane cleared his left-leg and smashed Mitchell Johnson for three boundaries at the MCG, he announced himself as the reluctant face of India’s batting revolution. It was his knock that really pegged back the Aussies in the third Test, and he was there to save India the blushes on that tense evening at the SCG. This was the ultimate chapter in the coming of age of the India’s most complete batsman.
Virat Kohli was irresistible, unrelenting and truly merciless as far as the Australian bowlers were concerned. They tried and tried, but he kept ‘driving’ them up the wall, quite literally. Not only did he get almost 700 runs in the series with four centuries, he also seemed to overcome his glaring weakness outside the off-stump.
Happy New Era:
Kohli also provided encouraging signs that Indian Test cricket was entering a bold new era under a captain who wears positive intent on his sleeve. He never let the game drift, and kept ringing in the changes without ever bowing down to the Aussie rampage. His bowlers gave him little support.
Nightmare to dream:
KL Rahul couldn’t have asked for a worse wake-up call in his first Test. But he made an unbelievable transition in his second outing, scoring a composed maiden century and helping India post a massive first innings total. He also provided the much-needed dependability at the top of the order.
Finding groove, length:
For R Ashwin and Ishant Sharma, a tour to Australia generally meant back-breaking labour and no rewards. While they still slogged tirelessly in three Tests each, and didn’t have too many wickets to show for it, they at least seemed to finally come to terms with bowling in this part of the world. The only time India had any control over the Australian innings was when the two bowled in tandem.
Pujara loses spot:
So convincingly had Cheteshwar Pujara taken over the No.3 slot in Tests that nobody would have thought that he could even be dropped for years to come. But after looking edgy and shaky in the first three Tests, the Saurashtra run-machine was finally benched.
Harassed by Harris:
Shikhar Dhawan did get 81 at the Gabba. But that was when Ryan Harris was not playing. For, whenever the Aussie bulwark stood at the top of his mark, he seemed poised to get rid of the opener. He did so thrice.