IND V AUS | BORDER - GAVASKAR TROPHY | 3RD TEST, SCG #PINK TEST
3RD DAY REVIEW
From a 'Win Test' on Day One and 'Safe Test' on the second day, Team India have moved to only one option at the end of Day Three at the Sydney Cricket Ground -- 'Save Test.'
More than they were forced into this situation, Ajinkya Rahane and his men invited trouble and have instead offered Australia a potential chance of winning this Test.
Updated scores at the end of Day 3: Scorecard here
Here are FIVE reasons this team is now fighting to save this Test.
1. Poor Middle Order Batting
As an Indian cricket fan, you'd agree there are few gremlins in the SCG pitch.
However, considering the ease with which Shubman Gill initially on Day 2 and tailender Mohammed Siraj on Day 3 batted, you'd have expected Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara and Hanuma Vihari to put their best skills and get rid of the 242 runs first innings deficit between themselves.
Instead, the three piled on pressure on India and lower batsmen Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja. Their batting clearly had the lack of intent that Gill and Siraj displayed. Pujara scored his slowest of Test 50s on Day 3. Maybe, he was instructed to wear down the Aussies like he did in 2018-19. The plot did not work.
As a result, India saw another batting collapse of 6 wickets for 49 runs, almost similar to their lowest ever Test innings of 36 at Adelaide few days ago.
2. Pedestrian Running Between Wickets
There were three run outs in India's batting innings. Australia had one, of Steve Smith, that was a gem of fielding display by Jadeja. That run out was supposed to fail as Smith had dived full length to reach the crease.
Jadeja, who's earned the title of the world's best fielder, was probably the only one who believed that he could get Smith out. "For me, [if I could] rewind and play [one play] it would be run out only. From outside the 30-metre circle and a direct-hit. Among my favourites, this would be my best," Cricket.com.au quoted Jadeja saying.
The Aussies now call him gun allounder.
Compared to Jadeja's brilliance India's run out dismissals -- of Vihari and Ravichandran Ashwin -- were results of mediocre running between wickets.
If these batsmen fear injury, such as Ashwin who suffered a dislocated shoulder after diving during an IPL match few months ago, and do not dive to make their crease, their contribution to the team's cause is diluted.
Such instances have snatched away the CIA qualities this revamped team showed so remarkably while winning the second Test to level this 4-Test series 1-all.
3. Lack of Plan B When One Strategy Fails
India's batsmen, especially the most experienced, Cheteshwar Pujara, skipper Rahane and Vihari were short of strategies on how to negotiate Australia's bowlers, especially Pat Cummins and take the scoring forward.
These three batsmen chose the one strategy that earned India positive results on their 2018-19 tour. That time, Pujara's patient, dogged innings won him the Player of the series crown and India a series win on Australian soil for the first time.
On Saturday, the trio tried similar prodding their way out of Australia's grip and ended up leaving India with a huge deficit considering they'll be batting last on a pitch that's deteriorating.
They did not have a Plan B that was to play with intent, the way young Gill had done by sending short pitched deliveries to the fence as well as to rotate the batting.
4. Not Picking Mayank Agarwal Over Vihari
The Team India thinktank, led by coach Ravi Shastri were on the verge of including K L Rahul in their team for the 3rd Test before the Bengaluru-based batsman got injured.
Had K L Rahul to play, Vihari would have been left out. So, instead of KL Rahul the ideal choice would have been to include Agarwal.
This because all three - Pujara, Rahane and Vihari bat in similar slow manner unlike the flamboyance Virat Kohli shows. Kohli's manner of batting helps keep the team scorecard ticking and shifts the pressure on the opposition.
India ended their first innings with a 94-run deficit mainly due to this slow batting by the trio. Having Agarwal in to open with Rohit Sharma and making Gill, another flamboyant yet technically sound batsman to bat at Vihari's position would have ensured India maintain their dominance on this match.
5. Not Wearing Protective Gear As Precaution
Many of you may pooh pooh such a move, but having Pant wear arm guards on both hands would have saved him from injury on a day when the SCG pitch was producing uneven bounce and Australia's tall bowlers aiming the batsmen's body and chin.
India should have learned a lesson when tailender Mohammed Shami was hit on his arm and suffered a fracture.
So, is it aesthetic that matters more or is it that a wicket-keeper batsman wears arm guards on both hands as protection from injury and bat a bit fearlessly for the team's cause when needed most?
As it stands now, this Indian side looks depleted and on the brink of defeat. They have additional worries such as injury to first innings hero Jadeja's bowling hand, Jasprit Bumrah's listless bowling on Day 3, bowlers collectively leaking more runs than their batsmen could handle when batting last.
It'd be rising as a Phoenix act if India wriggle out of this grim situation. This act needs all 11 (count 10 if Jadeja is medically ruled out to play) to raise their hand and be counted as major contributors.
The Aussies now call him gun allounder.