The current series between India and Australia is tied 1-1 and heading into the crucial Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, both teams are aware that a loss will deal them a big blow in their quest of winning a series. The pressure is more on Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team, having squandered the advantage following the win in Adelaide with a heavy loss in Perth. Following the 146-run defeat, many analysts said Kohli had misread the conditions again and that he had gotten the team composition wrong. Some members of the team, following the loss, admitted that not playing a spinner in Perth was a big mistake. Ahead of the Melbourne Test, former Australia skipper Michael Hussey has advised Kohli to play Hardik Pandya in the squad.
“Conditions in Perth were quite unique and in Melbourne conditions will be totally different. I thought the Indian fast bowling unit has bowled beautifully in this series. They bowled a lot of overs in Adelaide and Perth in hot conditions, but had to work hard (for Australian wickets). He (Pandya) is a bit like Mitchell Marsh, when he is in form. You get an extra bowling option that can take a little load away from the pacers particularly as the four-match series wears on. So this (bowling all-rounder) is something for both sides to look at,” Hussey said in an interaction with PTI.
Pandya missed the three-match Twenty20 Internationals and the first two Tests in the Australia series after suffering a back injury during the Asia Cup 2018 series in the UAE. The India all-rounder made a comeback in the Ranji Trophy game against Mumbai and smashed 73 in addition to taking 5/81 and 2/21 in the game.
‘Australia batted well’
India’s policy of going with four pacers backfired in Perth. However, Hussey believes that India did not do much wrong and it was Australia’s batting that made good use of the conditions on a pitch which became more difficult to bat on as the game progressed.
“Looking at the conditions, you cannot really say anything against it (four pacers). At the start, you just thought there was plenty in it for the pacers and there were lots of cracks. I just think it was a good toss to win and in the first innings, on day one, the pitch played at its best and enabled Australia to get a decent first innings score. Day one was the easiest time to bat but the Australian openers did a great job. And they were under pressure as well. Certainly with Aaron Finch, there was a lot of talk whether he should be opening and I thought he played brilliantly. Australia getting off to that 100-run opening partnership certainly did put them in the box seat and a strong position to win the game,” Hussey said.
The Australian left-hander, who played 79 Tests and scored over 6000 runs, said India missed Ravichandran Ashwin, who was ruled out of the Perth Test due to injury. “India certainly missed Ashwin (as the game went on) and this is something for them to look into. Lyon is a quality bowler and he bowled from one end, allowing Tim Paine to rotate his pacers from the other end. India could have done that as well,” Hussey said.
Not reliant on Kohli
India’s batting has struggled on overseas tours and there have been questions that the team is heavily reliant on Kohli. However, Hussey said the Indian batting has contributed at vital times on this tour.
“Kohli is the best player in the world, so India do rely on him and that is not wrong. For Australia, when Steve Smith and David Warner were playing, there was a heavy reliance (on them). For India, Pujara was outstanding in Adelaide, and Rahane is looking good in patches. You always rely on your best batsmen, but in this second Test, with that extra fast bowler the Indian tail was too long and it upset the batting balance,” Hussey said.
India have not won a Test in Melbourne since 1981 and they will be aiming to break their Boxing Day jinx as they look to win a series in Australia for the first time ever.