On the heels of 36 all out in Adelaide, India made four changes for the ongoing second Test in Melbourne. The visitors also had a new captain in Ajinkya Rahane who batted in a new position at No. 4. So far, all the substitutions have had a positive impact.
How impactful has been Rahane?
His captaincy – bowling changes, field placements, positivity and calmness – was a reason why India could bundle out Australia for 195 in their first innings. From Shane Warne to Virender Sehwag, everybody praised Rahane’s captaincy. But if India needed Rahane the captain on the first day, on the second day, they needed Rahane the batsman even more, especially in Virat Kohli’s absence. The skipper led from the front with a splendid century.
Rahane at No. 4 is very different from Kohli. The Mumbai batsman has a different batting approach. He is old school and believes in biding his time and waiting to attack when the bowlers tire.
“Give the first session to the bowlers, the next two will be yours,” that’s Sunil Gavaskar’s mantra for Test match batting. This also remains the very template of the ‘Mumbai School of Batting’. At the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Sunday, Rahane embraced it.
He came to the crease with India on 61/2 and Pat Cummins in the middle of a fantastic spell. It soon became 64/3. Rahane took 17 balls to score his first run, but there was no shortage of intent. His footwork was decisive. He reached his half century in 111 balls, while his 12th Test century came off 195 deliveries — the strike-rate was steadily increasing. He gave the first hour to the bowlers. The rest of the day belonged to him.
This was Rahane’s first overseas Test hundred since his 102 against the West Indies at North Sound in August 2019. His Test average away from home, 46.06, and eight hundreds, comfortably trumps his home Test average, 39.28. This is a rarity in Indian cricket. On Sunday (December 27) his century helped India gain a significant upper hand in the Test.
“He’s one of those who leads by example. Hardworking, great work ethic, wonderful hundred this,” Gavaskar said on 7Cricket. “Very well deserved, that’s a sensational Test match hundred under a lot of pressure as captain after what happened in Adelaide,” Ricky Ponting, Rahane’s coach at Delhi Capitals, commented on the channel.
How did Shubman Gill fare?
Prithvi Shaw’s replacement had a tricky period to bat out on the first day. The debutant took time to settle down, had some close shaves, but Gill played some lovely shots during his knock. A strong backfoot player, Gill expectedly played the horizontal-bat shots well. Both Cummins and Josh Hazlewood gave him some torrid moments on Sunday morning, and eventually Cummins got his wicket with a full delivery outside the off stump. But a 65-ball 45 meant that Gill kept the scoreboard ticking.
What has been Rishabh Pant’s impact?
He replaced Wriddhiman Saha on his batting abilities and made an impactful contribution, if a cameo. Cummins was making the ball talk in his first spell, had Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara inside five deliveries, and at 116/4, it was anybody’s game.
After the drinks break in the second session, Pant took on Cummins, collecting back-to-back twos and a couple of fours. That was when the game started to change. A cracking four off Nathan Lyon played a part in the off-spinner being removed from the attack. Eventually he got out to a Starc delivery that was a bit short and outside the off stump. But that’s how the southpaw plays his cricket. Pant’s 29 off 40 balls and his 57-run fifth wicket stand with Rahane helped India wrest the initiative.
What about Ravindra Jadeja’s contribution?
Eyebrows had been raised when Jadeja was brought in as Kohli’s replacement. But the left-hander has improved his batting to the point that he could now be considered as a specialist batsman. The last ball before tea was a case in point.
Starc made one rear off a length and Jadeja, on his toes, dropped it down almost at his feet. It was a fascinating piece of cricket; something any top-order batsman would have been proud of. Jadeja’s 40 not out and an unbroken 104-run sixth wicket partnership with Rahane is threatening to take the game away from the hosts.
Did Mohammed Siraj have a good debut?
In the recent past, Indian seamers, save Jasprit Bumrah, have faltered when they made their Test debuts overseas. Jaydev Unadkat made his debut against South Africa at Centurion in 2010, which remains his only Test yet. Pankaj Singh made his Test debut against England at Southampton in 2014, and his international career stopped after two Tests in that series.
Siraj stepped into Mohammed Shami’s shoes and tilted the balance in India’s favour with the crucial wickets of Marnus Labuschagne and Cameron Green.
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