As expected, Australia wrapped up the second test against India yesterday in short order. It had been a fascinating match throughout, but in context, the end result was a thumping.
I take two things out of this win. In recent memory, it’s hard to think of a more important victory. It’s been a while between drinks, but the true worth of this win is symbolic. Australia, disgraced by the events in South Africa earlier in the year, widely mocked and derided – even in Australia, and decimated by the bans on their best players, had staggered along in the time since, trying their best but pretty well lost. It was a time marked by uncertainty, in performance and in purpose. The win yesterday is a marker, proof that we can win still – and against the best team in the world – and can win playing within the bounds of respectable behaviour. We found our mojo and it was fine.
I expect Australia to improve from here. Confidence is a wonderful teacher, and the hot contest these newbies have experienced will only improve them. By comparison, India is showing signs of stress, though they will take a better team to Melbourne. Conservatively I would expect the two teams to split the remaining two games. We’ll see.
Otherwise, the game was marked by some notable banter, both biting and witty. There’s a lot of talk that this is the way forward for the Australian team, and I agree. There was no abuse, nothing personal, no send-offs or histrionics, but it did get heated.
Kohli, who at his worse is an immature and petulant leader, was up to his tricks – but it misfired. He was perfectly defused by Tim Paine, who I’ve long admired. Paine was brave with the bat and supreme with the gloves on. He’s a handy captain, and a fine leader – it’s been a while we could say that about an Australian captain.
Paine took on Kohli in a very Australian way, laconic, almost nonchalant, never rising to the bait. Instead, he controlled the debate with his coolness, and in the process dropped some classic lines – the best of which when he asked Murali Vijay if he could possibly like Kohli.
I’ve always had a lot of time for Tim Paine. I’ve believed him very capable and a man of courage and integrity. He is an Australian archetype we would do well to emulate.