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India v/s Australia at MCG: Kohli's blunder of not imposing follow-on had a positive side too!
On third day of the third Test match between India and Australia at the MCG in Melbourne, everyone believed that India was going to win the match. Australia in their first innings, trailing behind 292 runs, were all out for 151 runs due to a ferocious bowling display by India's emerging fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah. Every expert and even viewers expected India to impose the follow-on because of several reasons.

First, Australia was bowled out in 66.5 overs. That means that the Indian bowlers were still fresh to continue bowling. Bumrah in particular was in such good form that had the Aussies batted after following-on would have lost at least 3-4 wickets to him. The second reason was that there was forecast of rain on the fourth and fifth day nof the Test match. Thus, India wanted to try knocking out Australia as early as possible and a lead of 292 runs was huge in those playing conditions. Had India batted for two or three sessions, then India might not have been left with enough sessions to bowl out Australia especially if some sessions were disrupted due to rain. Considering the situation the Indians were at that they would not have lost, but the Test match could have ended in a draw.

But Virat Kohli decided against imposing the follow-on. Then fierce pace bowling show by Pat Cummins led to an Indian batting collapse and by the end of the day India was 52/5. All big guns like Kohli and Pujara were out for duck, and Rahane scored just 1 run. Only the debutant Mayank Agarwal showed some resistance. The scoring rate was also slow. After the way things were unfolding even the experts were disturbed at Kohli's call of not imposing follow-on. I think they were right in some way. Had India asked the Aussies to follow on, they would have won the Test match by a big margin of an innings and some runs. This would have been very helpful ahead of the Sydney Test because a huge defeat would have been frustrating for the Australians. On the other hand because of that decision, not only did the Australian bowlers get renewed confidence, their batsmen too played well in the second inning.

It was good luck for Team India as neither did the rain interrupt play during the Test match nor did the Australian batsmen put up enough resistance. India finally won the Test on the first session of the fifth day.

I concede that Kohli did a blunder. But then let's look at the positive side. Because of second inning collapse of Indian team, it will not be over confident in the Sydney Test. They will play with all the alertness like they played in the first innings of the Melbourne Test. In Perth, the Indian team was a bit over confident followed by a win at Adelaide.

Indians are favorites to win the Sydney Test. I have some observations on the team composition. I feel that Ishant Sharma should be replaced by Bhubaneswar Kumar. The reason is very clear. Ishant might be very economical but in Test cricket wicket taking ability matters most. The way Bumrah or Shami appear to be taking wickets every time they come out to bowl, Ishant doesn't look like that. He is a hard-deck-hitting bowler and depends on batsman's mistake to get a wicket. Bhubaneswar Kumar is a bowler who can take wickets whenever required.

Hanuma Bihari opening the innings might be a compulsion now but I think it will damage his future because after playing so many balls he is not scoring runs. Defending is right but without having scores against his name a batsman is likely to get frustrated and fall short of confidence. Whether Rohit Sharma or Ajinkya Rahane should open is a matter of deliberation. But, as Sydney is the last Test of the series, I think the Indian team management will retain the same team combination as Melbourne Test and I don't see anything wrong in it.

Let's wish that India wins its first Test match of 2019.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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