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07.01.2019  Author: C.NAMASIVAYAM

Virat Kohli’s Indians are on the brink of achieving the impossible. Kohli will become the first Indian captain to win a Test series in Australia.  When the series started, the Australians were expected to dominate the home series despite the absence of David Warner and Steve Smith. But as we near the end of the series, this might very well be the first home series in which no Australian batsman has scored a hundred.

Australia’s obsession to go into a Test series with one-day players like Aaron Finch, Travis Head and Mitch Marsh and their lack of bench strength has cost them the series.  Though Australia felt the absence of Warner and Smith very much, it was the batting performance of Chateshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Mayank Agarwal, and Rishabh Pant which decided the series in India’s favor. Besides, the Indian fast bowling trio was in such good form that they would have rendered even Warner and Smith ineffective had they been available.

As we celebrate India’s biggest achievement in recent times, let us examine 4 of the Indian players who are on their last tour of Australia. India are scheduled to tour Australia by end of 2020.

1. Murali Vijay

Matches – 61, Innings – 105, Runs – 3982, Avg – 38, 100s – 12, 50s -15

Murali Vijay struggled all through 2018. Though Vijay finished the year 2017 on a high with scores of 128 & 155 against Sri Lanka at home, he could not carry forward that good form into 2018. During 2018, Vijay had scored 282 runs from 15 innings at a poor average of 19. If one takes out his century against Afghanistan, his next highest score for the year was 46.

After failing in the first two Test matches in England, Vijay was dropped from the team and was never expected to come back. But the horrendous form of Shikhar Dhawan in red ball cricket has brought Vijay back in the reckoning for the Australian series.

Again he was not expected to be in the playing XI in the first Test at Adelaide before Prithvi Shaw got injured. After scoring 11,18,0 & 20, Vijay was dropped for the third Test at Melbourne. Again for the fourth Test at Sydney, the team management preferred K.L. Rahul and not Vijay to replace Rohit Sharma.

Earlier in the England series, Vijay had scores of 20,6,0 & 0 before he was dropped for the last 3 Test matches. After this terrible recent performances, it is now very difficult for Vijay to come back into the Indian team leave alone last till the next tour of Australia in 2 years time.

Vijay is now 34 and with the advent of youngsters like Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal, Murali Vijay might have played his last Test innings on this tour of Australia.

Murali Vijay’s memorable performances

# His scores of 167 & 153 against Australia at home in 2013. India won both the matches.

# His scores of 146,52,24 & 95 in the first two Test matches of    England tour in 2014. India drew the first Test match at Nottingham and won the second match at Lord’s.

# His 144 against Australia at Brisbane in 2014.

# His scores of 75 out of 201 and 47 out of 200 against South Africa at Mohali in 2015.

2. Parthiv Patel

Matches – 25, Innings -38, Runs -934, Avg – 31, 50s-6, Catches – 62, Stumping – 10

Parthiv Patel made his debut at the age of 17 in 2002. In his first Test match against England at Nottingham, Parthiv though got out for a duck in the first innings, remained not out on 19 off 60 balls in the second innings to save India that Test. He had his opportunity in his first 3 years before M.S. Dhoni came on to the scene in 2004.

But Parthiv Patel could not make use of those opportunities as he managed to score only four fifties in his first 19 Test matches. The reasoning at that time was had he performed reasonably well in the initial stages of his career, M.S. Dhoni would not have got his chance in the first place.

Since the advent of M.S. Dhoni, Parthiv had played in 6 Test matches only spread over a period of 15 years. In India’s last tour of South Africa, he played in two Test matches and scored 19,19,2, & 16.

Parthiv Patel is 33. In his first 9 Test matches, Rishabh Pant has scored 696 runs at an average of 50.  After his stupendous performances since his debut, Pant is now the first choice wicket-keeper for Team India in Test matches. With the likely return of Wriddhiman  Saha from an injury lay-off, Parthiv Patel’s career might finally come to an end. He won’t be around till India’s next tour of Australia in two years time.

3.Ishant Sharma

Matches – 90, Innings – 161, Wickets – 267, 5 wicket hauls – 8, 10 wicket for the match – 1

Ishant Sharma is the senior-most fast bowler in the current Indian bowling attack and is the spearhead of the attack. He made his presence felt in the ongoing Border-Gavaskar series with 12 wickets in 3 matches.

Ishant Sharma first came into prominence in the Perth Test against Australia in 2008. It was Ishant’s fourth Test match. That over he bowled to Ricky Ponting at Perth and the manner in which he set up Ponting in both the innings of that Test was the talk of the town during that series.

Later in his career, Ishant Sharma contributed to so many overseas wins for Team India.

# In the match against the West Indies at  Kingston in 2010, Ishant took 6 wickets and India won by 63 runs.

# Ishant’s best overseas performance came against England at Lord’s in 2014. In the second innings of that match, Ishant virtually bounced out each and every English batsman and finished with figures of 7 for 74. India won that match by 95 runs.

# Against Sri Lanka at Colombo in 2015, Ishant Sharma took a five-wicket haul in the first innings and finished with match figures of 8 for 86. India won that match by 117 runs.

# In India’s only win in the last tour of England at Nottingham, Ishant took 4 wickets.

# In the ongoing series against Australia, Ishant took 3 wickets apiece at Adelaide and Melbourne and played a big part in India winning those 2 matches and retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

Ishant Sharma is 30 only. But his career has been plagued by injuries. The 17,196 balls that he has delivered as a fast bowler in his 90 Test career has taken a heavy toll on his body. Ishant might not be around to lead the bowling attack in India’s next tour of Australia.

4.Ravichandran Ashwin

Batting record

Matches -65, Innings – 93, Runs – 2361, Avg – 29, 100s -4, 50s-11

Bowling record

Matches – 65, Innings – 122, wickets – 342, 5 wicket haul – 26, 10 wicket for the match -7

Ashwin has an outstanding record both as a batsman and as a bowler at home. But his effectiveness as a bowler on overseas conditions has diminished drastically over the years.

Ashwin as a bowler at home

Overs – 1919, Wickets – 234, Avg – 22.69, 5 wickets – 29, 10 wickets -6. S.R – 49.21

Ashwin as a bowler away from home

Overs – 1142, Wickets – 108, Avg -31.40, 5 wickets – 6, 10 wickets -1. S.R – 63.49

Ashwin did contribute to India’s win in the first Test at Adelaide by claiming 6 wickets. But his consistency both as a batsman and a bowler has dipped on overseas tours. Besides, on overseas tours, India normally prefer only one spinner and Ashwin is no more the number one choice with Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav around.

Ashwin is 32 and has played 65 Test matches within a short span of 7 years which has a telling effect on his body. In the Test series in England, Ashwin struggled with niggles which prevented him from giving his best at the bowling crease.

Again here in Australia, Ashwin played the first Test match at Adelaide and got injured thereafter. At this rate, Ashwin would be struggling to remain fit on long and wearisome overseas tours. Ashwin is unlikely to figure in the team on India’s next tour of Australia.