PARTAB RAMCHAND | 15 MARCH, 2019
India May Benefit From Series Defeat in the Long Run
Galling as it must have been for the Indians to lose the five-match ODI series to Australia especially after having been so close to wrapping it up midway through itself in the long run Virat Kohli and his men could actually benefit from the result.
The Indians were flying high and they were brought down to earth by a side that was brave under pressure and won the important moments and were hungrier for success. Instead of finding fault with the Indians one should give the Aussies a lot of credit.
In a way the result will also enable the Indian think tank to plug the loopholes before the World Cup now that they know what needs to be done. A win would have made the Indians that much more complacent; at least now they know where they stand.
A lot has been said about the chopping and changing the team management made for almost every match – even to te point of resting MS Dhoni - but it could not be helped as they were finding the right combination for the World Cup. When the series commenced in addition to the certainties there were a few fringe players. By the end of the series it can be said that a couple of these fringe players almost made certain that they would make the cut for the World Cup while a couple of them hardly did anything to further their claims. As Kohli said the team now wears a settled look and the squad for the World Cup has more or less been picked. In the ultimate analysis one must always have the larger picture in mind.
While winning a series is important it is more important to get the right balance for the showpiece event. Ideally the combination for the World Cup squad in English conditions should be seven batsmen (including the wicketkeeper), three utility players (one of them a back up seam bowler), two spinners and three fast bowlers. With this in mind it is almost clear who the 15 will be though one or two players will be unlucky to miss the flight to London.
All in all, whatever the composition of the Indian team recent events have shown that there are no outright favourites for the World Cup. This is what Kohli said at the press conference at the end of the series and it is difficult not to agree with this view. Any of half a dozen teams have virtually an equal chance of winning the trophy and it all depends on how they are able to raise their game and play above their potential in the matches.
From the Aussie viewpoint however the series victory was something the team members will remember for long. Even by their overall awesome record – epitomized by five World Cup triumphs – the latest win has to be something very special. Coming in as underdogs – they were ranked No 6 to India’s No 2 – and taking on the hosts who have a formidable record at home the Aussies raised the level of their game to such an extent that they surprised the Indians. Of particular significance is the fact that they recovered from 0-2 down to win the five match series – a feat that has not been performed very often. This once again symbolized the fighting spirit of the visitors. The well known adage ```no match is lost till it is won’’ is most associated with the Aussies and the never say die attitude was evident during the contest.
What would have pleased everyone associated with Australian cricket was the fact that it was achieved by a team not at full strength. But the newcomers and the veterans – symbolized by Ashton Turner and Usman Khawaja – did their job so admirably that those experienced players who missed out on the tour were hardly missed. Theirs was a triumph for teamwork for every member of the side pulled in his weight when it mattered most. They also showed remarkable temperament in that they were not overshadowed by the big names arrayed against them.
But for all the teamwork involved if there was one man who should be singled out for special praise it has to be Khawaja. The left handed batsman doesn’t seem to have the ideal game for limited overs cricket and before this series he had played 20 innings in ODIs and scored 593 runs at an average of 32 with no hundreds. With the 383 runs scored in the five matches he now has 966 runs with two hundreds, his average has leapt to 42 and his strike rate then just over 70 is now 83. It is all about playing above one’s potential and no one symbolized this more than Khawaja.
While the World Cup wears an open look the result will give the Aussies a major morale boost before the mega event. Moreover with the return of Steve Smith, David Warner, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood they will be at full strength and the defending champions must be fancying their chances of lifting the World Cup for the sixth time.