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India had more skill and determination than Australia in the conditions in Chennai and Hyderabad and the results reflected that
March 5, 2013
After the relief of Chennai, comes the emphatic joy of Hyderabad. India will believe they have the number of the Australians in this series, which cannot be lost from here.
When one team scores 500-plus, margins of defeat are likely to be large, but the Australian batting performance, would have indicated to the Indians that the opposition batsmen are, for the moment, in a word, shot.
If the Australian response to the deficit of 266 runs was, as many are calling it, un-Australian in its lack of resolve, the Indian reaction arrived at a kindly conclusion - that the Australian second innings batting lacked skill rather than intent. In unfamiliar and difficult conditions, it takes equal amounts of skill and determination, not one or the other, to make contests possible.
Hyderabad was not, it must be said, a contest. India were able to bring their skills to work in familiar conditions and to make it count. Along with a Test victory, MS Dhoni's elevation to the position of India's most successful Test captain and a 2-0 series lead, there were other less discernible or quantifiable gains that can be considered.
The key hand played by their newer and younger players - Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ravindra Jadeja, five Tests between them - and the return of M Vijay to the front line. While Cheteshwar Pujara and R Ashwin have been making consistent progress in their performances in home series, Bhuvneshwar, Jadeja and Vijay give the selectors and the team management more options than they had three months ago, when England turned the tables on the Indians.
Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar offer two sets of alternative all-round options. Jadeja's role is being treated as a very limited one - that of spin-bowling allrounder in conditions like Chennai and Hyderabad. Yet if he is able to, a la Ravi Shastri, make more of his batting than he has in this series, India can count on his skills in conditions where playing a fifth bowler might make sense, and not just in India. Jadeja's skills on slow, turning wickets could be made to work outside India too. India have not won a series in Sri Lanka in 20 years, where it's slow and turning too, and pitches in the West Indies have certainly not been juiced up recently.
Jadeja is a radically different fifth bowling option for India, a slot that has been filled by many forms and shapes in the past. In the last 15 years, though, it is the medium-pace variety of Sourav Ganguly and Sanjay Bangar that has been brought into play, Bangar playing a vital role opening the batting for India in Headingley 2002 and taking two second-innings wickets. Players with double skills and resolve are not easily found. Bhuvneshwar's biggest asset is that he is able to bowl tight, disciplined medium-pace in conditions that do not help his brand of bowling because those are the only conditions he knows.
Bhuvneshwar happens to be a like-for-like copy of Praveen Kumar, the rare Indian performance in the tear-jerker that was England 2011. India return to England in a little more than a year and, in Bhuvneshwar, they are presented with a possibility. Between now and mid-2014, enhancing his batting skills for conditions found outside the subcontinent could perhaps end up being an example of genuine "informed player management" for India.
In the buzz of victory came Gautam Gambhir's tweet: "Smells like revenge. Half way there boys. remember Perth? Remember Adelaide? Two more, come on." Just like India believe Chennai and Hyderabad were victories of more skill over less skill and more determination over less, so indeed were Adelaide and Perth. Ideally, real vengeance means travelling back to Adelaide and Perth and returning the favours of 2012. Talk of payback at the moment remains mere advertising.
The last two Tests will be played in conditions that are at least expected to be different to those in Chennai and Hyderabad. Mohali's reputation as India's 'quickest' wicket has outlived the truth by several seasons. The Kotla in Delhi can offer a 5-o'clock-stubble of grass but it is, as Delhi captain Shikhar Dhawan will confirm, only a means to confuse the batsmen. It is believed the Australian fast bowlers may show up in force but as long as their batsman don't, the series will remain one-sided.
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