By Veturi Srivatsa
Virat Kohli, on his debut as Test captain, has led the side from the front. His brilliant batsmanship backed his leadership qualities to join Greg Chappell, from Adelaide’s affluent southern Unley suburb , as the only other player to score hundreds in each innings of his debut Test as captain.
Never mind that India lost the first of the four-Test series by 48 runs, but rarely has a defeat evoked so much sympathy for a captain. If only some of his colleagues had stood with him like Murali Vijay did, India would have pulled off a sensational victory, with a handful of overs to spare, scoring at close to four runs an over.
If Clarke had declared twice in the Test to show he only plays for victory in the true Australian grit, Kohli was no less adventurous in accepting the challenge instead of adopting a safety-first policy by going for a draw on a batsman-unfriendly drop-in fifth day pitch on which the margin of error was minimal. Yet, it did not appear all that treacherous when Kohli and Vijay batted with exemplary technique.
After the fourth day’s play, Indian experts – all distinguished former Test cricketers – kept discussing the prospects of India playing for time to draw the series. The one man who did not subscribe to the theory was former Australian opening batsman Matthew Hayden who instead chided them for not looking at a possible India victory. Kohli as if backing Hayden said draw was never in his scheme of things.
If the Test had become so exciting much of the credit must go to Clarke who gave the Indians an even chance to win. Clarke is known for taking risks to win and now Kohli has shown a similar flair. Unfortunately, Clarke was not there to savour the succeess on the field, having left with his now chronic hamstring acting up. It is more or less definite he is out of the series.
How well Kohli batted and inspired Vijay to first raise hopes of a draw by batting out the post-lunch session and a possible victory when the two went into the third and final session of the match.
Kohli though for public consumption said he was proud of his boys and the way they fought back in the Test, in his heart of hearts he must be terribly disappointed with the effort of his team-mates, particularly the batsmen.
But this morning all possibilities were there when play resumed, chasing 365 on a last day’s pitch fraught with danger against an off-spinner who was part of the Oval ground staff in Adelaide before donning the baggy green. Then the Indian batsmen had to reckon with three most experienced fast bowlers who have won a lot of matches for Australia.
It was not easy to negotiate Nathan Lyon, and his 12-wicket haul in the Test was an amazing performance of off-spin bowling howsoever well-versed he may be with the home conditions. Come to think of it, the entire Indian attack could only dismiss 12 batsmen — seven in the first innings and five in the second.
Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])