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India vs Australia - Cricket was the real winner

It all started and ended with the man who carried India throughout the series. KL Rahul punches a delivery from Steve O’Keefe through midwicket for 2 runs as India defeat Australia by eight wickets to win the series 2-1 and reclaim the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. A real statement of redemption for the Indian team which was on the other side in Down Under 2014-15. Even before the real drama began, the attention and expectation on cricket’s biggest superstars today, Virat Kohli and Steve Smith catapulted beyond galactic proportions. With many pundits and former cricketers claiming that the visitors faced a herculean task due to the form that India possessed in their backyard, the series would only go on to produce lots of twists and turns ( pun intended) over the course of four tests. Despite all the action, drama and brain fade, Aussies proved their doubters wrong as they brought the fight and silenced everyone right from the critics to their opponents.


A rank turner in Pune saw the systematic deception of the hosts by a once forgotten slow-left arm bowler Steve O’Keefe, as he spun past the Indian batting one-by-one to shock the world. A vehement statement that meant Australia were here for one thing, and that was to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy at any cost, even if it meant fighting fire with fire or beating spin with spin.


Australian skipper Steve Smith proved exactly why he deserves to be called the best Test batsman in the world. An astounding Smith would go on to score 499 runs in four Test matches with hundreds in Pune, Ranchi, and Dharamsala. While Smith was expected to play the way he did, it, however, showed the remarkable transition of the virtuoso from Sydney in battling top-class spin bowling in spin friendly sub-continent wickets. Not long ago, Smith had a torrid time facing quality spin bowling from Rangana Herath in Sri Lanka, but he proved his skill this time around, especially considering the fact that he was up against the world’s best spin bowlers. This speaks volumes about the type of batsman he’s turned out to be. And to top it all, leaving all the controversy and words aside, Smith offering stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane and the members of the Indian cricket team to join them for a beer in the dressing rooms after the end of a thrilling Test series is a move that deserves immense respect.


Until the series began, KL Rahul’s Test career was either all in or nothing. He either scored massive hundreds or went out cheap. But, when push came to shove, Rahul showed sheer consistency with six fifties in four Tests and proved that he is earmarked for greatness. The Bangalorean has already shown the ability to play long innings whether at home or abroad, but with this level-headed performance, much will be expected out of him everytime he walks out open the batting for India.


With all the attention on Virat Kohli, who is regarded by many as the best Indian batsman today, there exists a silent guardian, a watchdog in the form of Cheteshwar Pujara who makes sure that no one dares to wreak havoc into the Indian batting line-up. Having set the record for most runs in a first-class season, Pujara went on to pile up heaps of runs for India throughout the season with class, grace, and temperament, being the key here. An astounding 525-ball double hundred in the Ranchi Test proved exactly why he was the only one worthy of filling the void left by the great Rahul Dravid. If India is to win games overseas, Pujara will have to emulate what Dravid did throughout his career, dig deep, bat long and bat hard.


At 21 years of age, with only four Test matches under his belt, young Matt Renshaw showed a lot of character and technique in battling the Indian bowling attack on spin-friendly wickets throughout the series. This is no ordinary feat considering it was Renshaw’s first tour in the sub-continent. From battling the Delhi Belly Bathroom break to scoring two crucial fifties, Matt played with a purpose and showed a lot of promise on top of the order, at a time when his experienced partner in David Warner had a horrendous outing throughout the series. It will be interesting to see whether he could be a long-term partner to the Australian vice-captain.


Indian wickets, in general, have a tendency to offer more purchase to spinners, and to see Umesh Yadav grab 17 wickets throughout the series is no small deal. Yadav, a skiddy customer, ran through the Australian batting on multiple occasions, proving his ability to bowl on turning Indian pitches. The fact that he made the Aussies look vulnerable to lethal pace and swing in the Dharamsala Test and to pick up six wickets in Pune’s rank turner only makes his contribution to India’s series win more impressive.

Moving on to the other speedster who starred in this series. Once predicted by many as the golden boy of Australian cricket, Pat Cummins had the skill to become the best in the world, if only his visits to the hospital weren’t as frequent as Steve Smith scoring a Test century. Having played only one Test, a fit Cummins earned his call-up after Mitchell Starc replaced in a hospital bed. But there was no looking back for Cummins the moment he was included in the third Test at Ranchi. In the words of Pakistan legend Waqar Younis, “Fast bowling is about imposing yourself on the batsman,” and Cummins did just that with his raw pace, lateral movement and bounce intimidating the Indian batsmen with ease. His performance in the final two tests proved that he is destined for greatness if he can stay injury free.


With Kohli ruled out of the series decider, stepped up his deputy Ajinkya Rahane, a calm and composed figure in any given situation. Right from his decision to play five bowlers, and piling up pressure on the visitors, Rahane was relentless in his approach at the Dharamsala Test. With aggression and rage being exchanged between the two teams in the form verbal spat and sledging, Rahane focussed his aggression not by words, but in the field and on the game, taking the Australians to the cleaners. An obvious example of his combative nature was seen when he walked out to bat in the second innings with an intention to finish the game in no time. He might not have had the best of outings with the bat, but Rahane made his presence felt through his remarkable captaincy to win the series for India.

Overall, with Lyon, Ashwin and Jadeja showing marvellous consistency with the ball, and the likes of Smith, Pujara, and Rahul with the bat, this Border-Gavaskar Trophy was arguably the hardest battle both these sides ever faced. From mind-games on and off the field to match-winning performances by men from both sides, this series will be remembered by many for all the high action and drama it produced. While one team ended up on top, it is safe to say that both teams equally experienced the battle scars and wounds on the field. A certain few warriors stood out on top while many were slain during the time-tested battle, but at the end of the day one thing was sure - there was a combined winner - and that was ‘Test Cricket.'

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