Australia pulled off a remarkable feat when they romped to victory over India on a wicket that would have had a few Australian players biting their finger nails before a ball had been bowled, but to play with the expectation that India will roll-over once again would be a huge mistake for the tourists to make.
The wonderful thing about Australia’s win and Steve O’keefe’s 12 wicket haul was that no one expected it to happen and Australia played as if they had nothing to lose. And in reality, they didn’t.
The talk going into the series was about how many runs Kohli would plunder, the records Ashwin would set and the margins by which India would win. But the events of the first test have drastically changed the tune of conversation, and it now revolves around whether they can bounce back from the damaging batting collapses and how they are going to dismiss Steve Smith, who is in a class of his own currently.
In less than a week’s time, India, for the first time in 19 matches, will be playing on home soil with a loss to their name. It’s a remarkable statistic but one that was going to be derailed eventually.
Kohli had never experienced scoring an international duck in his own backyard before he threw his bat in an uncharacteristic manner at a wide delivery from Mitchell Starc. On Saturday, he will walk to the crease with two low scores from his last two innings and an overwhelming expectation that he ensures the result of the first test was nothing more than a minor bump in the road.
India have not felt this kind of pressure for some time and the weak links in the side are beginning to be exposed by an Australian unit touted as the worst ever to tour the sub-continent. Indian coach Anil Kumble came into the test with all the arrogance of a popular high school student and an expectation that his world beaters would humiliate the tourists by repeating the dose which saw Australia slump to a 4-0 series defeat in 2013. And it is this complacency that gave Australia all the encouragement they needed for their quietly confident and underappreciated players to write their own fairy-tale and finally silence the critics.
But be warned, India are still the formidable force that did a demolition job on England two months ago and South Africa twelve months earlier.
Ashwin was as reliable as an old Volkswagen in the first test and, although he looked far from his best, there were signs that if he gets the right wicket he will be to hot for the Australians to handle.
If just one of India’s batsmen get going and the others bat around him like they did with Kohli, Pujara and Vijay against England, Australia’s sub 300 totals may not be enough. Of course, the Australian batting unit played well to withstand the treacherous conditions of the Pune surface and that very idea will hold them in good stead when they travel to Bengaluru, which will turn, but not nearly as much as the doctored wicket that backfired badly for the Indians.
Australia have the momentum and a first start victory is what was required if they are to believe that a series win in India is a possibility. The hosts know what to expect from the Bengaluru wicket though, and it will require far more grit and determination from the likes of Steve O’Keefe and Steve Smith if they are to go back-to-back and walk way from the second test with the Border-Gavasker trophy already sewn up.