Four takeaways from India’s Nagpur mauling of Australia
Shashwat Kumar was in Nagpur as Australia were shot out for 91 inside a session, and India completed a 131-run innings victory. Here are the takeaways from the encounter.
Australia lose to India and the illusion of a venomous pitch
Let us get this straight right at the start. The conditions in Nagpur were challenging. But they were not the only factor responsible for Australia plummeting to a 131-run innings defeat. If you were to be honest, Australia lost the game long before they actually came out to bat, both on day 1 and day 3.
Prior to day 1, they had gotten so occupied with the murmurs around the pitch and the conditions that they did, according to many, not play their best eleven. Then on day 3, they lacked energy throughout. Their team looked disjointed as Axar Patel and Mohammed Shami piled further misery. With the bat, they looked clueless as Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja spun webs around them.
But overall, they looked anything but the top-ranked Test side in the world. They lacked application, and at crucial moments, they handed India the initiative, whether it was with the ball or the bat. Basically, they did everything that a visiting team should not be doing in India.
Ravindra Jadeja is back, and back with a bang
Prior to this game, Jadeja had not played Test cricket since July 2022. So, for someone who prides himself on his fitness, that was a pretty long lay-off. Unsurprisingly, a few questions were raised over whether he could get back to his best against Australia. The all-rounder, though, answered those emphatically.
Day 1 was about him running through the Australian batting unit. He bowled with exemplary control, and created just enough doubt in the batters’ minds to force them into errors. Day 2, on the other hand, was about him consolidating India’s advantage and ensuring that their middle order mini-collapse did not turn into something more alarming.
Jadeja did his bit on the final day too, partnering Ashwin and bowling Australia out inside a session. If there were any doubts about how good Jadeja could be post his injury, well, there are not many (if any) now.
India’s lower middle order stands up, again
In the past few years, not many teams have had the luxury of a strong lower order in Test cricket. India, if you had not guessed already, are one of those who have had that cushion. Jadeja and his remarkable batting metamorphosis has played a key role but the likes of Ashwin and Axar have also done whatever India have asked of them. Add Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar to that mix, and you get a list of cricketers who have contributed significantly in the recent past via what can be termed their secondary suit.
When talking about Test runs scored by batters batting at No.6 or lower since 2021, India are the second-best, only behind England. They have scored more than 4000 runs and they have come at an average a shade over 24, with five hundreds and more than 75 sixes.
Fair to say then that if their top order does not come at you, their lower middle order certainly will.
Despite the annihilation at Nagpur, expect Australia to get better
This might sound counter-intuitive at first, considering Australia were bundled out inside a session on day 3. But that is the beauty about hitting rock-bottom; the only way thereafter is upwards. Plus, Australia might not need to drastically outperform themselves to outdo what they did at Nagpur.
That aside, there is a chance that Australia will field a full-strength eleven in the series very soon. Pat Cummins, in the aftermath of the 1st Test, admitted that Cameron Green had enjoyed a couple of good net sessions in Nagpur, and that he was bowling too. Mitchell Starc will fly into India in the next couple of days. Josh Hazlewood, who missed this Test due to injury, was also seen practicing at the VCA Stadium during breaks.
Travis Head could also come into the equation if Australia overlook his patchy record in Asia and reward him for his stunning form in the home summer. Not only would he provide a counter-attacking option in the middle order, he can send down a few overs of off-spin, which in India, is not a bad idea.
It does not guarantee anything, yet, it does hint that things are perhaps not as gloomy as their drubbing at Nagpur suggests.