By Ritesh Misra
The Annual Boxing day Test match on 26th December 2018 this time features Australia and India, a competition between two Test sides which is fast becoming the premier rivalry in world cricket. The current match is at a situation with the series tantalizingly poised at 1-1.
Let’s have a preview of the current match and also have a glimpse of the earlier Tests between these two teams at this historic venue.
So far the two rivals have met here 12 times, with the Aussies winning as many as 8 matches, India winning 2 and 2 matches being draws.
The two Indian wins
India’s 1st win at Melbourne was in the 1977-78 series with a weakened Australian side due to exodus to Kerry Packer’s “circus”. Our premier batsmen Sunny Gavaskar (hundred) Gundappa Vishwanath ( twin 50’s) and Jimmy Amarnath (79) contributed with the bat while spin twins Chandra (12 wickets) and Bedi (6 wickets) bowled India to a famous win.
India’s only other Test win versus Australia was in the 1981 series when against all odds India defended a 143 run 4th innings target with some incisive bowling by Kapil Dev (5-28) ably aided by Ghavri and Doshi who had 2 wickets each. Vishwanath;s ton as well as dour half centuries by Gavaskar and Chouhan allowed India to be in the hunt.
Indians with good batting and bowling performances at Melbourne.
By good batting performances I have included hundreds and for bowling performances, I have included 5 wickets in an innings. The great allrounder Vinoo Mankad had hundreds in both the tests of the 1947-48 series. Sunny Gavaskar had a century in India’s win in 1977-78.
In the 1967-68 series, offie Prasanna took 6-141 and was the only bowler who got respect from the Aussies for whom Bill Lawry, Bob Simpson, and Ian Chappell hit tons. In 1977-78 Chandra had magic figures of 6-52 in both innings. In 1981 Gundappa Vishwanath had a ton while Kapil Dev had a fiver. The next Indian century at Melbourne was by little master Sachin who had a ton as well as a 50 but could not prevent a big defeat in 1999-2000. Similarly, Sehwag’s magnificent 195 and Kumble’s 6 wickets in 2003-04 could not stop an Aussie win. Kumble repeated his fiver performance in 2007 as well which was the only shining point in otherwise an abject performance. The final two centuries by Indians were in the last series in 2014-15 where Virat’s 169 and Ajinkya’s 147 helped India to a comfortable draw.
Therefore the Indian centurians have been Vinoo Mankad ( twice), Sunny Gavaskar, Gundappa Vishwanath, Sachin Tendulkar, Virendra Sehwag, Virat Kohli, and Ajinkya Rahane
The successful Indian bowlers have been Prasanna, Chandra (twice), Kapil Dev and Anil Kumble (twice).
If one sees history, both the Indian Captain, Vice-captain and head coach have tasted success at Melbourne. For Ravi Shastri, Melbourne is a ground where he has tasted success as a bowler, In 1985-86 he had figures of 4-87 and 4-92. Australia was 109-5 in the 1st innings before Greg Matthews 100 at number 7 pulled them out of the woods and Allan Border’s 163 in the second innings ensured a draw. Currently the coach, Shastri will try to get this fighting spirit in his team and also hope that the batsmen back up the bowlers. As mentioned earlier, big daddy hundreds by Virat and Ajinkya have got India an honorable draw.
As the current series situation goes, it appears Australia is at an advantage. They have confidently announced an unchanged team for the last two Tests. Their batting was supposed to be very weak however this weak batting was instrumental in getting them to a win in the second test and levelling the series 1-1. The bowling appears good, with the pace attack doing its job while Lyon is showcasing his talents and staking a serious claim to being the best spinner in the world.
India, on the other hand, is too heavily dependent on Kohli for its batting. The owners seem like schoolboys in front of the Aussie opening attack and the last 4 batsmen are contributing next to nothing, so much so that once Australia gets 6 wickets they can feel confident that they are going to bat very soon. The bowling has done its job but lack of a specialist spinner hurt India badly in the second test.
Can India try something new? Can we see some imaginative captaincy from Kohli ?. Melbourne saw one such ingenious and imaginative captaincy by none other than Don Bradman in the very 1st Test between India and Australia at Melbourne. Australia had a lead of around 140 but the wicket was devilish and Bradman sent his bowlers in at the top of the order. While India reduced Australia to 32/4 it was the Aussie bowlers who were out and then the batsman with an improved wicket took the match away. Bradman himself came in at 6 and he had hundreds in both innings.
Will India do something similar. Will we see Mayank Agarwal going in with Parthiv Patel or Rohit Sharma. 3,4,5 select themselves with Pujara, Virat, Ajinkya while Hanuma has done enough to merit further chances at 6. We should also continue with Pant at 7. Ashwin for Umesh seems a logical change and the Indian think tank would be hoping that the offie is fit.
Looking forward to a great Boxing Day Test
The blogger, Ritesh Misra, is an IRS Officer currently based in Mumbai. He tweets @riteshmisra. His hobbies are sports, films, and music.
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