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January 29, 2008
With twenty wickets in four Tests, 179 gritty runs, and a calm demeanour that helped India wade through a crisis, Kumble was India's most vital member. Beginning with a five-wicket haul on the opening day in Melbourne, he led the attack manfully and fittingly notched up his 600th wicket in Perth, a Test he termed was his "best win". He batted with gumption, shepherding the tail in crucial moments, and led with a statesman-like authority, guiding along a side through a turbulent phase.
Statistically he enjoyed his finest tour to Australia, averaging in excess of 70 with two hundreds and two fifties. He adapted brilliantly: attacking in Melbourne, accumulating in Sydney, and innovating in Perth, before rounding off with a complete innings in Adelaide, on Don Bradman's homeground. He was accorded rousing ovations each time he walked out and showed that, at 34, was still India's most consistent batsman.
Leading the attack in Zaheer Khan's absence, RP Singh rose to the challenge. Swinging the ball at a lively pace, he troubled the Australians with his awkward angles. He expertly used the old ball and didn't flag in searing conditions. He tore through the top order on the first day in Sydney and mopped up the lower order within no time in Perth. He missed the final part of the Adelaide Test, a blow that was a big setback to India's series-levelling prospects.
Undoubtedly the find of the tour, Ishant was feted by Steve Waugh as the "next best thing" in Indian cricket. Despite going wicket-less in Sydney, he did enough to suggest immense potential and his double-strike against Ricky Ponting in Perth played a big part in the victory. He moved the ball both ways and, displayed a great ability to lift himself when the conditions were most demanding.
Opened up the Sydney Test with an awe-inspiring hundred before producing a guarded, eventually match-winning, half-century in Perth. He showed his ability to change his game according to the situation and proved, once again, that he reserved his best for Australia. He was an important member of the slip cordon and did a fine job when standing close-in for the spinners too.
Made an impact in all the four opportunities he was given, none more so than the polished 151 in Adelaide, a match-saving effort. Even when he didn't go on to a big one he made confident starts to set a good platform, allowing the middle order to prosper. He made some good contributions with his offspin, including two vital wickets on the final day in Perth.
A fairytale comeback at Perth ended in a Man-of-the-Match award in one of the most memorable Indian wins in recent times. He did well with the bat but it was particularly heartening to see him generate alarming swing with the ball. He struggled on the flat deck in Adelaide but snapped up his 100th wicket in the same venue where he picked up his first, a good four years ago.
Dravid struggled to strike the high notes through the series. Thrust into the opening slot for the first two Tests, he endured a mighty tough period. Often not able to get the ball off the square, he notched up dot ball after dot ball, never seeming like the run-machine that had come to these shores four years ago. His 93 was vital for the victory in Perth but, just when he appeared to be finding his groove, struggled again in Adelaide.
Enjoyed a fine start to the tour but saw it fizzle out towards the end. He was undone by a couple of poor umpiring decisions but couldn't match the consistency he had shown ever since his return in December last 2006. He fell to left-armers on seven of the eight occasions with Brad Hogg troubling him more often than one would have expected. His fielding didn't inspire much confidence, a factor that went into his ouster from the one-day squad.
It was a mixed series for Dhoni as a fine phase with the gloves coincided with an average one with the bat. His restrained knocks in Sydney and Perth were vital in the context of the match but Dhoni never really lived up to his reputation as an electrifying batsman. His wicketkeeping, though, improved with each match and displayed expert reflexes when standing up to the spinners.
He ended the series as a better batsman than bowler. With two half-centuries in Sydney and Adelaide, he proved his ability as a lower-order batsman, capable of irritating the daylights out of the opposition. His bowling, though, was a disappointment. Apart from having Ricky Ponting's number for the first two Tests, he was largely ineffective through the series. He will be forever associated with the tour, though, having been at the centre of the storm during the Sydney furore.
Played only one Test and had to return home with a heel injury. He contributed in Melbourne, though, hustling out batsmen on a flat pitch.
Having cruised through 2007, Jaffer hit the ground with a mighty thud, managing just 49 runs in three Tests. He didn't have an answer to Brett Lee's pacy out-swingers and had lost his spot by the end of the series.
With just 17 runs in two games and a string of poor fielding efforts, Yuvraj didn't inspire much confidence through the series. He injured himself during practice in Perth and was side-lined for at least two weeks, putting his one-day chances in doubt as well.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at CricinfoFeeds: Siddhartha Vaidyanathan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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