India’s horror series reached its predictable conclusion with one final almighty beating from Australia. The home side had the luxury of declaring twice (thanks to double hundreds from both Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke) while the tourists failed to reach 300 yet again, this time on a flat pitch ideal for batting, rendering the excuses about green pitches utterly worthless.
In a strange way, such a one-sided series hasn’t helped Australia face up to some of the issues around the side. The top three looked shaky once again (in particular Shaun Marsh), while plans to quietly shelve Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey will clearly have to wait. Regardless of the result, Brad Haddin had another poor series and Nathan Lyon rarely threatened, despite picking up some wickets here.
In terms of the positives there were plenty. The seamers constantly took wickets, led by the rejuvenated Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus. They were well supported by Ryan Harris here, as they all bowled a consistently good line and length, frustrating the Indian batsmen into throwing their wickets away. It’s a plan that worked wonderfully well for England’s seam attack twelve months ago and this series backed up the theory.
The batting wasn’t actually all that good here, with one massive exception – the partnership of 386 between the captain and his predecessor. It wrapped up a very successful series for both players. There was a lot of talk that Ponting was finished coming into this summer, but it’s hard to argue with the results (643 runs at 80 across six matches) so he’ll certainly be around for a while yet.
One other area that stood out here (as it has throughout the series) was Australia’s energy in the field, exemplified by Ben Hilfenhaus’s remarkable runout of Virat Kohli as India imploded for one final time. This is a great barometer of a side’s mental approach and couldn’t have contrasted more strongly with the tourists’ half-hearted efforts.
Much as the selectors have buried their heads in the sand and refused to accept it, this series marks the end of an era. The top order (Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman) all failed again here, bar an entertaining cameo of slogging from Sehwag in the second innings. The only question is of how many will play Test cricket again. In particular, rumours of Dravid’s retirement continue to circle. With hindsight, the only disappointment will be that such a great player’s final hurrah was so poor, especially after a fine personal tour of England.
There was certainly no final hurrah for Laxman, who completed a dismal series in which he was even outscored by R Ashwin (who played one fewer match). Indeed aside from Tendulkar (287 runs at 36), the only Indian batsman to pass 200 runs was Virat Kohli, who became India’s first centurion of the series, with a very good knock in the first innings. However, Test batting is all about partnerships and India utterly failed to put any together.
They also struggled with the ball. Yadav in particular was a disappointment, going at more than five an over in the first innings, but Ishant Sharma was also horribly ineffective, rarely troubling the batsmen. With a four man attack this didn’t leave Virender Sehwag with many options, hence R Ashwin bowling 53 overs and the captain a further 16.
A lot of cricket (and indeed other top level sport) is all in the head. As such it’s probably not unfair to say that this match was lost long before it even started. India simply didn’t want to be out there and their performance showed it.
With the serious stuff out of the way, it’s time to move on to a jamboree of T20 and ODI cricket. For India it’ll represent a fresh start, with a bunch of new faces arriving to try and pick the team up. Their next Test series isn’t for another nine months or so, which should provide time for plenty of soul searching. The selectors might be hoping for a few retirements, to avoid them having to actually make some decisions about the end of certain players’ careers.
For Australia it’s a chance to take a breather and look forward to a tour of the West Indies, which should provide a good gauge of how their side is actually progressing. The return of Shane Watson should create some interesting questions in the top three, with a reshuffle of sorts inevitable.
From our point of view, there’ll be a fair bit of discussion about India (and where they go from here) over the next few weeks and months.