Review: The Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2014-15

4 tests, 5870 runs.

A world record for a 4-match Test Series.

You can be sure that Australia contributed to more than half those runs, and perhaps lost 15 less wickets in doing so. You can be sure that Australian strike rates trumped Indian strike rates by a distance, and that Kohli was the only one on opposite number Smith’s planet. But a record is a record, and you’d think this was a sub-continental series with the flat pitches, the stuff of bowling nightmares. This time, after two consecutive 4-0 series between these two teams, an overseas team batted splendidly to compete and nullify the uselessness of their bowlers.

In the end, of course, the better team won. Australia won back the Border-Gavaskar trophy 2-0, on the back of wins at Adelaide and Brisbane, the livelier wickets. The MCG and SCG were disappointing wickets, and for the first time since 2008, an away team in an India-Australia series has managed to draw two matches in a row. Back then, Kumble had retired after the two draws, Dhoni took over and won the next two to take the series 2-0. Kohli still finds himself winless in two tests, and he almost won the first one.

Here’s India’s report card for the series:

 

Shikhar Dhawan (4/10)

167 runs with just one fifty in a losing cause. Yet another overseas series after South Africa and England without much to show for the spunky left-handed opener. His brave performance in New Zealand was a year ago, and he must find a way to prove his worth in the long form—after being the toast of the country in the limited format on tougher pitches. He was dropped for Sydney, and replaced by KL Rahul at the top, who responded well with a century. The One is under pressure. Again.

Murali Vijay (8/10)

Yet another brilliant overseas series for India’s most improved batsman. He showed great technique and restraint once again at the top after being India’s only respectable batsman in England. His 482 runs were elegant and well-paced, as he continues his rise as India’s next great opening batsman. He looks assured and calm, and will be a bit disappointed to miss out on the World Cup in such form.

Cheteshwar Pujara (4/10)

Kohli did the unthinkable and dropped India’s new ‘wall’ in the final test. Pujara suffered yet again with just a fifty to show, but played a few important innings at 3 to snuff out Australia’s pace battery. Most worrying is his footwork against off spinner Nathan Lyon, where he looked completely at sea. His no. 3 spot is now under moderate threat too, after Rohit Sharma was promoted and played decently at Sydney. Both have struggled overseas, and with the next series at home, Pujara will want in.

Rohit Sharma (4/10)

Rohit failed to grab his opportunities again, especially after doing the hard work and playing out tough phases. His dismissals were soft and silly after reaching 30 in a few innings. With just one fifty to show though, he is lucky that Kohli seems to favour him over Pujara for now. Also, his ODI record helps, but India might need a more reliable no. 3.

Virat Kohli (9/10)

How often does a batsman score 692 runs in a 4-match series and still not be the player of the series? Such was Steve Smith’s dominance over Indian bowlers, but Kohli did it against the better attack, and even ruffled a few Aussie feathers by walking the talk through the series. After a disastrous 131 run England series, Kohli is well and truly back as India’s best batsman even in the longer format. As a captain though, he still has a lot to learn.

Ajinkya Rahane (8/10)

400 runs for the series at no. 5 is no mean feat, after he established his credentials in England on green tops. He topped it off with a match-saving innings at Sydney after a post-tea collapse, to keep the scoreline at 2-0. He is definitely here to stay and looks far more reliable and suited to test cricket than friend and Mumbai teammate Rohit Sharma. His average through 2014 has been 45 in countries like South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia.

Suresh Raina (0/10)

I feel for Raina, who waited patiently for 3 matches on the bench, finally played at Sydney only to score zero in both innings. It isn’t easy on international batsmen of his caliber, and he needs to get his confidence back up for the tri-series and World Cup, where he will be India’s main all-rounder.

MS Dhoni (5/10)

He captained India at Brisbane and at the MCG, and finished his test career at the crease, batting his team towards a well-earned draw. Dhoni’s era in Whites is now over, and his limp last series put his enigmatic test career into perspective. He handed reigns to Kohli at the right time, after looking tired and jaded behind the stumps, and thoroughly bereft of ideas without a single world-class bowler at his disposal.

R. Ashwin (6/10)

He looked India’s best bowler in the last two matches at MCG and SCG, but that isn’t saying much. He batted well at Sydney too, strengthening his claim on the much needed all-rounder spot. Still, his around-the-wicket strategy is a disaster, and he couldn’t stem the runs when it mattered at Sydney when the batters went after him.

Bhuvaneshwar Kumar (5/10)

He wasn’t fully fit, and his slow bowling didn’t trouble the Aussies one bit in his only match at Sydney. He batted well to secure his team on the final day, but needs to be match-fit and at his swinging best at the World Cup to make a difference. He must lead a bowling attack that lacks control, pace, strength, line, consistency and innovation.

Ishant Sharma (5/10)

‘Rested’ for the final test, Ishant didn’t have enough control to trouble the Aussies consistently, and along with the others, he failed to get Smith out cheaply. He is India’s most experienced test bowler, but still lacks movement and reverse—traits that made Zaheer Khan India’s most valuable test bowler for a decade.

Umesh Yadav (3/10)

His 11 wickets came at 50 a piece, and even though this wasn’t a bowler’s series (Highest wicket-taker Lyon went for 34 a piece), Yadav bowled shockingly at Sydney to give Australia a whiff of victory on the 4th day. His 3 overs cost 45 runs, and his series economy rate was 4.62, not acceptable at the international level. Every Aussie batsman took a liking to his lack of control, and taught him a lesson.

Mohammad Shami (5/10)

India’s highest wicket taker with 15 wickets, Shami wasn’t better than even one of Australia’s bowlers. His 5-for came too late in the series and was too costly, going at more than 4 an over throughout. Much more is expected from him.

Varun Aaron (2/10)

He went at 5.5 in his 2 matches, and looked even worse than Yadav at times. His raw pace came at a price, and he was whacked all over for his 5 wickets at 72 a piece. He isn’t ready yet.

Karn Sharma (3/10)

He tried hard, but gave away 238 runs in his 49 overs at Adelaide. He took 4 wickets, but didn’t look dangerous at any point. He could be more effective on Indian pitches though. He needs to experience the grind of domestic cricket further, instead of just looking lethal in the IPL—where every batsman his forced to go after him.  

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