Brisbane Test: How the Key Performers Stack Up

For a short while towards the fag end of the Brisbane Test, Australia threatened to pull off something India usually specializes in, particularly overseas – collapse in a heap to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Indeed, the Aussies made heavy weather of a 128-run target on a track where the demons, if present, were not expressing themselves as vociferously as we have seen on certain end-game pitches. The score-line reads 2-0 in Australia’s favour, and they are well on the way to the whitewash predicted by certain pundits, though the gulf between the two teams is not as broad as the numbers indicate. India have won a few battles, but have faltered at crucial junctures, leading to the inconsequentiality of these small triumphs in the context of the larger contest.

If the Adelaide Test was a perfect advertisement for the longest format of the game, Brisbane was not too far behind, perhaps scoring even higher on the scrappiness scale, bringing in an edginess, so often witnessed in clashes between these two countries, which was largely missing in Adelaide on account of the sombre backdrop of the game, in the aftermath of one of the greatest tragedies to have befallen it in recent times.

India took Day 1, largely due to the on-the-rise brilliance of Vijay, with able support from Rahane. Day 2 began with an all-too-familiar collapse triggered by debutant Hazlewood, causing the Indian team to fall well short of the 500-mark they were undoubtedly targeting, screeching to a halt at the Hughes number. Australia were themselves in deep trouble at 247-6, but a resurgent Johnson in the company of the reliable Smith turned the game on its head. The counterpunching seemed to have completely stunned India as the tailenders continued stitching partnerships together to end up with a sizeable first innings lead. A Johnson special on Day 4 morning confirmed that Australia would be chasing less than 150 in the final innings, and although there were traces of self-destructive instincts in the air, the target was too less for them to significantly manifest.

These are how the key individual performances stack up, using the Quadrant Scorecard, the methodology behind which you can read here. Do note that unless a tailender batsman, or a part-time bowler, create significant impact, they will not be included in the analysis.

Quadrant Scorecard: Batsmen

India (Blue)               1. Vijay
2. Dhawan
3. Pujara
4. Kohli
5. Rahane
6. Rohit
7. Dhoni
8. Ashwin
9. Yadav
10. Aaron
11. Ishant
Australia (Yellow)
1. Rogers
2. Warner
3. Watson
4. Smith
5. Marsh S.
6. Marsh M.
7. Haddin
8. Johnson
9. Starc
10. Lyon11. Hazlewood
Vijay was unquestionably India’s top performing batsman, his 144 on Day 1 not only allowing India to weather the early storm on a purportedly green-top pitch, but also hit back later in the day. The Tamil Nadu batsman was equally at ease against pace and spin, displaying definite purpose behind each stroke, defensive or attacking. His soft dismissal in the second innings was a big blow for India, as his presence on the fateful Day 4 morning may have been the difference.

Vijay was the highest scorer in the Test, on both sides, but Smith scores higher on the impact-factor, given that his 133 in the first innings held the shaky Australian middle-order together, and the laid the foundation for Johnson’s onslaught. Rogers made 55 in each innings, and his second innings effort rates very highly on my impact-meter. In fact, he was the difference between victory and defeat, if the innings be considered in isolation. Dhawan forces his way into the top Quadrant on the back of his second innings 81, which, in hindsight, gave India a fighting chance. Had Australia cruised to victory, his impact would have been low, and the southpaw would have been relegated to the Individual Contributors (IC) quadrant.

The IC Quadrant lies vacant in the context of the Brisbane Test, though Rahane came close to breaching its boundaries. The Mumbaikar made a few easy runs against a tiring attack on Day 1, but was unable to dig in the next day to propel the team to a substantial total.

Expectedly, there were plenty of Slackers in the match, most notable among whom were Adelaide heroes Kohli and Warner. Watson and Rohit continue to be the high-profile laggards in their respective teams for the 2nd Test running, while the Marsh brothers did nothing much of note. Haddin was bounced out in both innings, aggregating just 7 runs in the match; his form should be Australia’s biggest concern as of now. Ashwin fared better than the Indian lower middle-order, and Yadav’s second-innings’ 30 was the difference between a sub-100 target and the actual one.

The Gamechanger was undoubtedly Johnson, who awoke from deep slumber to smash 88 runs off 93 balls just as the Indians would have begun dreaming of a substantial  first innings lead. Johnson dominated during the 148-run 7th wicket partnership with Smith, and by the time he left, the teams had interchanged their positions in the driver’s seat. Starc played a similar innings, of lesser impact, but crucial in extending the Australian first innings lead. Pujara’s 43 held the Indian second innings together, which looked set for abject humiliation, before Dhawan made his late entry.

Quadrant Scorecard: Bowlers

 

India (Blue)                   
1. Ishant
2. Aaron
3. Yadav
4. Ashwin

Australia (Yellow)
1.  Johnson
2. Hazlewood
3.  Starc
4. Lyon
5. Watson

Debutant Hazlewood was the best bowler in the match, by a long way. The lanky pacer can be solely credited for derailing the Indian charge on Day 2 morning, accounting first for Rahane, and returning to dismiss both members of the dangerous Dhoni-Ashwin partnership. While this was the gamechanging moment, Hazlewood’s two big wickets on Day 1, and two more during India’s second innings propelled him into the top Quadrant. Ishant was India’s best bowler, picking up 6 wickets, just one less than Hazlewood, his 3-wicket burst in the second innings keeping afloat the dream of an unlikely victory for a large part of the fourth innings.

Yadav and Lyon toiled manfully for their respective teams, while most others were disappointing. Watson has been credited with building up significant pressure, which allowed other bowlers to cash in on the wickets; I am not entirely convinced, while not dismissing the adulation altogether.

The Gamechanger yet again was Johnson, and it is surprising that he missed out on the Player of the Match award, despite turning around the game with both bat and ball. Wicket-less in the first innings, a fiery Johnson broke the back of the Indian middle order by dismissing Kohli, Rahane and Rohit in quick succession, and returned to take out Yadav who was adding a few valuable runs. It remains to be seen if Johnson-the-bowler’s awakening was a gamechanging moment in just the match, or the entire series, and we will soon find out if India can shrug off the ghosts which tormented England during their unhappy Ashes tour a year ago.

Battered and bruised, the Indian team heads to Melbourne for the Boxing Day Test. For once, I hope that Shakespeare’s ‘What’s in a name’ adage holds true.