Tuesday, 30 December 2014

MS Dhoni's retirement and other things we learned from 3rd Test

The third Test between India and Australia has ended in a draw with the visitors' hopes of salvaging some pride also coming to an end. Steven Smith-led Australia have ensured the Border-Gavaskar Trophy remains Down Under following their unassailable 2-0 lead in the four-match Test series. Dhoni's Achievements | Twitter Tributes 
The Melbourne Test, probably not as exciting as the Adelaide nail-biter, has surely been one of the most entertaining matches in the series so far. With lots of verbal volleys being exchanged between the two sides and tensions soaring high, the Boxing Day Test clearly brought the two teams out of their comfort zone.
And, the sudden retirement of Indian captain MS Dhoni from Test cricket only added to what has been a tense encounter between the two cricketing giants.
With Dhoni's retirement sending shockwaves across the world of cricket and hogging the limelight, there were more than a few other important aspects that clearly made a mark in the third Test.
Here's a look at what we learned from the third Test between India and Australia at Melbourne:
Dhoni's retirement is not as surprising as it may seem
With 27 wins in 60 Test matches as skipper, MS Dhoni is clearly the most successful captain in the history of Indian Test cricket. But, India's Captain Cool has been at the receiving end alongside his team when it comes to the overseas tours. Out of the 12 Tests played abroad since 2013, Dhoni-led India have managed to register just a single win alongside four draws. Dhoni has not been able to get the best out of the team in the longer version of the game for quite sometime now. He is often accused of deploying defensive tactics when the going gets tough and it has often allowed the opposition to break free from India's clutches. Former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly had recently said that Dhoni is a competitive captain in the ODIs but the Ranchi cricketer has fallen away a bit when it comes to Test cricket. It seems like Dhoni had finally realized his incompetence, even if some blame the poor bowling attack for his downfall, in the longer version of the game as the Indian skipper. But the only question is why Dhoni would retire from Tests altogether rather than just passing the reigns to Virat Kohli. And though we can only speculate, but it could very well be the Indian dressing room chatter that has come to light lately.
Indian players won't step down from a fight
The tensions between the two teams were at an all-time high during the third Test and there was a glimpse of a relatively-new approach being used by the Indian players. Virat Kohli was at the epicenter of the drama during the third Test as his verbal volleys with Mitchell Johnson and the rest of the Australian players continued over the course of five days. It was clearly the first time when an Indian player has taken the fight to his Australian counterparts both on and off the field. The Delhi lad smashed a brilliant 169 in the 1st innings and followed it up with a crucial half-century in the second. But Kohli also didn't shy away from slamming his opponents, namely Mitchell Johnson, during the post-match press conference. While a few criticized Kohli for being childish, others lauded his aggressive approach. But, Dean Jones statement: "Virat Kohli looks more Australian than an Indian player," says it all. The change in mentality and aggressiveness in the game is new, but it's only going to help the team become more competitive. And, if the players can back all that chatter with their performances, there's nothing like it. The era of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid who believed in replying back to the opposition with their bat seems to have evolved for good.
Pujara's dismal form continues for India
One of the mainstays of Indian batting, Cheteshwar Pujara has failed to shine for his country of late. The right-hander, who made a spectacular debut against Australia in 2010, has struggled to score runs in the recent series. Touted as the next Rahul Dravid, Pujara has scored 201 runs with just one half-century in the ongoing four-match Test series against Australia. His last Test hundred came against South Africa that dates back to December, 2013. During the five Tests against England earlier this year, Pujara amassed 222 runs with a single half-century. Team India has paid dearly for the dismal form of Pujara and if it wasn't for Kohli and Dhoni, the hosts would have suffered third straight defeat in the Test series against Australia.
KL Rahul's forgetful debut
The Indian selectors surprised everyone after Bengaluru batsman KL Rahul was selected in the starting XI ahead of Suresh Raina who was tipped to replace struggling Rohit Sharma in the third Test. The selection looked different but still promising, considering India's struggle in the middle-order. But, what actually unfolded at the Melbourne Cricket Ground sent Indian selectors running for cover. The 22-year-old cricketer marked his debut with a mere four runs to his name. It wasn't the amount of runs, but the shots he played to get dismissed will surely make you throw a kitchen sink. He was out caught while playing the expansive sweep against Lyon in the first innings and got dismissed by Johnson while trying to pull in the second innings. There was no need to play the sweep against Lyon on a fuller ball that was way outside off and his attempt to pull Johnson from outside off was even stranger. For a batsman who's not known for being aggressive or flashy, Rahul's poor debut only added to Team India's woes.
Ishant Sharma is not as bad as we think he is
Ever since James Faulkner's pasting in the 3rd ODI last year, Ishant Sharma has been subjected to a lot of criticism, but nothing unfair. The Indian bowling spearhead has struggled to control his line and his ability to evolve appeared to have diminished over the years. But, the lanky speedster proved his worth in the third Test and silenced the critics for good. Ishant's spell on Day 4 against Australia was a miracle Indian fans have stopped expecting. Hitting the good length area and bowling three maidens on the trot seemed too good to be true. But the pressure he built up led to Shane Watson's wicket after lunch and soon he sent Joe Burns pack in the hut. Though Australia recovered with Shaun Marsh's fifty to end the day on a high, but it was clearly India's best day with the ball and Ishant's discipline and hardwork played a major role. The performance also attracted plaudits from the former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly who was ecstatic to see the struggling Indian bowler hit the right length.

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