Lets get this off to the realistic start it deserves. 4 matches into this series, we’re 1-2 behind and although we’ve won 1, it was our first win since 2004. Of the last 25 matches that we’ve played Australia, we’ve lost 17 (3 were No Results). Yesterday’s loss was Australia’s first in 15 games.
Now for the stats which are a bit more quirky, India has not beaten Australia while chasing a target since that game in Sharjah in 1997-98. Its not like we’ve won a lot either. In the 10 years since, in 34 matches played we’ve won 7 times but all the victories have been batting first.
Small wonder then that Dhoni won the toss and did the dew – he chose to bat. It was the best chance we had as the history books and recent matches had shown us. Without the experience and class upfront though, it could have been a damp squib. A lot is being made of the seniors in the Indian side none of whom are that much older than Mathew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist or Ricky Ponting. They’re just under more pressure because selectors and board officials remind them about it. (How’s a Niranjan Shah shooting his mouth off in Hyderabad about Ganguly not “worthy” of a censure? How is it any better than Vengsarkar talking about the seniors? How is either useful ?). And yet, the experience of the opening pair stood firm. Every dot ball must have spelt doubt. But the resolve won. And the platform was set. 291-4 was a result of that. And Ricky Ponting’s mistakes with his bowling changes. And the other things that fall in place when wickets are in hand. Thats what experience brings.
The chase was off to a flier. We’ve bowled patchily all series and it was no different yesterday. But its amazing how the afternoon sun makes good patches seem purple when there are 291 runs on the board. From 190-3 in the 34th,
India won Australia lost. Another Dhoni gamble – three left arm medium pacers and two spinners – paid off. A brave call-up for Murali Karthik paid off. Most importantly, India held on to what looked for a large part of the afternoon like a lost cause.
So, does this mean much at all ? The answer of course is, I don’t know and neither do you.
What we do know is that in two of the three result games, Australia have been comprehensively the better side while we have squeaked home in the game that we have won. And thats boiled down to a consistency in the aussie performance. However, as the series gets longer, the tests for the less experienced Aussie campaigners is going to get tougher.
India, on the other hand is playing under a new captain – not afraid to chop and change the dynamics and willing to experiment – much like Dravid was in his first series as skipper. Consistency is not the strong suit but a willingness to fight sure is. For the series to go down to the wire though, we’ll need a bit more of the first along with large doses of the second.