Sri Lankan cricket legend Kumar Sangakkara today said that he will bid adieu to Test…
India will do well to remember the ill-fated Australian tour of 2011-12, when they crumbled in a heap and lost all four tests Down-Under.
Prelude to the 2014 Border-Gavaskar Trophy
Though Australian cricketer Phil Hughes’ sudden demise may have shifted the spot-light from India’s abandoned warm-up match against Cricket Australia XI, the fact that five batsmen including skipper Virat Kohli racked up half-centuries, highlights that the visitors are set to play ball, come the first test at Brisbane on December 4.
Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Kohli,Wriddhiman Saha and Karn Sharma were the half-centurions for India, and though it may be too early to predict that the visitors would replicate the same against a full-strength Australian eleven, still the match has given them enough impetus to carry on the good form to Brisbane.
It was not long ago when a star-studded Indian team, which included the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni made the long sojourn to Australia, post a routine series win over the West Indies on home soil.
Australia had fought enterprising battles against South Africa and New Zealand earlier, and the visiting Indian team was just the perfect requisite for them to get their stuttering Test form back on track.
India put in manful displays in their first two tour matches against a Chairman’s XI side, which saw almost all their main batsmen get valuable runs under their belt.
Despite both games ending in dull draws, the stage was set for India to replicate the heroics of Saurav Ganguly and Anil Kumble’s sides in the 2003-04 and 2007-08 tours.
When India faced their first real test against a full-strength Australian side at Melbourne, the end result of the match clearly indicated that the visitors had done an impromptu volt face, courtesy a meek performance.
The first Test match was just the start of India’s woes throughout the tour, as Australia put in a buccaneering performance and outclassed the visitors with both bat and ball.
Despite a Zaheer Khan-led attack toiling away, Australia racked up 333 in their first essay and later shot out India for 282, thanks to Ben Hilfenhaus’ five-wicket haul.
Though Virender Sehwag, Dravid and Tendulkar stepped up gears and took the game to the Aussies, with vital half-centuries, still the Indians handed over a 51-run lead to Michael Clarke’s side, thus giving the home side the edge.
As Australia were restricted to a modest 240 in the second innings, James Pattinson’s heroics with the ball ensured that India rolled up without a fight and lost by 122 runs.
None of the Indian batsmen showed real application against the Australian pacers, and the manner in which they collapsed set alarm bells ringing for the rest of the tour.
The win was just the first installement in Australia’s brilliant run during the rest of the series and once again exposed India’s batting frailities against top-class pace bowling.
Come Sydney, and Pattinson and Hilfenhaus had an ally in Peter Siddle this time around, as the trio compounded India’s misery by shooting them out for a paltry 191.
An already demoralised India, failed to shrug off the demons of Melbourne as apart from Dhoni’s sedate half-century, and Tendulkar’s 41, none of them showed even an iota of a fightback.
It was the same old story repeated at the SCG as the Australian pacers once again got on top of India’s batting by the scruff, and polished them off in a jiffy.
Clarke later took center stage with an epic knock of 329, and was suitably aided by centuries from Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey, thus setting India a mountain to climb.
Australia finished at a mammoth 659 for 4, and their declaration meant that India were well and truly out of the game.
The second innings was probably India’s best ever in the series, as their batsmen fought toe-to-toe with the Aussies, in their quest to salvage the match.
Salvage they did not, but half-centuries from Gautam Gambhir, Tendulkar, Laxman and Ravichandran Ashwin ensured that India saved face and finished at 400, despite enduring a 68-run loss.
That loss effectively ended India’s hopes of winning the series, and made sure that Dhoni’s men needed a minor miracle if they were to win the remaining two games.
The WACA ground at Perth invokes fond memories for most Indian cricket fans, thanks to Tendulkar’s fine 114 long ago in 1992, and also the 72-run humbling India alloted to the Aussies during the 2007-08 tour.
Though the terror ground at Perth presented India an opportunity to claw back in the series and show some real mettle, there was no encore of either 1992 or 2007-08, as the visitors were outclassed by Hilfenhaus and Siddle and were all-out for 161, in the first innings.
The Aussie pace duo stole the show again with figures of 4 for 43 and 3 for 42, and Kohli played lone-ranger for India with a gritty 44.
The Australian innings saw David Warner’s whirlwind 180 take India’s bowling to the cleaners and by the time the home side finished at 360, partly due to Umesh Yadav’s battling five-wicket haul, the game was well and truly snatched away from Dhoni’s side.
It was the same old story in India’s second-innings as Hilfenhaus and Siddle shared seven wickets amongst them, and skittled out the visitors for a meagre 171, thus giving Australia the match by 37 runs.
Though Kohli stood tall amongst the ruins with a fine 75, and Dravid did his best to anchor the batting with a composed 47, still the Aussie bowling proved too hot to handle for the rest of the Indian batsmen, as they collapsed in a heap and handed over the series to Australia.
So was it well and truly game over for India at the WACA?
Come game four at the Adelaide Oval and India were already a beaten and beleagured side by that time, with innumerable questions being raised over Dhoni’s captaincy and also their failure to shed off the ‘subcontinental tigers’ tag.
With the series already lost to the rampaging Aussies, India had nothing but pride to play for at Adelaide, and looked to have put their best foot on when they reduced Australia to 84 for 3 in the first innings.
But as they say, cometh the hour and cometh the men, and it was Ponting and Clarke who tormented India, thanks to their marathon knocks of 221 and 210, which shut the door on the visitors once and for all.
India’s bowling was run ragged by the duo and as Australia finished at a huge 604 for 7, the visitors resembled pieces of papers stuck in a gale.
Siddle came back to torment India with another terrific bowling which yielded him five-wickets and it was left to Kohli once more to play hero, with a timely 116.
Kohli’s knock ensured that India saved face with a score of 272, and their woes continued as Australia decided to bat on without ensuring a follow-on.
The Aussies scored a quick 167 in the second essay, and by the time Ponting and Brad Haddin walked off into the pavilion, India were set a near impossible task of chasing down 499.
Despite Sehwag’s soldiering 62, spinner Nathan Lyon and pace-gun Ryan Harris closed out India for 201, thus making true a 4-0 series whitewash for Australia, and ending a truly miserable tour Down-Under for Dhoni’s men.
As the dust settles post Hughes’ death and also the fact that India will face a completely different Australian outfit, come the Brisbane test, still darkening memories of 2011-12 will do well enough to pep up India, as they embarg on their quest to win their first ever test-series Down-Under and etch their names in cricketing history.
Now only time will tell as to whether India can live up to the challenge posed by Australia’s fiery pace-men in the four-test series, or will they turn in a Jekyll-Hyde performance, akin to the one they produced during that ill-fated tour of 2011-12.