With the conclusion of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2020/21, we present a combined XI from the two teams based on how the players got on in the Test series.
3 Tests, 259 runs @ 51.80, 0 100s, 2 50s, HS 91
Shubman Gill came into the Test XI after the 36 all out in Adelaide, and by the end of the series has arguably become India’s first-choice opener in Tests. Gill topped the run charts in the series for openers and was impressive with his back-foot batting. His 91 on day 5 of the Brisbane Test would go down as one of the best fourth innings knocks by an Indian in away Tests. In him, India have found a long-term prospect at the top of the order and it’s unlikely that they will move past him anytime soon.
4 Tests, 271 runs @ 33.87, 0 100s, 3 50s, HS 77
Cheteshwar Pujara blocked everything thrown at him, and in a series where the senior Indian batsman was expected to step up, he did by consuming time at the crease, and testing the patience of Australia’s bowlers. It stood out on the final day of the series when he batted 211 balls, copping blows on his body and keeping the Aussie bowlers at bay. With specialist openers having a tough time, Pujara is best placed to step in as an opener in this combined XI, especially as he is used to coming in early to face the new ball away from home.
4 Tests, 426 runs @ 53.25, 1 100s, 2 50s, HS 108
Arguably the best batsman in the series, Marnus Labuschagne scored over 40 in five of the eight innings this series. At No.3, Labuschagne was impactful and saved Australia the blushes against a depleted Indian attack, even as batsmen around him struggled to make an impact.
4 Tests, 313 runs @ 44.71, 1 100s, 2 50s, HS 131
Steve Smith averaged 3.00 after two Tests in the series, but at the end of the four Tests, he ended right behind Labuschagne as the highest run-scorer in the series. Averaging 44.71 with a hundred and two fifties, Smith made over 300 runs and was at his best in Sydney and Brisbane.
Ajinkya Rahane (c)
4 Tests, 268 runs @ 38.28, 1 100s, 0 50s, HS 112
Ajinkya Rahane‘s inclusion in this combined XI came on the back of a scintillating Test hundred, No.1 in Wisden’s best Test knocks of 2020, that helped India level the series in Melbourne even with the odds stacked against them. With no Virat Kohli, the scars of 36 all out in Adelaide were still fresh, and a pumped-up Australia bowling attack was smelling blood, but Rahane commendably led the team from the front. His captaincy throughout the series was impressive, and even if runs dried up since then, Rahane walks into this XI for his key role in India’s performance in the series.
Rishabh Pant (wk)
3 Tests, 274 runs @ 68.5, 0 100s, 2 50s, HS 97, 8 catches
Rishabh Pant stepped in for Wriddhiman Saha after the first Test in the series and continued his series of good performances in the country, culminating in one of the greatest fourth-innings knocks by an Indian batsman away from home. His unbeaten 89, driven by the fearless attitude he carried onto the field in a tense run-chase, helped India create history at the Gabba. Prior to this, his brilliant 97 in the second innings at the SCG had put India in a winning position from nowhere and they eventually ended up drawing the game. While his keeping remained average, the other wicketkeepers in the series – Tim Paine and Saha – did not do enough in one department or the other to displace him.
2 Tests, best of 57, 7 wickets @ 15.00
Jadeja made quite an impact in the series before walking out of it with a thumb injury. Alongside Ajinkya Rahane, he put on a splendid stand at the MCG and the duo put India in a winning position with a good first-innings lead. With the ball, Jadeja finished with the best average for any bowler with at least five wickets in the series. His brilliant run-out of Steve Smith at Sydney restricted Australia’s first-innings lead.
3 Tests, 12 wickets @ 28.83, BBI 4-55
The battle between R Ashwin and Nathan Lyon was among the key talking points ahead of the series. At the end of it, it can be said with a certain amount of conviction that Ashwin aced this duel. The Indian off-spinner was outstanding right through the series with the ball – his spells against Steve Smith being one of the highlights of the series – and finished his series with a stunning fightback with the bat, facing 128 balls to help India draw the SCG Test alongside Hanuma Vihari.
4 Tests, 21 wickets @ 20.04, BBI 4-21
Pat Cummins‘ spells in Adelaide and MCG could come under some of the best spells in the last decade in Test cricket. With lateral movement, pace and bounce, Cummins kept the batsmen guessing and finished as the highest wicket-taker in the series with 21 wickets at an average of 20.04. Every time Australia wanted him to step up, Cummins was there with the ball, ready to give it his all delivery after delivery, spell after spell, day after day. He created the big breakthrough in the final day of the series, sending back Cheteshwar Pujara, India’s middle-order rock, in the final session of the day.
3 Tests, 13 wickets @ 29.53, BBI 5-73
Jasprit Bumrah was the leader of India’s bowling attack when they arrived Down Under, and while he lived up to the billing in the three Tests he played, Mohammed Siraj had to take over for the last Test and responded with a five-wicket haul. Making his debut in the second Test of the series, Siraj was impressive from the word go and his large heart, persistent lines and continuous involvement in the game meant that he finished as India’s highest wicket-taker in the series.
4 Tests, 17 wickets @ 19.35, BBI 5-8
One of the architects of India’s worst collapse ever in Tests, Josh Hazlewood combined with Cummins to form one of Australia’s most potent bowling pairs in a series. He finished the series with 16 wickets at an average of 15.93. His economy rate of 2.07 was the best by anyone to bowl even a single delivery in the series. On top of that, Hazlewood boasted a bowling strike-rate of 46.00, the best by any bowler with 10 wickets in the series.