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Expected, can we say?

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Virat_Kohli_Steve_Smith_India_Australia_CricketWhen Pujara and Rahane (the former having stepped into the shoes of Rahul Dravid, and the latter having been his protégé in the IPL and benefited immensely from his guidance) fought back gallantly on the 3rd day of the Bengaluru Test against Australia (March 2017), I was 75% certain that India would win the match.

Of course, seen from the point of view of the 333-run drubbing received in Pune not too long ago, this seemed like wishing for the moon. But memories of what Laxman and Dravid accomplished in Kolkata against the Aussies in the past, to pull us back from certain defeat to a victory (thanks to Harbhajan who made the batsmen’s efforts yield dividends), and the fact that the Chinnaswamy Stadium pitch often crumbles midway through a Test (even Dravid has not been able to score prolifically on his home ground) stood out in my mind.

To score 188, Australia – I was pretty sure – would have to fight harder than Pujara and Rahane and Rahul fought in India’s second innings.

Yours sincerely had written that there was no real need to be superstitious and stop praising Kohli, the batsman-captain too much. For a few days, I was criticizing myself for having written thus. Apart from the caricature with the lemon and chillies around his neck, everything else I had written seemed to smack of vanity – of course – about the Indian team’s exploits.

Kohli the batsman seems to have been ‘mastered’ by the Aussie bowlers, who habitually watch the videos of their bete noire before any tour. But this win may get him back to doing what he does best – scoring centuries.

One may feel happy for India, but a bit sad for Pujara. His 92 deserved to blossom into a century. Likewise for Rahul. Dismissed for 199 against England, he deserved to stay on there and score a century. Rahul, whose inconsistency was addressed on this site just before the Pune Test, perhaps read that piece. He has been the mainstay – consistently at that – on difficult batting tracks. He has mustered three half-centuries thus far, one of which should have become a triple-figure score. Lady Luck must be blamed here...

This writer’s father observed that Ashwin had been ineffective in the first innings. It is an unfortunate truth that when one sets a good precedent, one must inevitably shoulder the burden of expectation. I recall an interview with Sandeep Patil, former Chairman of Selectors, where I heard (and I agree with this) that the expectation that Dhoni would always be a good finisher and steer India to victory no matter what the situation, venue or opposition tended to result in unfair criticism of his abilities.

Ashwin. Yes, his 25th five-for haul brought India back into the series…and while doing so, he surpassed that wily left-arm spinner of yore, Bishen Singh Bedi. Captain Kohli has now won Test matches against England, New Zealand, West Indies, South Africa, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Australia. If and when India gets to play Test cricket against Pakistan, that would be the icing on the cake for Kohli.  

The Aussies would recall having won the first-ever Test match they played – against England, way back in the 19th century…the anniversary falls next week. Losing the Bengaluru Test after having taken a very good lead over India, in the first innings, may be embittering indeed.

Nathan Lyon, however, can afford to have a smile on his face. He claimed the best figures of any bowler in the Chinnaswamy Stadium, having bettered the previous best innings performance of Maninder Singh, who had bagged 7 wickets for 27 runs in 1987 against Pakistan.

Coach Kumble has more Test wickets on this track (his home ground) than anyone else - 41 wickets off 16 innings. He would never have liked to be beaten by the Aussies in Bengaluru of all places.  

It is also a delight that KL Rahul came good on his home ground. Karun Nair was included with the hope that the home-ground effect would rub off on him, but the huge expectations (after that massive triple hundred in Chennai not very long ago), perhaps proved to be his undoing.

Kohli also would be happy, just as Steve Smith was at Pune. Guess why? Clue: The fast-approaching IPL.

 

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G Venkatesh (born 1972) is a senior lecturer in Energy and Environment, at Karlstad University in S...

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