DUAL INTERVIEW with Nikhil and Johns – 9
Jay – Australia beat India by 8 wickets in the first test, your thoughts on the performance from both the teams?
Nikhil – It was usual from India who began well, promised a very good show before doing two major mistakes. First, not making more than 300 in the first innings and then not taking their chances in the second innings. Had they taken their catches, a lead of more than 100, they would have batted with a different mindset in the second stint with the bat.
Johns – India had the upper hand till the end of day 2 but one session opened the door for Australia into the series, I still believe the run out of Kohli in the first innings made a huge impact in the game and showed even Australia have fragile in the batting unit.
Jay – Poor batting or excellent bowling? What is the reason for India’s massive collapse in the second innings?
Nikhil – As has already been discussed at length, it was one of the top spells of seam bowling. Australia hit their lengths and India allowed them to do that and found no answers. The players, unfortunately, aren’t getting enough times to get better at their defensive game and I hope someone wakes up to it and ensures they work on it when they are not playing Tests. India have often collapsed in away Tests vs the moving ball and it was not surprising to see this. Just that no one found a way to counter it was why they could only muster 36 on the board.
Johns – It was one of those days when bowlers getting the reward, we have seen better bowling than this but most of the times it won’t favour them. Apart from a few dismissals, it was all bowlers wicket and they deserved whatever they got on that day.
Jay – And is that the reason for the loss of the first test or is it the dropped catches that hurt India the most?
Nikhil – I think India did well to create enough chances but never took them and when you allow the opposition back in the game, they bowl differently. It is why Test cricket is so demanding, you have to be on top of your game all the time. India were not, they allowed Australia back more than once and the collapse was the final nail in the coffin.
Johns – Drop catches were costly but don’t think it impacted too much as India still had upper hand over them, India has to accept it was some world-class relentless bowling on day 3.
Jay – This ensures there will be plenty of changes in the lineup, what changes would you like to see for the boxing day test?
Nikhil – Firstly, I would hope they let Shaw work on his game, you have to back players by being practical. His flaws are right now too exposed for him and he has age on his side. He can go back, work on his technique, that is more important. He could score more runs playing domestic cricket but it is important that he addresses the issue that is causing trouble to him on the international level. I hope to see Gill play at 4 and Pant back as the keeper-batsman. Ideally, you would want to back players after a game but I think India should’ve always played Pant. He would at least take regulation catches and give you that extra cushion of runs down the order.
Johns – Two of them will be force changes with Kohli going back to India, Shami ruled out, Shaw and Saha getting dropped – I would like to see Gill in the middle order as a long term option when next transition period happens. Bringing back Pant strengthen the batting and there is a news about Jadeja as well into the Eleven but need to get more clarity on those changes.
Jay – Shami is ruled out of the series, which bowler can step up in his stead?
Nikhil – This is going to be a massive test for the remaining bowlers. I hope they manage Bumrah’s workload better. They bowled a lot of his overs and also sent him to bat. The last thing you want is your strike bowler getting injured trying to do a job that is not his primary role. India lacked discipline and effectiveness with the ball and it has been the case for a while. They were out bowled in a lot of away tours and if they can learn from those lessons quickly, it will give India a very good chance as the same bowling attack had Australia 100 odd for seven wickets. They need to stick to their strengths but also adapt to the situation.
Johns – I think Siraj deserves a go, he has been working so hard in red-ball cricket over the years for Hyderabad and India A – he should be preferred ahead of Saini and Thakur.
Jay – For Australia, Tim Paine played a captain’s knock as he was able to reduce India’s lead to an extent, few words on Paine the batsman?
Nikhil – I think he’s done a really good job with what he has. For someone who was all set to leave the game to be leading the nation, take them from turbulent times to this, speaks volumes about the strong character of Tim. I have always been a fan of him, ever since he made his debut in 2010. Injuries plagued his career but now he is getting his due.
Johns – Tim Paine is an improving batsman, ever since he made his captaincy debut in 2018, he has been contributing with the bat in his way, playing alongside the tail and building important partnerships which has been important for Australia in many matches.
Jay – And their bowling is always spot-on, Cummins, Hazlewood, Starc, Lyon all have bowled brilliantly, few words on their bowling unit?
Nikhil – At home, most bowling attacks are at their best and it’s no different here. Cummins has come back from his injury days brilliantly, Lyon is a GOAT for a reason. While Starc has blown hot and cold in Tests, it is Josh Hazlewood who I think is very underrated as a Test bowler. The way he bowled on Day 3 vs India, everything right on the money, is a rare skill. He’s smart, uses his skills and bowls his best balls all day, you love to have a bowler like him who can hit the length all day for you.
Johns – The trio of fast bowling along with Lyon has been one of their main success stories especially the combination of Cummins and Hazlewood – I am waiting for both of them play together in Asia in their peak time soon. They are relentless and give nothing to the opposition.
Jay – Your thoughts on matches getting done by Day 3? You see these matches happen more frequently these days.
Nikhil – I think it’s down to more and more collapses happening. It won’t be long before we have separate squads for limited-overs and Tests. And by separate I mean only a couple of players may be playing all three formats for aside. Whenever the ball deviates of the straight, you see batsman not being able to cope up with it and it’s why matches are getting over early. Don’t see it as an issue, as long as there is an even contest between bat and ball, it’s all good for me.
Johns – The quality of fast bowling, pitches favouring the bowlers but the more worrying sign is the quality of batsmanship in the longer format. If you take out Smith, Kohli, Williamson and few others, the quality is less, once you had 3-4 world-class batters but now it has been a dip in the longer format.
Jay – Boxing Day Test, India will be without Shami and Kohli, can they end this year with a test match victory?
Nikhil – Yes, why not. India did most things right, they were found wanting in one particular session and it is something that will be hurting the side. It has been the case on a lot of their away tours. What India has to be careful of is players knowing their roles to perfection. Kohli is a huge miss, but it gives the likes of Rahane, Pujara a chance to step up. Rahane, in particular, has to step up both as a batsman and also as a leader in absence of Kohli. In the bowling, Bumrah and Ashwin will have to lead the attack and it is in these times that India has to do one thing right that they have often got wrong on away tours – selection. They have to take their best players now, don’t hope or look for a punt. They have the skillset to win, as we saw when they nearly set up the game, it is the moments that India have not been able to seize completely that needs to be addressed and I hope the team steps up and makes history.
Johns – It will be a mountain task, if they can win the boxing day Test, then it will be in Indian history books along with some great wins ever. Odds are against them, debutants, 36 all out in last innings, injuries it doesn’t get any worse as this.
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