India may have tasted victory rather easily in the end at Chennai, but things would not have been as simple had Australia got rid of M S Dhoni earlier in India’s first innings. It was during the period that Dhoni was at the crease that the match firmly shifted in India’s favour. Replying to Australia’s competitive first innings total of 380, India, at one stage, were 372 for 7, and it seemed that the Test was set to go into a second innings tussle. Dhoni, however, came up with an incredible counter-attack, which eventually put the match out of Australia’s grasp. At the end of the day, the 192-run lead was way too much for the inexperienced Aussies to overcome.
Dhoni, apart, there were also a few other positives for the Indian side. It was great to see Ravichandran Ashwin back among the wickets. Prior to this series, he was beginning to develop a reputation of doing well only against the weaker opponents. In that context, his excellent performance at Chennai was very much encouraging. Of course, it helped that the tall leg spinner was playing in front of his home crowd. Still, this success must go down as his best effort so far in terms of the quality of opposition. He definitely looked a lot more confident and dangerous as opposed to the series against England. Whatever he did in the interim worked at Chennai for sure.
Crucially, the Chennai Test saw Sachin Tendulkar roaring back to form. A couple of months short of his 40th birthday, the Indian veteran demonstrated that his past may be behind him, but the hunger to perform still exists. Although this writer will continue to maintain that the time for Tendulkar to hang up his boots has come, it was still good to see him at his fluent best. The way he timed the ball during India’s first innings, and then hit two sixes off Nathan Lyon to accentuate India’s win in the second, not many would believe that he was out of form. It remains to be seen whether Tendulkar can maintain the consistency for the rest of the series. Virat Kohli registering his second consecutive Test ton was also a big plus for India.
In spite of the comprehensive win, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for India. Many of the problem areas that cropped up in the build up to the series remain as they are. A fresh opening pair was tried out at Chennai, but neither Murali Vijay nor the experienced Virender Sehwag inspired any confidence with their performances or the lack of it. Also, Harbhajan Singh may be lucky to have been on the winning side in his 100th Test, but his individual performance was far from satisfactory. Despite the amount of help spinners were getting from the pitch, he struggled to make a major impact. At the same time, it would have helped had Singh found some support from the skipper. From what’s on show, the veteran spinner clearly doesn’t enjoy the confidence of Dhoni, the only reason why part-timer Ravindra Jadeja was given more overs in both the innings.
Without doubt, India would be pleased having gone 1-0 up in the series. Having said that though, the scope for improvement remains vast.
--By A Cricket Analyst