SYDNEY: A Test of Character

Confirmed modern greatness is mean and self-centred. Since Steve Smith cannot now afford to openly rub sandpaper on the ball, he has taken to rubbing his spikes on the crease. Wiping away a newbie’s guard marks, and creating roughs on the pitch for spinners in full visibility of the TV cameras must also define the legend of Steve Smith, as much as his batting and captaincy records should. Brain-fades might soon be renamed Smith Syndrome. Who knew that the best Test player of the decade had more gates in him than even the Goolwa Barrage?

 Australian Cricket Board must be relieved today that they have not yet reinstated Smith as the captain of the test side. They have surely spared themselves some embarrassment. Tim Paine, the current skipper, dropped three catches on the last day of the Sydney test, and got further lampooned for getting counter-sledged by Ashwin in a pathetic display of bad cricket and worse on-field behaviour. With Warner also disgraced in the Sandpapergate, the ACB are not exactly spoilt for choices as far as prospective team captains are concerned.

The regular Indian captain fled from the site of total destruction at Adelaide, leaving behind a team in disarray. India had just scored their lowest innings total (36 runs), had lost Shami to injury and were already missing the services of Ishant, Bhuvi and Rohit, when Virat Kohli decided to stick to his pre-decided paternity leave plans. Three more tests were to be played, a long summer beckoned. A professional does not get swayed by sentimental considerations. A soldier would never have left the front leaving behind his squad after such a heavy beating. Which is why we are discussing players’ characters in this column.

Despite spilling catches and getting noticed for his weight, Pant has kept scoring runs throughout. He has not given up his audacious approach and very nearly scored a century on the last day at Sydney. An injured Hanuma Vihari found it difficult to play on the backfoot. The impeded movement and restricted shot-making perhaps let him shut shop with impunity a lot earlier than he would have otherwise liked. Ashwin has been bowling his heart out, the day five at Sydney was when he displayed his batting prowess and indomitable will to survive. Jadeja sat in the dressing room with a thickly-padded glove, ready to bat to save the test. His contribution was not required. Rana Sanga of Eighty Wounds, that great fragment of a soldier, would have been proud to lead this bunch. India might preferred Rahane over Sanga, considering that Jinks is now undefeated in his four tests as captain.

With Virat away from the scene, there was no one to force Pujara to try and dominate, and score runs at a quicker pace. Rohit gave his best, and tried to bat for as long as possible. Gill impressed suitably. Let it be on record that India won a test and drew another on in Australia without Shami, Ishant, Rahul, Kohli, Pandya, Bhuvi and with injured Pant, Vihari, Ashwin and Jadeja. Rahane led from the front, absorbed all pressure, did not perform song and dance on the ground and quietly allowed the whole team to give their best.

Mohammad Siraj braved racist taunts from beyond the boundary, and took the wickets of Warner and Pucovski. It was Ashwin who led the Indian protests against this unfortunate incident, further revealing that this was common enough occurrence in the tests Down-Under. Saini took four wickets on his debut, Bumrah took three. Jadeja took four wickets in the first innings, but could not bowl in the second. Four Indian bowlers shouldered full responsibility for the second time in as many tests. Pucovski, Labuschagne, Cummins and Cameron Green displayed a lot of courage and talent, but it was just not to be.

For scoring 131 and 81 in his first two innings in the test, and creating roughs in his third, Steve Smith was adjudged the Man of the Match. Ravi Shastri would be My Man for allowing this side to feel comfortable in their skin and express themselves as best as they could, while backing ‘his boys’ completely. He reminds me of a drunk, drinking Brad Pitt watching the proceedings with amusement as Pitt-Jolie’s brood of kids created mayhem around him. Shaz is that kind of a silent supporter, beer belly jokes notwithstanding.

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#sydneytest #indiaaustralia #rahane #kohli #stevesmith #brainfade #sandpapergate #timpaine #raviashwin #draw

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