by Sudipta Biswas
With India’s series win in 2018-19, a lengthy process has completed. It is a moment of pride for Indian cricket and its fans. So, let’s celebrate it without thinking much about the better and the best as you will not get the opportunity to experience this kind of moment often.
As India won their maiden Test series in Australia 2-1 the cricket lovers were divided into groups as a comparison was drawn between Virat Kohli and Sourav Ganguly led Team India. This finely poised debate quested for the better side of the two which played in Australia. While Sourav Ganguly led Team India became the first Indian team to draw a Test series in Australia Virat Kohli led Team India became the first Asian team to win a Test series Down Under. But, it was the condition of the current Australian team that provoked everyone to draw a comparison between two sides-comprises of players of two different generations.
Let’s have a look!
This Australian Test side would go down the memory lane as one of the worst in their cricketing history! On a contrasting note, this Indian team is a better-balanced unit comprises of a solid batting attacking and a decisive bowling attack. You can’t draw India teams of 2003-04 and 2018-19 on the same line. The time and situation were different. When Australia under Steve Waugh was emulating the invincible West Indies of the 1970s and 1980s Sourav Ganguly’s India was just coming out of their archaic fold that kept Indian cricket way behind their contemporaries for years. Hence, earning a draw against the Aussies at that time was considered more than winning a series.
Ganguly captained side received due accolades for showing their guts to brave out Australian at their backyard, earning a 1-1 draw. In 2018-19, the condition of current Australian Test side was abysmal in comparison to former Australian sides and India made full use of it by winning their maiden Test series, even after making a few mistakes in the Perth Test that drew criticism. It is very hard to say the Indian team of 2003-04 is way better than the lot of 2018-19 or vice versa because there are multiple differences between the time and conditions of two series when two different generations of cricketers played for the subcontinent nation.
However, we have to take account of India’s dismal show in 2011-12 tour of Australia which was the lowest point in their recent Test cricket history. Though India were blessed with some of the big names of cricket-the likes of legends Rahul Dravid, MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan, VVS Laxman- they still failed to turn things around since Australia whitewashed them 4-0.
Four years later, India did a better job by leaving their long-standing impression in Australia to draw the series. But, it was one of the missed opportunities for India as they had a good chance to draw the series 2-2. Losing the Adelaide Test from a position of an empathic win dashed India’s hope of clinching maiden Test series Down Under on 2013-14 tour. Kohli notched up centuries in either inning of the Adelaide Test. As Nathan Lyon bamboozled Kohli on 141 in the fourth innings India’s rather easy chase fall in trouble as Australia made a return to the game out of nowhere and eventually won it by 48 runs. If India had defeated Australia in the very Test, then stand-in skipper Kohli could have won India’s maiden Test series in Australia 3-1 on his first attempt as a captain.
Carrying on their spirit of 2013-14 tour, India appeared as a much better-balanced unit in 2018-19 to trounce a meek and timid Australian team led by stop-gap skipper Tim Paine. The absence of banned cricketers- Steve Smith and David Warner- the foundation of the current Australian team- also made things rather easy for India.
Unlike 2013-14, when Kohli slammed three centuries, the captain failed to emulate his previous tour’s performance as his only remarkable contribution in the series was a hundred at Optus Stadium, Perth. Kohli managed to accumulate 282 runs while Cheteshwar Pujara finished the series as the highest run-getter of the series with 521 runs at an average of 74.42 on account of three centuries.
In contrast to India’s bowling performance in 2003-04, the current lot is way better than them. Paceman Jasprit Bumrah finished the series as India’s highest wicket-taker with 21 wickets at an astounding average of 17. While there is not much dissimilarity between batting attacks of 2003-04 and 2018-19 it was the bowling attack which made the difference between the two sides. While leg-spinner Anil Kumble was India’s highest wicket-taker with 24 wickets in 2003-04 it was the pacers who made things looking pleasant for India in the recently concluded series.
While Bumrah’s fast and furious bowling with impeccable consistency left Australia tottering Mohammad Shami played the anchor’s role by providing much-needed support to his junior fellow. Alongside these two pacemen Ishant Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav chipped in with their crafts and expertise to inspire India to defend their Border-Gavaskar Trophy which they won in 2017-18 home series. With a neat bowling unit on India’s arsenal, Australia’s rather inexperienced batting attack was found demanding as they were visibly clueless against India’s bowling strategies.
In terms of fitness and ability, the current Indian team would rank on top among all generations of teams that don the whites for India. It would not be out of place to say that India’s 1-1 draw against Australia Down Under in a four-Test series showed the way of playing series overseas to India’s next generation of cricketers.
It is for sure; both series would have the major implications on Indian cricket as it would provide future generation of Indian cricketers the courage and confidence while on tour. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Sourav Ganguly led Team India set the momentum for a series win which culminated in India’s 2-1 series clinch in Australia under Virat Kohli’s captaincy. A lengthy process has completed. It is a moment of pride for Indian cricket and its fans. So, let’s celebrate it without thinking much about the better and the best as you will not get the opportunity to experience this kind of moment often.
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