Not to gloat or anything, but today could be serious fun. Having won 16 games on the trot, it’s high time Australia revisited the plains of mortality, and learned a thing or two about losing. Of course, knowing them — and the speed with which Ponting raced to 24 by stumps on Day 3 — I’m certain that the Australians are going to make a run for it.
The question is, can they do it in a non-Australian way? As more than a few commentators have noted over the past three days, Australia’s biggest weakness in this Test has been what has long been considered its greatest advantage: it’s innate aggression, which never admits defeat (or even a draw). Had they stuck around and grafted, a la VVS Laxman or Rahul Dravid, they would not have been bowled out for the paltry 200+ score they managed in their first innings, and really, it’s just inconceivable to me that they could score 400+ runs at their normal pace. Sprinters don’t do well in marathons.
This, then, could just be a day of firsts in cricket: truly tested (for once), Australia will have to play defensively and accumulate if they hope to attain that world record. The phrase “playing out of their skins” is often used in these situations, but in this case, Australia will have to play out of their brains as well — take a lesson or two from the Indians and win by attrition.
It’s all so exciting! What’s most frustrating, however, is that Australia are already 2-0 up in the series. Say what you want about the Australian team, but they don’t do well for suspense. Honestly, this could have been the epic battle that everyone in cricket thought it would be; a sort of return to the highlights of 2001 in India and the 2005 Ashes in England. Had India come in with adequate practice, they would not have performed so poorly in Melbourne, which would have set them up much better for Sydney (which they shouldn’t have lost anyway). And why did things turn out this way? Because some idiots in the BCCI thought it would be more entertaining to watch yet another lethargic series against Pakistan, even a second-rate Pakistan that not once considered winning as a strategic goal. With a little rest and more practice during the month of November, India’s titans might have done immeasurably better.
And that’s the rub of this: having watched team after team struggle against Australia, this one hasn’t — apart from Melbourne (and even then, they offered a challenge or two), India has battled neck-and-neck with the Australians, and now at Perth, they’re actually ahead. It’s all been great, but it could have been that much better. Stay tuned.