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Satire: Of Laughing Stock and Stock Laughter After Series Capture

But alas, for some strange reason, the ICC rules don't allow for such simplicity. And the Indian team had to win matches by the traditional method of playing. Were it not for the rain in SCG, the series could even have been 3-1. But make no mistake about it, this 2-1 triumph is epochal, which is amazing considering that we don't know what epochal really is.

Balakumar Kuppuswamy |January 11, 2019, 3:13 PM IST
Satire: Of Laughing Stock and Stock Laughter After Series Capture

If the Indian team had been told at the start of the series that the eventual scoreline would be 2-1, it would have happily taken it and given the players a good rest.

But alas, for some strange reason, the ICC rules don't allow for such simplicity. And the Indian team had to win matches by the traditional method of playing. Were it not for the rain in SCG, the series could even have been 3-1. But make no mistake about it, this 2-1 triumph is epochal, which is amazing considering that we don't know what epochal really is.

This is also a proud moment for Asia as India became the first team from the continent to win a series in Australia, and as Asians, you should expect Pakistanis and Sri Lankans to dance late into the night celebrating this victory.

On the whole, the series is so special that you can overlook many things in Indian cricket, including even the usual Ravi Shastri bluster and bombast at the post-series presser.

Here are the three points that stood up for us in the series:

Toss

What was really the difference between Virat Kohli and Tim Paine as captains in the series? Quite simply, the ability to win the toss.

Mike Brearley, the former England captain and occasional half-decent batsman, wrote in his seminal work, 'The Art of Captaincy', "as a captain, your first job is go out and win the toss. The rest is just happenstance."

Okay, Brearley should have written that, instead he droned about psychology of players and tactics because that is what you have to do to fill a book.

kohli toss

Anyway, Kohli won four tosses on the trot in Australia, which clearly shows that he had learnt from his mistakes in South Africa and England last year, where his lack of form with the coin cost the team dear. In Kohli, India finally seems to have found a skipper who takes the toss seriously.

Australia, on the other hand, was not ready for a captain who came so well prepared to win the toss. Australians still recall how previous Indian captains used to treat the toss so casually. Steve Waugh, during the famed 2001 trip to India, was aghast that Sourav Ganguly actually arrived with no coin for the toss.

"The Prince of Kolkata apparently thought he could use a credit card instead of the coin," Waugh recalled later in his tour diary.

Kohli knew that he started with a 50% chance of winning any toss.

"Armed with crucial stat provided by the hard-working Indian support staff who were armed with enormous-looking laptops, Kohli confidently backed his guts and called correctly every time in the series," says a team insider. Kohli himself confided to a team-mate. "Nothing on a cricket field, except perhaps Sreesanth in his playing days, can be totally uncontrollable. We must back our beliefs."

The much-maligned India's domestic cricket and the IPL also provide good exposure to young emerging captains to tosses. "On the contrary, Australia is resorting to bat flips in BBL. So, when it comes to tosses in international outings, it is no surprise that our captains are found wanting," a rueful Australian cricketer was quoted as saying on Fox Sports.

Team

When the Indian team arrived in Australia, it knew that to win the Test series it needed plenty of fire in the belly. Kohli supplied the fire, while the team coach Ravi Shastri brought to the table, the belly. This kind of innate understanding between the captain and the coach served the team well.

Kuldeep Yadav celebrates a wicket with teammates. (Image: Twitter/BCCI) Kuldeep Yadav celebrates a wicket with teammates. (Image: Twitter/BCCI)

They both also brought plenty of smarts into play to keep everyone guessing. Nobody could fathom India's team tactics. The captain and coach managed to pull this off by the commonsense approach of speaking in contradictory voices.

Ravindra Jadeja is not playing because we thought in the given conditions Umesh Yadav would be better, the captain would say. Jadeja was not in the XI as he was not fully fit, the coach would thunder. And then the captain, taking this plan to its logical conclusion, would contradict himself within a gap of couple of hours. (Cue: Ashwin episode ahead of Sydney Test.)

The coach, meanwhile, would also slip into earthy Hindi usages that Dada Kondke may refuse to use on grounds of them being too profane. This conveyed the larger message that when it comes to winning the Indian team coach would stop at nothing. Elsewhere, on the field of play itself, India showed it meant business at every turn. Jadeja, despite being on the field just as substitute in the Perth Test, sent out strong signals to the opposition by sledging — why not?- Ishant Sharma. We mean if he can do this to his teammate, imagine what the rival team members would have copped.

But apparently the Aussie team was less confused by India's strategy but more confounded by its own plans. For instance, they named a squad that, to start off, had two vice-captains, which was like building a room with two air-conditioners in Ooty. The point is you would rarely be in a situation in Ooty that needed the use of one AC, but here they were planning for two. And then what do they do? They drop one of the two designated vice-captains.

So, the Aussies were strong enough to axe one of their vice-captains? Hahaha. Allow us to laugh. For, one of the vice-captains they had anointed in the first place was Mitch Marsh. But he did play in the Melbourne Test. He hadn't done much with the bat and ball in the interregnum to be recalled. So, basically, we had to surmise that he had walked back into the team purely on his skills as a vice-captain.

What of the other Marsh, Shaun? His performance all through the series was a big conundrum for the Aussies --- he wasn't entirely convincing, but he had scores of two 40s and one 60s, which in the context of current Australian team, is deserving of third vice-captain post.

Talk

When you talk of Australian team, you have to talk of Steve Smith, Dave Warner and Cameron Bancroft, three players not in the team. It was that kind of summer for the Aussies.

It is debatable that whether this is one of the weakest teams that Australia has ever fielded. But what is certainly not debatable is this has to be one of the worst set of commentators that Australia has ever fielded for any series. We are not even getting into what Kerry O'Keefe said. Most Aussie commentators behaved as if what they were watching was not Test cricket but an episode of Seinfeld. This is how most of their commentary stint panned out:

Kerry O'Keeffe

One of the commentators: That is a beautiful shot from Pujara, driving through the mid-wicket...

Shane Warne: Hehhehehhe.

Adam Gilchrist: Hahahahahaha.

Mark Waugh: Hohohohohoho.

Kerry O'Keefe: Wait, I have not even said my thing, but you are all already laughing. Why would anyone name...

You: *Muting the television and wondering aloud* Why would anyone have an apostrophe in their name?

The thing is they could have replaced the Aussie commentators with standard canned laughter track and nobody would have spotted the difference. If Aussie players were the laughing stock, Aussie commentators provided the stock laughter.

Elsewhere, the sledging during the series was also pretty un-Australian. Forget four letter words or choicest abuses, the stuff of discussions was — we kid you not — baby-sitting. Merv Hughes probably suffered a heartache when he came to know the level of sledging in this series. Merv Hughes, for the record, could fart on demand to sledge the opponents.

What Australia needs right now is a better a set of sledgers, a decent team of commentators, a captain who can win the toss and, if it can be helped, a vice-captain who can get into the team for just his batting or bowling.

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