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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Australian Tour 2014 3rd test - Kohli makes his name

Virat Kohli was just one of the new brigade before the 2014 Australian tour started. He had a bad series in England where he fared very badly. One of the positives of the hurriedly-organized Sri Lanka ODI series was the return of Kohli's form. But, would he succeed Down Under?

Today, the entire Australian team is baying for his blood. Commentators are talking about his game. The media goes gaga about him. His girlfriend as well as his rival fast bowler get kisses equally. Kohli does not get fazed with the attention his opponents give on the field (lip-service) and off-field (planning his downfall). In the first test of this series, he scored twin centuries proving that captaincy did not affect his game. Despite his failures in the second test, Kohli was the sought-after wicket for the Aussies. After the Melbourne test, his series aggregate was one less than half a thousand runs with one test to play. If Steven Smith is in a league of his own, Kohli is in a similar league.

Picture Courtesy - Cricinfo
The test was not all about Kohli for the Indians - Ajinkya Rahane played an equal role in both innings though he might have scored less with runs and attention from media and opponents. His role in dismantling Mitchell Johnson's aura in this match was equally effective. His pulls and hooks in this match were a treat to watch.

Another player who impressed everyone was Murali Vijay. He may not have scored a century here but he was calm and composed. Vijay was instrumental in getting a good start (even though not in terms of runs) that could be capitalized by Kohli and Rahane. He was unfortunate to get a bad decision in the second innings.

Vijay, Kohli and Rahane will form the fulcrum of the Indian batting in future. Pujara, with all his overseas failures, should be able to make the necessary adjustments to join them. This then will become the new vintage, as MSD called them recently. If only Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and KL Rahul provide them adequate support, the Indian team will have a strong force to reckon with.

With the bowling, the Indian attack (should we call them so?) failed in the first innings to give away yet another 500+ score, As well as capitalizing on the top order weaknesses they could not penetrate the lower order. The bowling was much better on fourth day but the team could pick only nine wickets only. Overall, the bowlers were lacking in consistency - delivering a four-ball every over to release the pressure. Only Ishant and to an extent Ashwin were consistent throughout the match. It seemed like Dhoni missed the accuracy of Bhuvi throughout the match. How hard he must be wishing for an allrounder?

The batting this series has been a contrast - solid in the first innings while scoring 400+ in each test (the first time the Indian team has scored after the great 2003 series) but brittle in the second. They did score 300 in the first test while chasing a difficult target but the meltdown in second test cost them the match and the series. Here, the last day was difficult even though they had only 70 overs to survive (un-Australian decision to play the first session on fifth day) - MSD and Ashwin managed to play out 12 overs and thus get a draw for the first time in 13 tests (last drawn match was in Delhi, October 2008).

Next up is Sydney. The Indian team have an option to play two spinners - bring in Axar Patel in place of woeful Rahul and shore up their bowling to take 20 wickets. Anyway, the batting is being done by the top five players. The bowling will get more teeth and Axar's control might be the one weapon missing in Dhoni's armory. If Bhuvi is fit and available, he will be the person to replace Shami.
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