As the Indian diaspora outside of India and households in India celebrate their cricket team conquering Australia, here’s my best XI of the series.
Choosing my first opener was an absolute no brainer in Shubman Gill. In his debut series, the opener from Punjab amassed 259 runs at an average of 51.8, with only Pat Cummins consistently challenging his fourth and fifth stump.
When Virat Kohli said in early 2019 that he wasn’t even ten per cent as good as Gill as a 19-year-old, cricket fans across the world now understand why Kohli said that. As long as Gill can avoid prioritising IPL runs over Test runs, he’ll be a successful Test opener for the Indians.
To open alongside Gill is another Indian – except, it isn’t Rohit Sharma. In fact, I’ve gone with Cheteshwar Pujara. While he didn’t score as many runs as he did two summers ago, Pujara bored the crap out of the Aussie bowlers, facing 928 balls in the series to score 271 hard-fought runs. With Pujara’s doppelgänger in Dom Sibley coming for the Ashes, Australia better get their homework done on him ASAP.
First drop and number four fill themselves in, with Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith. Labuschagne was the leading run-scorer of the series so there were no questions in picking him. Despite Smith performing worse than Arsenal in the 2019 Europa League final in the first two Tests, he found his hands in time for the SCG Test to annoy the Indian bowlers again.
At number five and my skipper is Ajinkya Rahane. While he wasn’t consistent enough with the bat bar his 112 in Melbourne, Rahane’s tactics were spot on 95 per cent of the time he led this Indian team from the second Test onwards. Two times Rahane has skippered India in Border-Gavaskar series deciders – and twice he’s won. He just needs to start producing the runs consistently and then his spot won’t be questioned.
My wicketkeeper is none other than Rishabh Pant. Despite dropping a few catches off the spinners, Pant never let that get to him, scoring two quality half-centuries in the fourth innings at the SCG and the Gabba. Once Pant improves his keeping versus spin, his spot will never come into question. Oh, and bonus points for singing Spider-Man as heard on the stump mics during the 4th Test.
Rishabh Pant. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
Although Ravindra Jadeja played one and a half Tests this series, I couldn’t leave him out. Whether it was with bat, ball, or in the field, Jadeja was heavily impactful for India: scoring 85 runs in two innings, taking seven wickets at an average of 15, taking two catches and a run-out.
To start the bowling attack is Ravichandran Ashwin. Every time he bowled, it seemed a wicket wasn’t far away, bar Smith showing some intent in Sydney. Ashwin is quite easily the greatest spinner India has produced after Anil Kumble. Officially the greatest cricketer to hail from Tamil Nadu now, taking over Kris Srikkanth.
The two Aussie seamers in the XI are none other than Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. No matter how tired the duo were, they kept on fighting hard and provided breakthroughs. Test cricket will rarely see a better hour of bowling than Cummins’ and Hazlewood’s combination on day three of the first Test in Adelaide. Proper disciplined Test match fast bowling.
The final member was very hard to pick, but I went with Mohammed Siraj. Just like Gill, Siraj was outstanding in his debut series, picking up 13 wickets at an average of 29.53. Leading the inexperienced Indian pace attack by his third Test, Siraj would step up with a five-for in just his third Test. Siraj is more useful with the SG ball in Indian conditions and will pose a real threat against England if he plays.
Ultimately, this is how the XI stacks:
1. Shubman Gill 2. Cheteshwar Pujara 3. Marnus Labuschagne 4. Steve Smith 5. Ajinkya Rahane (c) 6. Rishabh Pant (wk) 7. Ravindra Jadeja 8. Ravichandran Ashwin 9. Pat Cummins 10. Josh Hazlewood 11. Mohammed Siraj
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