6 Standout Performers Who Helped India Create History in Australia
The first-ever Indian cricket team to win a Test series in Australia – that’s a heavy-duty achievement that will now forever be synonymous with Virat Kohli’s current squad.
Four Test matches, two wins, one defeat and one draw, and the end result is a 2-1 win that also helps Team India retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
But who were the big stars of this month-long journey to greatness? Which players stood out and stepped up for the team Down Under?
Here’s a look at some standout performers of the four-Test series.
The Resurrection of Cheteshwar Pujara
The series belonged to only one man and that is none other than Cheteshwar Pujara. 521 runs, three centuries, 1258 deliveries faced, and a fearsome Australian attack worn down. The fact that he was struggling to keep his place in the Indian Test side before this series makes his achievement all the more special.
100 runs in South Africa at an average of 16.66 and 278 runs in England at an average of 39.71 didn't do justice to his potential as a batsman. But he rose like a phoenix from the ashes in this series, amassing over 500 runs at an average of 74.42, leaving everyone behind in the race. With such a series-defining performance, he has put an end to all the questions raised about his ability as a batsman and his place in the Indian team. The Border-Gavaskar Trophy has revived his career once again.
Mayank Agarwal Proving His Worth
The Karnataka batsman, who had been piling up runs in domestic cricket and also on India ‘A’ tours since last year, finally got his due in this series.
The selectors were quite harsh to overlook him in the initial squad for the first two Tests, but he was fortunate enough to be called up as the injured Prithvi Shaw’s replacement for the final two.
The Karnataka batsman made his opportunity count and answered with a total of 195 runs in three outings at a scintillating average of 65.00. Those runs included two scores of 70-plus as well, and it finally looks like India has found a reliable opener. Now that he has proved his worth, we can expect to see more of him in the future.
Kuldeep Yadav, a Spinner For All Conditions
There were doubts about Kuldeep Yadav’s effectiveness as a Test spinner in overseas conditions. He was included in the squad for this series from the very beginning, but got his first outing only in the last match at Sydney.
The 24-year-old spinner had only one overseas outing prior to this match, which came at Lord's during India’s tour of England in 2018. He had returned with expensive figures of 44 runs in the nine overs he bowled in that match.
However, Kuldeep revelled in his role as the specialist spinner at Sydney as he registered career-best figures of 5/99. With such a performance, India now have a problem of plenty in the spin department with Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja already there. But it's a good headache to have.
Rishabh Pant’s Rise as a Test Asset
Pant averaged only 27.00 during his debut Test series in England in 2018. Although he became the first Indian wicket-keeper to register a century in SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia) in that series, his performances were highly inconsistent.
He had followed up with consecutive scores of 92 in the series against the Windies as well, but the temperament of a Test batsman was missing during all those outings. However, he removed any complaints whatsoever with his sublime knock of an unbeaten 159 at Sydney this time. It was an innings that was well-paced and played with responsibility. It seemed like he had grown with experience and will get only better with time. He is truly going to be an asset for India in the longer format in the times to come.
Realising The Real Potential of Indian Pace Attack
The Indian pace trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami and Ishant Sharma achieved the unthinkable this year. They broke the 34-year-old record for most wickets by a pace Troika in a calendar year set by Joe Garner, Michael Holding and Malcolm Marshal, and showed the world what the current Indian pace unit is capable of.
They picked up 48 wickets out of the total of 70 Australian wickets to fall in this series at an astonishing average of 21.62. This was by far the best performance by an Indian pace unit in SENA over the years. Their performance has given us a glimpse of the bright future of fast bowling in India.
The Coming of Age of Kohli, The Captain
Also Read : The Four Years of Captain Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli has been criticised a lot because of his captaincy and tactics in recent times. He made a lot of mistakes in decision-making and team selection both during their overseas tours to South Africa and England in 2018.
However, his captaincy was almost flawless in this series. Apart from the one Test match at Perth where he failed to read the pitch correctly and went with an all-pace attack, there is hardly anything to complain about the way he has led the side. His field placements during the final Test match at Sydney were exceptional to watch. The way he set up Marnus Labuschagne to have him caught at short mid-wicket is one of the main highlights of the series. It seems like the captain in Kohli has finally come of age.
(Prasenjit Dey is a freelance cricket writer. He can be reached at @CricPrasen. The opinions expressed are the author’s own and The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)