Five-fer: A disastrous tour to India
This tour will be remember not only for the severity of the drubbing India dished out, but also for the behind-the-scenes farce that was the Australian dressing room.
Australia are on their way back home nursing deep wounds, having lost a four-game Test series against India by a whitewash scoreline. It was a tour of disastrous proportions for Michael Clarke's side, filled with drama, ducks and dire batting.
<b>Naughty lads get punished</b>
This tour will be remember not only for the severity of the drubbing India dished out, but also for the behind-the-scenes farce that was the Australian dressing room. It's been discussed to death already, but the 'Missing homework' saga will live long in the memory, so let's get it out the way up front.
The actual situation was bizarre enough, with four players dropped for failing to complete a simple post-match assignment, but it was what it revealed that really got people's attention: Something was rotten in the state of Down Under.
Shane Warne recommended everyone have a beer and discuss the issue in an old school manner (he recommended this for the KP saga too, so one imagines the pub is his think tank). Former England skipper Michael Vaughan had huge fun taking the mickey (Arthur) out of the Aussies on Twitter, while Shane Watson shrugged his shoulders and jetted back to Oz for the birth of his baby.
The Aussies became an international cricketing joke, even more than they were already after losing the first two Tests. Watson's return from Oz only to be handed the captaincy for the fourth Test left pundits even more baffled. From sanctioned to skipper in the space of two weeks? Impressive.
During all this, the frustration felt by senior players was plain to see. Michael Clarke was visibly enraged during the third Test when Shikhar Dhawan went on his 187-run rampage, while tempers flared easily in the fourth match as David Warner had to be physically restrained while confronting MS Dhoni about his running on the pitch.
Coach Mickey Arthur now has two months to work some magic, assuming he stays in the job, before the ICC Champions Trophy in England. There, his ODI side will need to do what the T20 lot did last year in Sri Lanka, and hand the critics a slice of humble pie.
<b>A top order made of glass</b>
Nothing demonstrated the very poor state of the Aussie top order more than the fourth Test, where fast bowler and number nine batsman Peter Siddle top-scored in both innings. He scored two fifties, while everyone above him handed their wickets to Ravi Ashwin and company.
Phil Hughes was of particular concern, averaging under 20 across his eight innings. He had no clue how to play the spinners, and failed to reach double figures five times. He went out to a spinner six times, five of those to Ashwin.
The rest of the batsmen weren't much better, with only Clarke, as usual, making a consistent impact as he finished the series with 286 runs (Murali Vijay had 430, FYI). None of the top order averaged over 50, and Clarke managed to score the only century for his side in the entire series.
Amusingly, for non-Aussies, the dire nature of the situation prompted speculation that Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting would be asked to make comebacks for the Ashes, which both veterans quickly squashed. Arthur, in jest or maybe not, said that he'd welcome both them and Adam Gilchrist back should they want a game.
Four players made their debuts in this series, two for each side. Two did well, two did… less well. Portugal's favourite cricketer, Moises Henriques, got his first cap in the opening match and proceeded to score two half centuries, with a top score of 81.
He didn't do much in the following two games, failing to reach double figures in four innings and thus dropped for the fourth Test, but there was enough shown to indicate a future in the side.
Glenn Maxwell made his debut in the second Test, drafted in for his talent with the bat. He didn't deliver on that promise, scoring 13 and eight, though he did take four wickets with his slow bowling.
He was dropped for the third Test, a very unlucky fate considering there were only 12 players at the Aussies' disposal. He played again in the fourth match, but again failed with the bat, making 10 and eight, and took three wickets in the game.
For India, opener Shikhar Dhawan had a dream debut in Mohali, scoring the fastest Test century, off just 85 balls, and flayed the visiting bowlers to all corners of the ground. It was his only innings as he picked up an injury and didn't bat again in the series, but it thrilled the fans and gave hope to the selectors.
In contrast, Ajinkya Rahane made his debut in the fourth Test, replacing the injured Dhawan. He did not fare as well as his colleague, going out for seven and one. Luckily his knocks had no bearing on the final outcome.
<b>Goodbye to Gambhir and Sehwag?</b>
Following on from the above point, it seems that the future of the Indian batting line-up looks pretty bright, what with Che Pujara, Virat Kohli and Murali Vijay finding their feet with each passing series, and Dhawan looking a real prospect.
This leaves us to ponder the fates of ousted openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. It would be unfair to remove Vijay from his spot at the top, considering he was the top scorer in the series and made two tons, so will the veterans be able to wangle their way back?
The Indian selectors are famously sentimental though, given their persistence with Harbhajan Singh over Pragyan Ojha for much of this series, and the fact that no-one would dare drop Sachin Tendulkar (who, to be fair, was solid in this series) for fear of Armageddon/a national riot.
So one imagines a failure for Vijay, and further injury for Dhawan, would see the return of one or both of the 'Gamwag' duo, provided they regain some smidgen of form domestically. As for the Little Master's future, speculation continues in whispers. Could Nathan Lyon be the last man to dismiss the legend?
<b>Is it all relative?</b>
All of the above being said, the Devil's Advocate would say that the four-nil drubbing should be taken with a pinch of salt. This Australian side was the weakest in three decades, and the pitches were made for Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, so was it a true test of India's ability?
The counter argument would be that both sides had to bat on those wickets, and the Indians used their local knowledge to the max. You can only play the cards you are dealt, and they did so with aplomb, putting the series loss to England behind them.
Indian fans would also have enjoyed the revenge element of the narrative, reversing the same scoreline they suffered Down Under two years ago. Dhoni denied it was part of their thinking, but human nature says they got a little thrill out of destroying a once mighty side.
But India have always done well at home, so a true indication of Dhawan's talent, and Vijay's permanence, will come when they have to bat against true pace on wickets not resembling a sandpit. They have a long while to wait before testing those
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