Recently former captain Sourav Ganguly said that the current Australian team is the worst to tour India. A lot of people seem to echo this sentiment but if a 4-0 happens, a lot of fans will still be unconvinced. If that is indeed the case, then why hasn’t such a thing happened before in India’s history where a lot of weaker teams have visited India in the past?
If Australia is weaker without the likes of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey, then isn’t India also much weaker without the likes of Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan? Even Virender Sehwag wasn’t there for the 3-0 Test win in Mohali.
In a way, wasn’t it a battle of two weak teams? One of those team has pulled itself clear ahead. Credit has to be given where credit is due.
In fact Ganguly making such a statement is quite funny because weak teams were his Achilles’ heel. Ganguly was a brilliant captain, who took India out of the match-fixing era, brought in aggression and started winning Tests on foreign pitches.
But his team usually fell apart when facing weak teams.
Let me explain.
On his first trip as captain to Australia, amidst cries of “0-4”, Team India gave the legendary Steve Waugh such a fright that the series was level at 1-1 and it was Australia which had to draw the final Test to save the series.
When Ganguly’s team visited a much weaker England team, then also the result was a similar 1-1. When he visited the weakest team in the world in the form of Zimbabwe the first time, then also the result was 1-1!
When Ganguly’s boys visited West Indies, then in such a bad shape was the host nation that it had lost 14 of the 20 Test matches it had played just before the series, which is a Bangladesh type record. It was struggling to even draw Tests. And yet what happened? People were expecting a 3-0 then also. West Indies beat India 2-1!
Another question: How many times did we win a Test series against a Top 8 nation by a margin of 2 Tests either home or away in the Ganguly-Dravid era? The answer is a surprising zero. India could never thrash weak teams or whitewash them.
Interestingly 2-0s started happening against the Top 8 teams only after MS Dhoni took over. Dhoni has affected a scoreline of 2-0 against Australia (twice), Sri Lanka, West Indies and New Zealand.
But some contradictions continued till the Dhoni era.
When we visited an invincible Australia in 2003, we tied it 1-1.
When we visited an Australia in decline in 2007, we lost 1-2.
When we visited a totally declined Australia (it had lost to both South Africa and England at home), we got thrashed 0-4!
So how is it not an achievement that we may be whitewashing even a weak team 4-0 right now?
Is this Australian team as bad as it is made out to be?
Captain Michael Clarke started a purple patch in the Colombo Test in September 2011. Since then he has hit 9 centuries including a triple and three double centuries and averages 70+ in that period. He scored a century and a 90 in this series too. He could have made the series much closer the way captain Alastair Cook did for England.
But he has become Ravindra Jadeja’s bunny and got out to him 5 times in the series. That’s been our trump card.
There have been some sessions where the Australian fast bowlers have been bowling terrifically and James Pattinson and Peter Siddle have been rewarded with 5-wicket hauls, rare for fast bowlers on the sub-continent.
Look at the top scores of the Australian batsmen apart from Clarke in this series: Mitchell Starc 99, Steven Smith 92, Ed Cowan 86, Moises Henriques 81, David Warner 71, Philip Hughes 69, Matthew Wade 62…
That’s 8 Aussies who made fifties including Clarke. All of them have got good starts, but we made sure most of them did not go on to score a big century.
The series has not always been one-sided. Australia had its moments.
In the first Test, Australia had made 380 and had India at 196/4, where the game could have gone either way, but Dhoni took the game away from the opposition.
In the third Test Australia fought from 251-7 to 408. During the Indian innings, they fought from 289-0 to 431-7. At that time a slender lead wouldn’t have helped India as we were batting fourth, but Virat Kohli took us to safety.
Let’s at least appreciate the fighting spirit of the newcomers, for in the past we have lost from such situations to even weak teams like New Zealand and West Indies.
In fact Australia had lost just one of the seven series it had played just before the current tour! The going of Ponting-Hussey shouldn’t have hit them that badly.
Great teams thrash weak teams and beat strong ones.
Now that we have achieved the first, there’s no point in saying that the second won’t happen.
In a way it’s good that we are facing the toughest Test team in the toughest conditions in the form of South Africa.
If new India can come out of that unscathed, then the future of our Tests is very bright indeed.
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The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/