Fiery, spicy, and pretty darn feisty; it’s exactly what we want from Test cricket and, more specifically, it’s what we need, especially in India.
Two matches, neither of which have gone close to the duration of five days, have created so much intrigue.
A crushing upset in Pune was always going to draw attention. How could an Australian team, touted by Indian legend Harbhajan Singh as “the worst Australian team to tour India” beat the hosts at their own game in under nine sessions, by 333 runs?
The conjecture surrounding ‘pitch doctoring’ was inevitable; few however expected for the suggestion that it had gone too far and brought Australia back into the game, levelling the playing field for the likes of Steve O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon, against the mastery of the Indian magicians.
A fightback from the hosts was assured in Bengaluru; Harbhajan wouldn’t back down, either, refusing to praise O’Keefe and Australia until he saw them on “a good Test match wicket”.
Needless to say, the pitch that greeted the combatants on March 4 had a touch more life to it, as did the Test it produced.
Numerous players cited heightened levels of ‘banter’ as a focal point of the match. Virat Kohli and Steve Smith locked horns in the first innings, umpires Richard Illingworth and Nigel Llong were regularly required to put out spot fires throughout, and then came the “brain fade” regarding the DRS…
After finally agreeing, in October last year, to the use of technology to ensure correct decision-making, the system has created the controversy that the BCCI were hoping to avoid. A quick glance to the changeroom for guidance, followed by the use, or not, of a precious review was the process used in multiple instances by the Australians.
It was astutely picked up on by the Indians, and not so subtly pointed out by Kohli to the umpires, and match-referee.
Many have suggested his was an overreaction, with Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland labelling Kohli’s response as “outrageous”. But such a label really couldn’t be further from the truth; how should we see the Indian captain’s response? Passionate? Tick. Invested? Tick. Standing up for his team and the traditions of the game? Bloody big tick.
It doesn’t seem right to criticise the Indians for their approach, both on and off the field, in Bengaluru. It recalled memories of the Australians’ attitude during the 2013-14 Ashes series under Michael Clarke, when we got up 5-0. It was a relentless, uncompromising performance, and one that made a whole nation of cricket supporters proud.
We aren’t the only team that is allowed to play that way. India proved that. The sooner we realise that, the better.
The second Test was heated, and we loved it. We become invested in matches like the one just gone; they enthral and they captivate. Both teams played aggressive cricket, and it makes for superb viewing and a wonderful contest.
If we are lucky, the rest of the series will feature just as much tension and flare.
After all, it is Test cricket.