India in Australia 2011-12 January 29, 2012

Thoroughly outclassed with bat and ball

Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan
Australia inflicted their first whitewash on India since 1999 after the visitors' batting caved in meekly in all four Tests against high-quality pace bowling

A gulf in class
After crushing defeats in the first three Tests, India were expected to put up a fight on a flat track in Adelaide. However, there was hardly a semblance of a comeback as India were handed another all-round lesson by the hosts. Only Michael Clarke's decision to rest his bowlers and bat a second time spared India from their third consecutive innings defeat and their fifth such loss in six matches. Throughout the series, India's famed batting line-up was undone by Australia's pace bowlers and the experienced batsmen were all at sea against high-quality swing bowling. Although India's bowlers failed to leave an impact, the abject failure was mainly due to the batting. On only one occasion (Sydney) did India pass 300 and were bowled out for sub-200 totals in four of their eight innings.

Before the England series, India were on a high after drawing their first series in South Africa and winning the World Cup. Fatigue and a spate of injuries put paid to their plans in England and they were humbled 4-0. In the first and second Tests, India were in with a chance but let England back into the contest which ultimately decided the fate of the series. The story in Australia was similar. The lower-order partnerships for Australia contributed vital runs in the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne and took the target beyond the reach of India. After this defeat, the rest of the series was hardly a contest as the hosts bossed India with bat and ball. India did not cross 300 even once in eight innings in England and did so only once in Australia. For a team that boasted four players with more than 8000 Test runs, this was a damning stat. In England, India were abysmal in both the first and second innings, averaging 27.45 and 23.65 respectively. The story only got worse for them in Australia as they managed averages of only 22.65 and 23.52. The average difference (difference between batting averages of opposition and India) in England was 34.21 and only slightly lower in Australia (28.48). The Indian bowling also proved innocuous, picking up only 47 and 46 wickets in the two series while the opposition teams have picked up 20 Indian wickets in each of the Tests played.

India's batting performance in their last two away series in England and Australia
Team Series 1st innings (runs/wickets) 1st innings (avg) 2nd innings (runs/wickets) 2nd innings (avg) Overall (runs/wickets) Overall avg
India England v India, 2011 1008/40 27.45 946/40 23.65 2044/80 25.55
England England v India, 2011 1996/31 64.38 813/16 50.81 2809/47 59.76
India Australia v India, 2011-12 966/40 22.65 941/40 23.52 1847/80 23.08
Australia Australia v India, 2011-12 1965/31 63.38 407/15 27.13 2372/46 51.56

Partnerships make the difference
The lack of partnerships in the top and middle order hurt India's chances in the series. The highly successful opening combination of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir was a major flop. The pair has averaged only 15.16 in their last 12 innings and had a highest partnership of 26 in the four Tests. India's troubles were compounded by the collective failure of Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman. Tendulkar and Dravid were involved in one of only three century stands for India in the series while Laxman, one of the most consistent players against Australia, was in woeful form scoring just 155 runs in eight innings. Virat Kohli, India's top scorer in the series with 300 runs, was the sole provider of resistance in the last two Tests.

Australia led India comfortably on the partnership stats and managed four 200-plus stands. Clarke and Ricky Ponting were superb in Sydney and Adelaide and seized the initiative with massive stands of 288 and 386. Ponting, whose place was under threat before the series, roared back to form with two centuries while Clarke continued his excellent form with his fifth century in 12 matches as captain. Australia averaged more than twice as much as India for wickets 7-10. India's lower-order batsmen on the other hand, were very ordinary and failed to put up a fight in any of the Tests. Australia's only major batting worry was the form of Shaun Marsh who scored just 17 runs in the series with three ducks and his poor display is reflected in the stats for the second wicket (average 4.16).

Partnership stats for Australia and India
Partnership wicket Australia (runs, average) Australia (100/50 stands) India (runs, average) India (100/50 stands)
1 346/57.66 1/0 125/15.62 0/0
2 25/4.16 0/0 309/38.62 0/3
3 215/35.83 1/1 340/42.50 1/1
4 842/140.33 2/1 149/18.62 1/0
5 546/109.20 2/1 278/34.75 0/3
6 47/11.75 0/0 205/25.62 1/0
7-10 351/27.00 0/2 441/13.78 0/2

Australian pace bowlers stamp authority
Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle, who topped the wicket-taking charts with 27 and 23 wickets respectively, stuck to superb lines throughout and were highly effective against the Indian top-order batsmen. Hilfenhaus had no success against Tendulkar (zero dismissals and 94 runs conceded) but had the better of Sehwag and Laxman, whom he dismissed three and two times respectively while conceding a total of 77 runs. Siddle, the Man of the Match in Adelaide, troubled Tendulkar and Kohli, dismissing them three times each. MS Dhoni's technique was found wanting and he was dismissed cheaply three times by Hilfenhaus. Ryan Harris, who came back into the squad for the last two Tests, played a vital role and dismissed both Tendulkar and Dravid in Perth while conceding just nine runs off 48 balls to the former.

Indian batsmen v Australian bowlers
Batsman Bowler Dismissals Average Balls per dismissal
Sachin Tendulkar Peter Siddle 3 25.33 48.33
Sachin Tendulkar Ryan Harris 1 9.00 48.00
MS Dhoni Ben Hilfenhaus 3 16.66 26.66
Gautam Gambhir Peter Siddle 3 12.33 17.33
Virender Sehwag Ben Hilfenhaus 3 21.33 39.00
VVS Laxman Ben Hilfenhaus 2 7.50 37.50
Virat Kohli Peter Siddle 3 24.66 51.33

At the end of a series the Indian bowlers would like to forget in a hurry, Zaheer Khan was the stand-out performer. He was at his best against the left-handers and also troubled the right-handers especially Brad Haddin with the old ball. He got Haddin three times conceding just 16 runs and was also successful against Michael Hussey (44 runs and two dismissals) and David Warner (94 runs and two dismissals). Umesh Yadav showed glimpses of his potential in Melbourne and Perth but was off colour in Sydney and Adelaide. He, however, had the better of Marsh, who had a wretched series. The left-handed Marsh fell to Yadav three times while scoring just 13 runs. However, Australia's leading scorers Ponting and Clarke, who both amassed 500-plus runs in the series, were never seriously troubled by any particular bowler.

Australian batsmen against Indian bowlers
Batsman Bowler Dismissals Average Balls per dismissal
Ed Cowan R Ashwin 3 11.00 28.66
Shaun Marsh Umesh Yadav 3 4.33 9.66
Michael Clarke Zaheer Khan 2 61.00 95.50
Ricky Ponting Umesh Yadav 2 68.50 78.00
David Warner Zaheer Khan 2 47.00 63.00
Michael Hussey Zaheer Khan 2 22.00 32.00

Australia had given indications of building a quality pace attack even before the series started with strong displays against South Africa and New Zealand. However, in the four Tests against India, they surpassed everybody's expectations. In a display characterised by accuracy and testing lines, the Australian pace bowlers, tormented India's best batsmen regularly. They bowled to specific plans and fields and were successful on almost every occasion. It was not quite the same with the Indian bowlers. Zaheer and Yadav were impressive in patches but Ishant Sharma's five wickets came at an average of 90.20. The scale of difference in performance is clearly reflected in the average and strike rate of the pace bowlers of both teams. Australia have an average of 20.45 and strike rate of 41.2 while the corresponding numbers for India are 45.08 and 70.7.

Both R Ashwin and Nathan Lyon were struggling for impact through the series. Lyon, however, had the advantage of coming into bowl after the pace bowlers had made early inroads. Ashwin had his moments but was struggling to maintain consistent lines and lengths. Faced with low totals to defend and denied attacking fields, Ashwin could manage only nine wickets at an average of 62.77.

Pace v Spin for both teams in the series
Type of bowler Team Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/10WM
Pace Australia 71 20.45 41.2 3/0
Pace India 35 45.08 70.7 1/0
Spin Australia 8 44.12 84.3 0/0
Spin India 10 72.20 129.8 0/0

Indian batting on the slide?
India had stayed on top for years because of their powerful batting line-up. Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman had performed in matches at home and outside the subcontinent. Setting up good totals helped an otherwise modest bowling attack to create pressure and deliver wins. However, in their last three major away series in South Africa, England and Australia, the much-vaunted batting came apart. Tendulkar was brilliant in South Africa scoring two centuries including an stunning knock in Cape Town while withstanding a hostile spell by Dale Steyn. Dravid and Virender Sehwag meanwhile struggled while Laxman managed a solitary fifty in Durban.

By the time the England tour came along, Dravid seemed to be the only one in form. He stood tall amidst the ruins and scored all three centuries registered by Indian batsmen in the series. Tendulkar and Laxman were below-par averaging 34.12 and 22.75. Sehwag, who only played the last two Tests, bagged a pair in Edgbaston and mustered just 41 runs. In Australia, even Dravid was woefully out of form and this meant that India's middle order was under severe pressure often. Not a single batsman averaged over 40 and only Kohli showed the stomach for a fight (average 37.50) scoring India's solitary century in the series.

India's top batsmen in South Africa, England and Australia
Batsman South Africa matches, (runs/avg) South Africa (100/50) England matches, (runs/avg) England (100/50) Australia matches, (runs/avg) Australia (100/50)
Sachin Tendulkar 3, 326/81.50 2/0 4, 273/34.12 0/2 4, 287/35.87 0/2
Rahul Dravid 3, 120/20.00 0/0 4, 461/76.83 3/0 4, 194/24.25 0/1
VVS Laxman 3, 196/39.20 0/1 4, 182/22.75 0/2 4, 155/19.37 0/1
Virender Sehwag 3, 144/24.00 0/1 2, 41/10.25 0/0 4, 198/24.75 0/2
Gautam Gambhir 2, 242/60.50 0/3 3, 102/17.00 0/0 4, 181/22.62 0/1
MS Dhoni 3, 179/35.80 0/1 4, 220/31.42 0/2 3, 102/20.40 0/1