The Indians failed to live up to having top billing in a season of twin tours. Never before in almost 68 years as a Test nation had an Indian national team been so completely overwhelmed. It wasn't just that they were outclassed in all three Tests. They lost to Queensland on the fourth morning, were soundly beaten by 164 runs in a one-day fixture against the Prime Minister's XI, a team of young aspirants, and lost seven of their eight games in the Carlton & United series. Their only win, other than beating Pakistan once in the one-day series, was against New South Wales, who fielded a depleted side.
Apart from Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, India's batsmen could not come to terms with the pace and bounce of Australia's pitches. Tendulkar, despite being the victim of dubious umpiring decisions in both innings of the First Test, averaged 46.33, scoring a splendid 116 in the Second and two half-centuries. However, V. V. S. Laxman, with some substantial innings early on the tour and a gloriously elegant 167 in the final innings of the rubber, showed that he could have made a bigger impact batting lower down the order. Not yet an established Test player, he was pitchforked by circumstances into opening the innings in the Second and Third Tests. The big disappointment was Rahul Dravid who, to date, had an impressive overseas record. He made a hundred on a lifeless pitch in the drawn game against Tasmania but gathered just 93 runs in six Test innings.
Javagal Srinath was India's best bowler, and his new-ball partner, Ajit Agarkar, toiled hard and bowled at a rapid pace for one who is small of build and whose career had been blighted by frequent injury. Between them they claimed 21 of the 38 Australian wickets in the series, whereas Anil Kumble, who was expected to be a big force on resilient Australian pitches, obtained no more than five. India took early wickets in every innings of the Test matches - Australia's highest opening stand was nine - but never managed to restrict the home side's first innings to under 400, which was a clear reflection of their meagre bowling resources.
So pronounced was the disparity between the two sides that Australia's selectors never contemplated replacing two batsmen who were palpably out of form, Greg Blewett and Mark Waugh. Whenever Australia were hard pressed for runs or momentum, they were unfailingly invigorated by Ricky Ponting, the top run-scorer on either side with 375, and Adam Gilchrist (221), whose wicket-keeping, too, was consistently excellent.
A pace attack headed by Glenn McGrath, at the height of his form, and Damien Fleming was enough of a handful in the opening Test before the Australians further sharpened its edge by introducing 23-year-old Brett Lee, who had hitherto played only 16 first-class matches. The younger brother of Shane Lee, Australia's one-day international all-rounder, he showed remarkable maturity as he combined genuine pace with admirable control, subtlety and an ability to reverse-swing the old ball. Lee had match figures of seven for 78 at Melbourne, including five wickets in the first innings, and he followed up with six wickets in the final Test. Fleming, the principal wicket-taker in the First Test, also bowled well in the Third, but with little luck.
Eight wickets at 41.87 apiece do no justice to Shane Warne's part in a series in which the fast bowlers were the main destroyers. On an easy pitch in Adelaide, however, he took six wickets and in the first innings skimmed off the cream of India's batting: Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly. He again bowled superbly in the Second Test and, although his reward was merely two wickets, struck the mortal blow by dismissing Tendulkar in the second innings.
Match reports for
Queensland v Indians at Brisbane, Nov 26-29, 1999
New South Wales v Indians at Sydney, Dec 2-5, 1999
Prime Minister's XI v Indians at Canberra, Dec 7, 1999
Tasmania v Indians at Hobart, Dec 17-20, 1999