At the end of the second session, Australia reached 170/3 in 51 overs at the tea break. Indians picked up two wickets inside three overs on either side of the lunch break on the opening day of the iconic match by getting rid of David Warner (43) and Marnus Labuschagne (26) respectively but wickets evaded them ever since.
Captain Rohit Sharma was hoping for a strong comeback in the game after the Aussies lost three wickets inside 25 overs and 76 runs on the board. But Head’s counter-attacking shots against Indian bowlers pushed the opposition on the back foot and forced the Indian skipper to set up a defensive fielding. That further aided the Aussie batters as they started playing shots and kept rotating strikes.
Rohit introduced a lone spinner in the side, Ravindra Jadeja and the all-rounder applied some pressure from his end. However, the Saurashtra cricketer didn’t find support from the other end. Once the partnership between Head and Smith went past 50, the Indians started missing premier spinner Ravichandran Ashwin in the game.
Ashwin – who is ranked number one bowler in ICC Tests Rankings – was ignored as skipper Rohit Sharma opted to play with four pacers (Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav and Shardul Thakur).
Sunil Gavaskar slams Team India strategy
Watching Indian bowlers struggle to pick up wickets in the match, former India cricketer Sunil Gavaskar slammed Rohit Sharma for ignoring a world-class bowler in Ashwin.
“You are playing a World Test Championships final and you don’t pick the number one bowler in Test Cricket. This decision from Team India is beyond my understanding. I would have picked Ashwin in place of Umesh Yadav, who was out of action and looks out of rhythm.
“There are four left-handed batters in this Australian side and Ashwin has traditionally done well against them. It is shocking that there isn’t any off-spinner on this side,” Gavaskar said on Star Sports.
Harbhajan Singh on Rohit Sharma captaincy
Former India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, said on Star Sports, “The partnership of Travis Head and Steve Smith made the difference for Australia. Runs came thick and fine for the Aussies and Travis Head’s counter-attacking knock pushed India on the back foot.
“Rohit Sharma failed to clear the role of his bowlers in the second session and they kept leaking runs. Every bowler looked clueless against Head. The Aussies must be feeling the confidence now, they find themselves in a very comfortable situation and Rohit will have to re-group and re-strategise for the final session.”
“You have to play your best bowlers in a match high stakes contest because he knows how to bowl in such conditions as well. Shardul Thakur has leaked runs in excess of 4 runs per over while Umesh Yadav has also looked rusty and bowled in the wrong areas as well,” the Turbanator added further.
Sourav Ganguly on Ashwin Absence
Former India captain Sourav Ganguly also seemed unimpressed with the way Indian bowlers performed against the Aussies and rued Ravindra Jadeja was missing his spin-twin at the other end.
“You may call it an afterthought, but looking at the way Australian batters are playing, India missed the trick by not including a match-winner like R Ashwin. Team India took the decision to bowl first and went with four fast bowlers looking at the overcast conditions.
“But in hindsight, it seems Ashwin would have been a better call as Jadeja isn’t getting the support from the other end. Jadeja is putting pressure from his end but there is no one to choke the flow of runs from the other side,” Ganguly said on Star Sports.