Australia in India 2004-05

The last step to greatness

India just couldn't cope in a contest that never quite lived up to its exalted billing as Australia won on all counts

Series Review by Dileep Premachandran

November 6, 2004

Text size: A | A



Michael Clarke's childlike exuberance and amazing confidence will be an enduring memory of this series © Getty Images
Enlarge

Years from now, the enduring image of this Test series might be that of Michael Clarke prancing down the pitch to smack Anil Kumble over his head with a full flourish of the bat. Clarke's cheeky exuberance and confidence was one of the X-factors that India just couldn't cope with in a contest that never quite lived up to its exalted billing.

Before the series started, most reckoned that Matthew Hayden, imperious in 2001 when he made 549 runs, and Darren Lehmann - who batted with considerable skill and panache on turning tracks in Sri Lanka - would plot the maps to lead Australia out of a 35-year-long wilderness in India. And when you look at the series averages and see just 376 runs between them, you'd be forgiven for thinking that India had won at a canter.

But India's bowlers weren't prepared for the unexpected, and it showed as Clarke, Damien Martyn - two fabulous hundreds and a superb 97, with most of the runs coming from precise back-foot play - and Simon Katich managed 1120 runs in the middle order. The soft underbelly of 2001 had metamorphosed into a taut six-pack capable of absorbing India's hardest blows, and Adam Gilchrist's tally of 218, compiled at breakneck speed, was an added bonus.

India's much-lauded line-up had a meltdown by comparison, with only Virender Sehwag (299) managing more than 200 runs. If the meagre figures were depressing, the inability to take the battle to the opposition was even more so. Except for Sehwag's incident-packed 155 in Chennai, and two little gems from VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar in Mumbai, there was not one innings that drove Australia to despair.

Poor form was a factor, but so was an Australian gameplan based more on the anaconda-like squeeze than the cobra bite. Knowing that India's batsmen weren't the most adept at picking off singles and twos, they blocked off the boundaries and waited for frustration to set in. With the pressure relentless, even batsmen of the quality of Rahul Dravid and Laxman were forced into indiscretions.

Australia's success also had much to do with a refusal to allow hype to cloud team selection. Brett Lee might have been the apple of teenage-girls and corporate eyes, but he could never displace the more utilitarian Michael Kasprowicz from the XI. The record books might say that he got only nine wickets at 28.33 apiece, but Kasprowicz was magnificent as the tourniquet, finishing with an economy-rate superior to Scrooge McGrath.



Virender Sehwag played some thrilling knocks but the rest were undone by the anaconda-like squeeze by the Australian bowlers © Getty Images
Enlarge

McGrath and Shane Warne did their reputations no harm with solid performances, but both were comfortably eclipsed by Jason Gillespie, whose ferocity and nous in trying conditions fetched him the rewards that he had gone without while bowling with similar verve three years ago. If Australia can keep that trio fit and motivated for next season, England's Ashes dreams will surely be shelved for another two summers.

For India, intensive introspection beckons. Parthiv Patel was persisted with long after his confidence was shot to pieces, and his mistakes - and there were too many to count - became a convenient focal point for critics who overlooked the team's overall frailty. Zaheer Khan bowled beautifully in patches, but the back-up for Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, who harvested an astonishing 48 wickets between them, was often woeful during the first two Tests.

Murali Kartik's addition added an extra dimension, and asked several uncomfortable questions of those who have steadfastly refused to see him as an option even in home Tests. Dravid handled him beautifully, and his match-winning spell in Mumbai - make no mistake, the wickets of Ricky Ponting and Martyn won India the game - suggested that he and Harbhajan can form a formidable partnership after Kumble retires.

Despite their weak-kneed capitulation on a pitch of dubious quality at Mumbai, these Australians deserve their place in cricket's pantheon. They have now accomplished all that can be expected of a great side, home and away, and this triumph was achieved largely without the whinging and petulance that once characterised their visits to this part of the world.

Having been outclassed by the best in the business, India now look ahead to far less daunting challenges, against South Africa, Bangladesh and Pakistan. But unless they can shed light on the areas of darkness that ruined this campaign, lasting greatness - Australia's domain - will continue to elude them.

Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.

RSS Feeds: Dileep Premachandran

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Dileep PremachandranClose
Dileep Premachandran Associate editor Dileep Premachandran gave up the joys of studying thermodynamics and strength of materials with a view to following in the footsteps of his literary heroes. Instead, he wound up at the Free Press Journal in Mumbai, writing on sport and politics before Gentleman gave him a column called Replay. A move to MyIndia.com followed, where he teamed up with Sambit Bal, and he arrived at ESPNCricinfo after having also worked for Cricket Talk and total-cricket.com. Sunil Gavaskar and Greg Chappell were his early cricketing heroes, though attempts to emulate their silken touch had hideous results. He considers himself obscenely fortunate to have watched live the two greatest comebacks in sporting history - India against invincible Australia at the Eden Gardens in 2001, and Liverpool's inc-RED-ible resurrection in the 2005 Champions' League final. He lives in Bangalore with his wife, who remains astonishingly tolerant of his sporting obsessions.

    Cricket cannot bend rules to accommodate chuckers

Martin Crowe: Authorities must not give leeway to those with dodgy actions to maintain a balance between bat and ball

    'You'll only improve as a commentator if you are a good listener'

Couch Talk: Jim Maxwell talks about his early days, and why commentators need to stay in touch with cricketers

    'Haven't seen anyone play as straight as Sachin'

My XI: Martin Crowe on Tendulkar's finely calibrated footwork

    The importance of being insatiable

Rob Steen: Careers tend to blossom or fizzle out depending on a sportsman's craving for success

Performance and result analysis of Test teams

Anantha Narayanan: A look at Test teams across the years, measuring the peaks of each team

News | Features Last 7 days

How bad must a defeat be to be unacceptable?

A gutting loss to England, after leading the series 1-0, has thrown up some glaring inadequacies in the Indian team but there is little being said or done in terms of improvement

Role model Moeen setting high standard

His rapid improvement with the ball has been integral to England coming from behind to lead the series - but that is just one area where Moeen Ali continues to impress

Time to liberate MS Dhoni

After 8-0, MS Dhoni could look forward to building a team from scratch; now, there is nothing left for him to contribute. Free him from the Test captaincy and he could yet give back in other ways

Dhoni's control test

For all MS Dhoni's many trophies and accomplishments, Test cricket continues to resist his magic and indefinitely postpone his motorbike ride into the sunset

Should Dhoni focus on one-day cricket?

His decisions in the England series have seemed to confirm that he does not care too much for the Test game. Maybe he should be concentrating on the World Cup

News | Features Last 7 days

    How bad must a defeat be to be unacceptable? (135)

    A gutting loss to England, after leading the series 1-0, has thrown up some glaring inadequacies in the Indian team but there is little being said or done in terms of improvement

    Time to liberate MS Dhoni (113)

    After 8-0, MS Dhoni could look forward to building a team from scratch; now, there is nothing left for him to contribute. Free him from the Test captaincy and he could yet give back in other ways

    Should Dhoni focus on one-day cricket? (78)

    His decisions in the England series have seemed to confirm that he does not care too much for the Test game. Maybe he should be concentrating on the World Cup

    Dhoni's control test (74)

    For all MS Dhoni's many trophies and accomplishments, Test cricket continues to resist his magic and indefinitely postpone his motorbike ride into the sunset

    One-day barrier to Indian Test progress (56)

    With too great an emphasis on limited-overs cricket, MS Dhoni's side have a set of skills and a level of concentration that are not commensurate with the necessities of Tests