BGT 2023: India retains Trophy, gears up to face Aussies in WTC Final

INDIA versus AUSTRALIA. Well, there is no more beautiful term than this, for an avid cricket fan like me. This series too even after starting on a pretty dull and one-sided line, ended on quite an interesting note. Although India historically retained the Border Gavaskar Trophy (BGT) for the fourth time, the Aussies were able to break India’s streak at home in the ODIs. We also witnessed Virat Kohli’s much-awaited 75th century, and we all gear up for the finals of the World Test Championship in London, against the same and arch-rivals. Here, is everything that happened on teh tour and the way forward in my Blog.

FIRST TEST: India leads with an easy one-sided affair

The first Test match was played at Nagpur, a wicket which traditionally has the impression of being super spin-friendly. And, that’s how more or less it turned out to be (at least for the Aussies). In fact, the Aussie camp out of desperation of ‘Spin against Lefties’ theory dropped their in-form batsman Travis Head. Australia won the toss and opt to bat. The Indian bowling was opened by our pacers, two Mohammeds — Shami and Siraj — and inside 2 overs, the Australian scoreboard read 2-2 with both pacers bagging one each with two rocking deliveries. From there on, their two best batters Smith and Labushagne started building the innings. At one point, it even seemed as if they would take their team to a good enough total. But in between came ‘SIR’ Ravindra Jadeja, and got both of them in quick succession bringing the scoreboard from 84-2 to 84-4. From there on, the Aussie batting only fumbled and soon the whole team was bundled out at 177 with Jadeja bagging 5 and Ashwin taking 3.

In response, India led by skipper Rohit’s ton (120), posted a good enough 400. However, other than Rohit, the Indian ‘batting’ didn’t fare much, and it was Jadeja and Axar whose knocks took India to a decent total. From the Australian side, the debutant Todd Murphy took as many as 7 scalps. Now, India had a huge lead of 223 runs, and that was enough to put Australia under tremendous pressure. But what happened then was beyond expectations, as, the whole Aussie team got bunded out merely at 91, with Ashwin taking a fifer this time. India again got the lead in the BGT and Jadeja was declared the Man of the Match for his deserving all-round performance.

Rohit Sharma smashed a solid ton at Nagpur (Photo: Zee News)

Ravindra Jadeja destroys Australia as India win second Test in Delhi

‘SIR’ Ravindra Jadeja rattled the Australian side through his all-round performance throughout the series (Photo: Cricket 365

SECOND TEST: India ensures BGT remains home

The second Test match was played in the national capital, and guess what, I myself got to witness Day 2 of the game. Australia again won the toss and again elected to bat. This time, the Aussie batters looked better prepared, and the pitch too seemed better for batting. At 91-2, Australia actually looked quite strong. But, here came Ashwin weaving the spin matrix and swept away with their two main stalwarts Smith and Labuschagne. One thing I have noticed lately is that Ashwin has got an answer to each and every movement of Smith in his mind. This is resulting in his recent domination over him. However, Khwaja (81) and Handscomb (72*) played decent knocks and took Australia to 263, a total that could have been challenging on the wicket. Surprisingly, it was Shami, a pacer who was the top-wicket takers with his four-fer, while Ashwin and Jadeja bagged three each.

As India came out to bat, the start was pretty well, but then three wickets fell in quick succession. From 46-0, India soon slipped to 54-3. The wicket had started turning, and it was Lyon who was capitalising the most. And…it was not easy to bat. At that point, Virat Kohli — who was going through a rough patch in the red ball — came out to bat. He looked very well in control and was playing spin extremely well, and looked poised for a big score. But, at 44, a delivery by debutant Kuhnemann stuck his bat and pad simultaneously, and the umpire’s finger went up. On expected lines, Virat went for the review, but instead of ‘luck’ being on his side, it was ‘Nitin Menon’, and the decision remained out. And…I missed a golden opportunity to witness a Kohli century live. But whatever I saw had CLASS written all over it, that too in capitals.

After this highly controversial decision against a well-settled Kohli, the scoreboard now read 135-6, which soon turned 139-7, and India was in deep trouble. Just when the Aussies were looking forward to a sizeable lead, the pair of Ashwin and Axar came up with some other ideas. Ashwin with his well-made 37, and Axar with a balanced and courageous knock of 74 executed a comeback. This led Australia to manage to get a lead of just 1 run.

Australia ended the day at 60 odd runs for one wicket, with Travis Head looking in elegant touch, and the match poised for an interesting climax. But it was not meant to be so. Australia very surprisingly faltered on the wicket — that was turning pretty heavily now — and did that very badly. From 65-1, the Australian team was wrapped out for a meagre 113, with Jadeja doing the maximum damage this time with seven wickets, and Ashwin too nabbing three. This gave India a target of only 115 runs, and India got that at the loss of four wickets. Pujara who was playing his 100th game scored the well-deserving winning runs and ensured that Border Gavaskar Trophy will be retained by Gavaskar’s country for the record fourth time. Jadeja was yet again adjourned the Man of the Match.

Nathan Lyon spins Australia to brink of third Test win over India

Nathan Lyon weaved a magical spell as India faltered on the turning track in Indore (Photo: MSN)

THIRD TEST: Aussies pose a mega comeback

The third match was initially scheduled in Dharamshala but was shifted to Indore, as the former wasn’t fully prepared. I wish the match would have happened on the beautiful and pace-friendly wicket of Dharamshala, as it would have brought a very interesting game. But, once again, it was a rank turner at our display, however, with contrary results. Australia was being led by Steven Smith in the game, as Pat Cummins had gone back home because of his mother’s ill health. (Cummins’ mother passed away, and I hereby express my condolences).

Smith won the toss and called on India to bat. His decision soon started coming right, as the Indian scoreboard went from 27-1 to 45-5 to 109 all out. The top score was 22, and absolutely no one was able to show any resilience to the spinning web. This time it was a rookie Kuhnemann, who went away with a fifer, and Indian batting was definitely at fault and under scanner too.

Australia came out to bat high on confidence. Warner was out due to his ‘injury’, and it was Head who was opening. Khwaja top-scored with 60, and was aided with valuable contributions by the middle order. All this took Australia to 197 and handed them a handsome lead of 88. Although at one point, Australia looked poised for a much higher total, but they ended up losing their last six wickets for just 11 runs. Jadeja and Ashwin picked four and three wickets respectively, and Umesh Yadav too chipped in with three.

India, however, had a tough task at hand on an even tougher wicket, and none of the batters except — Pujara with a gritty 59 and Iyer with a quickfire 26 — chipping in with a big score, meant that India again managed an average total of 163. Lyon was the leading wicket-taker with a historic eight-wicket haul. Australia just had 76 to chase, and Head and Labuschangne ensured that they reach there quickly and take the scoreline 2-1 with a solid nine-wicket win. Lyon was deservingly given the Man of the Match for his magical spell. Steve Smith, I have to say seems a very tactically smart captain in the whites, especially in the subcontinent. After all, the Indian batting has faltered (as much as to lose the game) only twice in its own backyard in the last 10 years, in Pune (2017) and Indore (2023), and you know who led the team both times.

IND Vs AUS, 4th Test: Virat Kohli Century Social Media Reactions Against Australia

Virat Kohli after ending the drought and scoring the ‘Amrit Kaal’ 100 (Photo: ABP News)

FOURTH TEST: “Diplomatic” end to the Series with Virat’s “Amrit Kaal” Ton

The Fourth test was meant to be a dead rubber, but not so much so, as the Aussies still had the chance to gracefully exit by making it 2-2. However, more than a cricket match the game turned out to be a platform for showcasing “diplomacy” between the two nations. Indian PM Narendra Modi and Australian PM Anthony Labanese moved across the ground, handed over the caps to the respective captains and also accompanied their respective teams for the national anthem. Moreover, there is little doubt that IND v AUS contests have been an obsessive craze for the cricket-loving fraternity. Finally, after all the “diplomacy” was done, the game started.

Australia won the toss and chose to bat on a very fresh wicket. They started off on a very solid note. Khwaja lead from the front and went on to play a marathon knock of 180 runs. He was also getting support from the valuable contributions of the middle order. Then, Cameron Green too chipped in with his quick-fire 100, displaying a glimpse of his hitting abilities. The tail, especially Murphy and Lyon continued to frustrate the bowlers. Eventually, the score was 480, by when Australia was wrapped up. Here Ashwin deserves a special mention as he went on to take six wickets on such a flat track with almost nothing for spinners.

Well, the thing about the wicket applied even when India came out to bat. Almost every batsman chipped in with runs, though not necessarily scoring big. Shubhman Gill, I have always said is a special player, and one of the few who make you glued to the screen with his eye-catching batting. He went on to score his second test 100 with elegance. And, then it was his role model’s time to end his long drought. After more than three years, VIRAT KOHLI scored a big 100 which also happened to be his 75th (Amrit Kaal). In the end, Axar Patel also chipped in with his solid 79, but Iyer not coming out to bat because of the injury meant that Virat was left at 186 with just one wicket in hand. Aiming to get to his 200 quickly, he got caught on a misconnected shot off Murphy, who got him for the fourth time in the series. Here, it is noteworthy that before the last 8-10 balls, Virat didn’t play a SINGLE shot through the air. Patience, composure and command, are the hallmark of a LEGEND, as they rightly say.

However, on the front of the wicket, there was no development, and it continued to be as flat as it was at the start. Even the ‘roughs’ that were created weren’t helping the bowlers. The only way a result could have come from there, was if India managed to bundle Australia at 120-150, and then quickly chase the 50-60 run target. But, in the initial few overs only, it became clear that it is not going to be the case. Travis Head (90) and Marnus Labushagne (63*) made some solid runs and ensured that scorecard continues to read 2-1. Only two wickets fell in little more than two sessions, till the two captains decided to call off the game. While, Virat Kohli was adjourned the Man of the Match, and quite surprisingly, both Jadeja and Ashwin were given the Man of the Series.

India-Australia Border-Gavaskar Series: PM Modi, PM Albanese take lap of honour at Motera stadium - BusinessToday

PM Narendra Modi and Australian PM Anthony Albanese with both team captains (Photo: Business Today)

BGT stays in Gavaskar’s country…again

India created history as it retained the prestigious trophy for the record fourth time. But more than the results, what any cricket fan craves for during an IND v AUS series is aggression, thrill and historical games to remember for life. Sadly, this was not the case this time. In my opinion, it was one of the most “dull” BGT I have witnessed in my life. Now, half of the credit goes to our “brilliant” pitches and the remaining half goes to the too “gentlemanly” behaviour of both sides. Well…an unpopular opinion, but I am missing SLEDGING badly now. I hope when we tour Australia in 2024-25, it will be a great contest. And…since it will most likely be Kohli’s last Australia tour, I will also be rooting for some masterclass from him against his ‘Favourite Rivals’.

Now, coming to the takeaways and concerns from the series. Indian Bowling, by far is in a very healthy space. Even Indian pacers were putting up brilliant spells on the wickets that didn’t have much for pacers. So, one can only expect some masterclass on pace-friendly wickets. Regarding the spin department. India has always had quality spinners, whose ‘quality’ enhances even more on such wickets, so there was nothing surprising in our spin performance. Sarcasm apart, I would be looking forward to some useful and brilliant spells from our spinners overseas too (though my expectations are maximum with Ashwin).

The concern, however, arises when we look at our batting. For a fact, our batting average (team) was just 23 before this series. So, I don’t need to put any further explanation on why I am stressing this cause. Our openers are still stable, but the middle order needs to step up, and step up really hard and fast. Virat has ended his drought, but the team needs more ‘consistent’ and ‘valuable’ performances from him. Especially, the batters are looking extremely weak against spin, and even the technique is looking worrisome. A reason, as many say is that the batters don’t play domestic cricket, so don’t have much experience in facing proper spin. So, the Indian batters need to put serious focus on this area, we are not much far from what a dire state is.

Before I end, there is one more thing I would like to point out here. I am not been able to digest the fact that even on so “spin-friendly” wickets, Kuldeep Yadav was not able to make it in the XI even in one game. He is such a brilliant and bowler with that ‘surprise element’. Also, three spinners of three varieties would have been a much better composition. Yes, I understand that Axar Patel was batting very well, but his wickets tally didn’t even touch double-digit in the whole series. Now, don’t throw that “Team Balance” thing at me, because if even after having five full batters, one wicketkeeper, and two prolific bowling-all-rounders, you don’t have enough confidence and require one more player who can ‘bat’, well then you are just hiding your weakness and your batting needs some serious level of introspection. Even though, the team’s decision did turn out right, for me, it was CRIMINALLY UNFAIR to Kuldeep.

Chennai: - Australian players celebrate after their win in the third ODI Match #Gallery - Social News XYZ

Australian Team under Steve Smith stunned India to register a series win in Chennai (Photo: Social News XYZ)

A Brief look at ODIs

After BGT, it was time for the ODIs In the first game, the Indian bowlers presented an excellent display of pace. The Australian batters kept on losing wickets at regular intervals. Except for Mitchell Marsh (81), no other batter reached a big score, and the Aussies were wrapped up at 188. Shami was the pick of the bowlers Although the task seemed easy at hand, it wasn’t so. Especially when a fiery spell from Mitchell Starc left India crumbling at 83-5. But, the Indian batter who has received the maximum amount of hate, lately, KL RAHUL stood on the occasion and played one of the finest knocks of his career. He absorbed all the pressure and attacked at the end during his unbeaten 75. He was ably supported by Jadeja’s brilliant unbeaten 45. Both of them ensured that India come home victorious.

The TEST fever continued in the second ODI as well, but this time a little differently. India which was put to bat in overcast conditions struggled from the beginning. From 3-1, India soon went 49-5, and just when it seemed Kohli would steer a revival, he too was gone. At the end, as Axar was left with no partner, the Indian innings was bundled at a mere 117. Even though it was never going to be enough, the way Australia got to the target, was unprecedented. Mitchell March with his smashing 66 unbeaten and Travis Head (51*) took the Aussies home in just 11 overs with a crushing victory. The scoreline stood 1-1, and this loss was much more painful than the first win was sweet.

Now, it was the ‘Winner takes all’ situation at the decider in Chennai. Australia came out to bat after winning the toss. They started off on a solid note with a 67-run opening partnership, but from there Indian bowlers kept on taking wickets at regular intervals. Almost every Aussie batter got to a start but failed to make anything big. At 203-7, it seemed the game was over for Australia, but Agar and Abbott took the team to 269, which was still a below-par total. India too got off to a flying start with skipper Rohit hitting some big shots. He got out on 30. From there also, Virat and Gill stitched a very fine partnership. At 146-2 after 27 overs, India seemed very easily sealing the series. But, a sudden twist came as there was a huge middle-order collapse. Kohli, who was looking well set for a ‘Chase Master’ knock played a poor mis-hit and was caught after a well-made 54.

Pandya did try to revive the Indian chase, but he too fell to Zampa, who got away with four Indian batters during his fiery spell. With Jadeja getting out in the 46th over, India’s hopes were laid down to rest, and Australia broke India’s 26 successive series win streak at home, just like they did back in 2019. Here, again Steve Smith deserves some appreciation, for the excellent field placements and the bowling changes that induced this collapse. It would not be an exaggeration to say that he is “one of the best” skippers to have ever toured India, as Ashwin too pointed out later. Anyways, India will again face the Aussies at home, just before the World Cup, and I am pretty hopeful that we will invert the tide later this year.


India retained Border Gavaskar Trophy for record fourth time (Photo: BCCI

The WTC Final: Will India end its drought?

However, all is not over, it’s not the end, as the two arch-rivals will meet again at the Finals of the World Test Championship (WTC) in London. Now, the conditions would be very different there under the ‘swing-friendly’ wickets and ‘rain-prone’ conditions. And, Australia would find them ‘better equipped’ than India in those wickets. The major reason is the out-of-form Indian batting, as I explained above. The problem, however, will be exaggerated even more because of the absence of Rishabh Pant, as we already saw how badly we missed him in this series. The Aussie batters, on the other hand, have better batting form, especially on the English wickets. So, it would be highly suggestive to send the team much ahead (close to month prior) the finals for getting prepared and accustomed to the conditions.

Plus, Australia will be having their three premium quicks (Starc, Hazelwood, Cummins) along with Lyon and Green. On the other hand, India will be marred by the absence of our best pacer Jasprit Bumrah. While we will have to play just one spinner (my choice Ashwin), our pace attack will have to be led by our two Mohammeds — Shami and Siraj — and it remains to be seen, which two pacers will accompany them. Shardul won’t be a good fit in my opinion, Umesh can be. For the fourth spot, can we take the ‘Umran Malik’ gamble? Well…I would be hopeful. Also, we need to be cautious in keeping our bowlers fit and match-ready before the series. Anyways, an exciting game awaits us in June (If rain permits), I know the Indian team will give it all and I am already having my fingers crossed for our ICC title jinx to be broken this time.


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