In Stats: How Pujara & Bumrah Helped India Script History in Aus
7 January 2019 will probably be marked with a golden bookmark in the history of Indian cricket. It was on this date that the Indian team won their first-ever Test series in Australia.
Prior to this, Indian cricket teams had travelled Down Under on 11 occasions, generally returning defeated or at best salvaging a draw. However, this team – led by Virat Kohli – has accomplished a longstanding dream and achieved something that has never been done previously: beat Australia in Australia.
A little after 2:30 pm Sydney time on Monday afternoon, the match officials declared they had abandoned the final day’s play of the final Test match, thereby confirming the score line for the series: INDIA – 2, AUSTRALIA – 1.
Despite missing two of their star cricketers (Steven Smith and David Warner), Australia were expected to compete. But Team India fought hard and were the better team by a long distance. The numbers below establish India’s dominance in the series.
Respect can only be earned through deeds, and the Indian team earned the respect of the host nation by repeatedly outplaying the Australian cricket team. The performance of the Indian cricketers not only earned them the acknowledgement from and respect of their opponents, but also earned them plaudits from the Australian cricket media and appreciation from Australian cricket supporters.
It is not often that the Australian team are asked to follow-on in Test matches at home. It is not often as well that Australia have gone through a complete home series without scoring a century. This Indian team made both of those things happen on this tour, and for that, credit should go to the bowling line-up for being relentless.
Any number of words written in praise of the performance of the bowlers will not do full justice to their toil and rewards. Each one of the bowlers employed by Team India in the series played their roles well and hunted well as a pack.
Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah have been acknowledged as being the best-ever Indian pace attack to visit the country and are being spoken about by the Australian media as the best pace attack around the world currently.
Ravindra Jadeja (7 wickets in the series), Kuldeep Yadav (5-99 at Sydney), and even off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin (six wickets in the series opener), caused significant damage with the ball.
And to top it all, for being the leader of the pack despite still playing his first year of Test cricket.
Such has been Bumrah’s performance in the series that he has picked up more wickets than any other Indian fast bowler did on a first tour of Australia. Bumrah was the joint-highest wicket-taker in the series – level with Nathan Lyon – with 21 wickets.
The win should also be considered special because the most influential performances – perhaps the series-defining performance – came from someone other than the player who was expected to play the protagonist.
In the days leading up to the series, and right through the series too, the spotlight was on ‘King’ Kohli. But it was Cheteshwar Pujara who delivered the telling performance; the 30-year-old earned respect and admiration for his consistent run-making and constant presence at the crease. The top run-getter in the series, India’s number three became only the country’s second batsman to score three or more hundreds in a Test series Down Under.
The significance of Pujara’s performance can be established from the fact that his aggregate runs for the series (521) was more than the sum of Australia’s top two run-getters. Pujara faced 1,258 deliveries in the series – which was more than that sum of the balls faced by Australia’s two-most successful batsmen in the series.
India’s series win should be considered special also because there were several other timely performances. Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane scored runs, but it has to be said they could have done more. Three budding cricketers – Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari and Rishabh Pant – were thrown in the deep end, and while they did not set the series on fire, they certainly showed they belonged at this level – scoring runs against a testing bowling attack – and will be better for the experience.