Hyderabad: For Ravi Shastri, it could be one of the best twin-tours of Australia and New Zealand as chief coach of the Indian squad. Team India had a near perfect tour but Kane Williamson’s team spoiled the tourists’ party with a narrow four-run win in the third of the three T20 internationals in New Zealand in Hamilton on Sunday.
Otherwise, it was one of the fantastic tours wherein the dominant Virat Kohli-led Indian team won the Test and one-day international series Down Under before clinching the ODI series in New Zealand for the first time. India’s overall series record was 1-1 (T20, with one match abandoned), 2-1 (Test), 2-1 (ODI), 4-1 (ODI) and 1-2 (T20).
Kohli and Shastri made a strong statement with a clinical all-round performance by the Indian team. Aggression was the key to the success. In fact, former Indian all-rounder Syed Abid Ali rightly said that this team had exuded confidence with an attacking game that has instilled fear in the opponents.
“I like the way Kohli has led the team. There was a lot of energy and confidence in him. He was ready to take the bull by its horns. His aggression, with full backing from coach Shastri, has brought a new-look to the Indian team that believes in winning the matches. The self-belief played a big part in India’s success,’’ said Ali.
Notwithstanding that Australia was a crippled side with the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner, India embarked on a trip that believed in delivering the goods. In Australia, the conditions are hostile. But India decided to play fire with fire. It was a pleasing sight to see the Indian fast bowlers of Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami rattling the home side.
Abid Ali, who with his wobbly medium pace took six wickets in Adelaide in 1967-68 tour of Australia, chuckled with joy. “We didn’t have the pace to bowl the vicious bouncers. But look at Bumrah, Ishant or Shami. They rattled the Aussies with their own medicine. They were fast and mean. They also swung and seamed the ball beautifully. It was a good sight to see the Australian batsmen ducking awkwardly. I think the length was very important.”
Cheteshwar Puja was the cornerstone of the Indian batting in Test series but it was Kohli’s brilliance that kept the Indians on the top. “If you look at this side, the young brigade showed plenty of grit. They played some fearless cricket. Pujara was rock solid. But Kohli’s aggression in the middle always sends a strong message to the Indian dressing room. Here is a brave leader who is ready to shoulder the responsibility of the team. The planning and executing were perfect,” pointed out Ali.
The supporting staff had done a wonderful job. Bowling coach Bharat Arun deserves full credit by transforming the bowlers, who could take 20 wickets in a Test match. At the same time, Hyderabad’s R Sridhar did the trick in fielding. This former Ranji left-arm spinner brought innovations and also a new energy in fielding. “It is an amazing transformation. There were some brilliant catches and the ground fielding was top class. I like this boy (Sridhar),” added Ali.
The conditions were different in New Zealand. But India continued their juggernaut there. After Kohli was at the helm of the Indian team in the first three games, Rohit Sharma carried on the momentum. They stamped their class in ODI as spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav mesmerised the Kiwis. Hyderabad’s Ambati Rayudu virtually cemented his place with that spirited 90 in the fifth ODI. These performances augur well for India for the May-June ODI World Cup in England.