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A performance appraisal of each member of the Indian team
November 6, 2004
A series which was billed as a showpiece event turned out to be a disappointingly one-sided affair, with Australia outclassing India by some distance in every aspect of the game. The Indian batsmen didn't come to the party till the series was over, the bowlers fought gamely but seldom had enough runs to play with, and the fielding was comfortably a few notches below Australia's. Here we run the rule on the Indians, and mark each player out of ten.
After playing bridesmaid to Anil kumble and Harbhajan Singh for plenty of years, Kartik was finally given a fair chance, and he flourished. Under a captain who had plenty of faith in him, Kartik comfortably outperformed Kumble at Nagpur, and then turned in a superb matchwinning performance at Mumbai, exploiting a wicked, spinning track quite magnificently. He is now unquestionably the third spinner in the squad, but needs to perform consistently, and in less helpful conditions, to displace either Kumble or Harbhajan.
The numbers don't look quite as awesome as they did the last time he played Australia at home, but Harbhajan was a constant threat with his fizz and guile. He had an outstanding spell in the second innings at Bangalore, and then delivered the coup de grace on the dustbowl in Mumbai. His absence at Nagpur was a blow.
The stats do no justice to the way Zaheer bowled in this series. There were question-marks about his fitness and his attitude, but he laid them to rest with some consistently hostile spells. After a disappointing start at Bangalore, he steadily improved as the series went along, and was at his best when given the role of the leading seam bowler after Irfan Pathan's withdrawal. Zaheer bowled at a lively pace, controlled his line and length, moved the ball both ways, and troubled all the Australian top-order batsmen.
Keeping to Kumble, Harbhajan and Kartik on a minefield was among the toughest possible debuts one could expect, and Karthik came through the ordeal remarkably well. He had his share of fumbles, but on that pitch, anyone would. Karthik's technique when standing up to the spinners was good, he came up with a couple of excellent leg-side takes, and he showed promise with the bat in the first innings. He deserves a long run.
Easily the top run-scorer for India, Virender Sehwag delighted and infuriated in equal measure. His 155 at Chennai put India in a position to seek victory, but he also threw it away in typically reckless fashion on a couple of occasions. Lost some fan support and a few rating points for his clangers in the field, especially in the Mumbai Test.
After reaching the 400-wicket milestone in his hometown of Bangalore, Kumble was the man of the moment at Chennai as well, bowling with deadly accuracy and venom to take 13 in the match. Thereafter, it went downhill - he had a shocker at Nagpur, and was extremely lucky to bag a clutch of wickets at Mumbai. Still remains India's premier spinner, though.
Kaif made a superb return to Test cricket, batting with a resolve which shamed some of his more illustrious middle-order colleagues. He started off with consecutive half-centuries at Chennai and Nagpur, but spoilt his case somewhat at Mumbai, shouldering arms twice and being trapped lbw. His fielding was, as ever, an asset.
Pathan's series was cut short by a side strain, but before that he did enough to suggest that the excitement surrounding him after his first season in international cricket wasn't misplaced. He bowled splendidly at Bangalore, but without any luck, and batted with guts and determination for long periods. A fully fit Pathan and Zaheer would be a handful with the new ball for any batting line-up.
After an outstanding run in Test cricket for more than two years, Dravid finally had a poor series with the bat. He occupied the crease for long periods, playing 612 balls, but was far from fluent, and often seemed shackled by Australia's disciplined pace attack. He was outstanding in the slips, though, and went past Sunil Gavaskar to become India's most prolific catcher. Led the side astutely at Nagpur and Mumbai.
Coming back from his tennis-elbow injury, Tendulkar struggled through his first three innings, the lack of match practice showing through. Then, he came into his own in his last innings of the series with a beautifully constructed 55 which wrested the initiative from Australia, showing the aggression and intent of old.
Australia's nemesis in their previous encounters, Laxman became Shane Warne's bunny here, falling to him three times. Laxman's footwork was unsure, and his confidence was so low that he even struggled against spin. Then, with his place possibly on the line, Laxman came into his own again in the second innings at Mumbai. His 69 not only allowed India to have enough runs on the board to win, it was also bad news for South Africa, who tour next for two Tests.
Started off well at Bangalore, but then struggled for runs, falling to that old failing around off. Captained the side spiritedly at Chennai.
Agarkar got a chance when Pathan got injured, but fluffed his lines yet again. He bowled a few searching overs at Nagpur, but then that old failing came up - an inability to sustain the pressure. His unbeaten 44 came when there was little at stake.
Completely out of form, Yuvraj never looked comfortable against either pace or spin. Being shunted up to open the batting, for only one innings, didn't help either.
Patel had a nightmare series, repeatedly missing regulation takes against both seam and spin. His batting continued to improve, but that was scant consolation, and it was hardly a surprise when he given the boot after three Tests.
Indecisive footwork, lack of confidence, and lack of runs. Time for Chopra to go back to domestic cricket and get it all back together again.
Had a cruel baptism on debut, and didn't do much to suggest that he could cope. Might get another chance, though, against the lesser bowling might of South Africa.
S Rajesh is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.
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