What was meant to be a timely home series to consolidate the gains from the recent one-day triumphs in Australia and New Zealand produced a late twist in the tale.
In the end, the Indian fans wondered whether Virat Kohli’s men were really as strong as they appeared at times.
Irrespective of what Kohli would like the team’s supporters to believe, Australia demonstrated in good measure that India was beatable. Not just once but thrice in a row.
In the process, underdog Australia gained more than just a historic come-from-behind series triumph. It left the Indian shores with excess baggage of self-belief, with Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb and Adam Zampa being the chief sources.
Many saw the series as a prelude to the World Cup. It was true only to an extent. However, after the two-month period, during which the players figured in Indian Premier League before the team left for the World Cup, the form, or the lack of it, shown by the players in this series, would almost seem irrelevant.
As a result of the series loss, India also frittered away the ‘feel-good’ feeling it would have experienced in the event of being successful in the last bilateral engagement leading to the World Cup.
If the team’s think-tank and selectors looked at the form of World Cup aspirants, there was very little to get excited about. Barring Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah, Kedar Jadhav and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, none performed in a winning cause. Vijay Shankar had his moment of glory after a quick-fire knock, followed by two wickets in the final three deliveries at Nagpur.
Openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma triggered more despair than delight. Often, they failed to inspire confidence in the batsmen who followed. In fact, their best efforts came in the losing cause.
More disappointing was the way Ambati Rayudu and K. L. Rahul struggled. For the spinners, it was clearly a heart-break. The homework done against the turning ball in India served the Australians well. On the contrary, Adam Zampa and Nathan Lyon showed that most Indian batsmen needed to return to domestic competition in order to play spin better.
With Dhoni rested after the third match, India suffered on more counts than one. Rishabh Pant proved a liability as he displayed poor keeping skills to go with his ordinary contributions with the bat.
Former Test captain and legendary spinner Bishan Singh Bedi aptly summed up the plight of Kohli and the team, in Dhoni’s absence.
“We all are wondering that why Dhoni is being rested. His absence was felt behind the stumps, with the bat and on field also. He is almost half a captain. Dhoni is not getting any younger, he is no spring chicken either but the team needs him. He has a calming influence on the side. The captain needs him by his side. He is visibly rough without him. It is not a good sign.”
Overall, India was left poorer after being unexpectedly tamed in the most dramatic manner.