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India will fight like it's 2001: VVS


VVS Laxman, the batsman most famous for spearheading an incredible mid-series fightback against Australia, says India will emerge stronger from the “debacle” that unfolded in Pune.

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Steve Smith’s side claimed a 1-0 lead in the four-Test series by wrapping up a 333-run victory inside three days, outplaying the hosts in every facet of the game.

The corresponding series in 2001 started in somewhat similar fashion, with Australia enjoying a 10-wicket win in Mumbai.

Steve Waugh held a first-innings lead of 274 runs – and all the momentum – when he opted to enforce the follow-on in the second Test. Laxman proceeded to turn the Test and series on its head in Kolkata, producing a career-best knock of 281 that helped deliver a 171-run victory.

The hosts won a thrilling decider in Chennai by two wickets.

“That this is a four-Test series is to India’s advantage. There is plenty of time to bounce back from the Pune defeat,” Laxman wrote on CricketCountry.

Pune cannot be wished away as a bad dream

“Especially given the quality that is at Virat’s disposal. It is debatable if there will be a Pune-type pitch for the rest of the series, and I strongly advocate that there should not be.

“The swiftness of the debacle was astonishing… Pune cannot be wished away as a bad dream.

“India can use it as a template of what not to do, and emerge stronger by imbibing the lessons. Not for a moment do I have any doubt about my Indian team’s capability to win this series, even from this position.”

Laxman, who scored 8781 runs in a 134-Test career, was full of praise for Steve Smith’s century.

“Smith produced one of the finest hundreds ever seen on Indian soil, his use of feet exemplary and his choice of deliveries to attack and defend near-impeccable,” Laxman observed.

“He had his fair share of luck, but to his credit, he made the most of his good fortune … the confidence he will derive from this century simply cannot be put in words.”

Australia's captain Steve Smith bats during third day of the first cricket test match against India in Pune, India, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

Centurion Steve Smith bats on the third day of the first test. Photo: Rajanish Kakade / AP

Laxman was also impressed with the 82-run opening stand between David Warner and Matt Renshaw.

“Warner showcased a facet of his batting that is not seen all too often … he was happy to play the conditions, even if it meant putting his natural game in cold storage,” he noted of Warner, who scored 38 off 77 balls in the first innings.

“Matt Renshaw was extremely impressive in his first Test on Indian soil, in conditions he would never have encountered before in a match situation.”

Many reasons for end of subcontinent slump

Six months of introspection, some new blood and a pre-tour camp at the world’s best training facility were the combined tonic that ended Australian cricket’s subcontinent slump, according to spin consultant Sridharan Sriram.

Sriram, who represented India in eight ODIs, is currently mentoring the 16-man squad touring his homeland for a four-Test series.

The former allrounder also worked with Australia’s batsmen and bowlers during a 3-0 loss in Sri Lanka last year, which extended the nation’s losing streak in Asia to nine Tests.

The difference between that collapse-riddled series and Australia’s 333-run win over India in Pune was stark.

Australia’s batsmen, including a 20-year-old who hadn’t set foot in India before arriving with the squad, were far more resilient on a raging turner.

Left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe snagged astonishing match figures of 12-70, the best ever by a visiting Test spinner in India. All of Australia’s bowlers adapted to conditions well, with coach Darren Lehmann saying Nathan Lyon bowled just as well as O’Keefe.

Australia's Steve O'Keefe celebrates after Virat Kohli's wicket during third day of the first cricket test match against India in Pune, India, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

Steve O’Keefe celebrates after the fall of Virat Kohli’s wicket. Photo: Rajanish Kakade / AP

Pinpointing what has led to the turnaround is tricky. Sriram senses several factors helped.

“The defeat in Sri Lanka has given them time to really go back and think – six months,” Sriram said.

“They’ve soaked in what happened, what they could have done differently, what they need to do to come to India and adapt.

“A couple of changes, new players without the scars of disappointment. (Matt) Renshaw and (Peter) Handscomb, they came in with no scar tissues and they came in with an open mind.

“They said we can do it in India, we’ve got the game, we’ll try different things.”

Sriram added skipper Steve Smith and Lehmann also deserve a lot of the praise, as do the various administrators that ticked off an expensive pre-tour camp at the International Cricket Council’s academy in Dubai.

“The preparation in Dubai was excellent. We prepared different tracks … rough, rank turners, slow and low,” he said.

“It was a great preparation in terms of trying different surfaces and being prepared for whatever you get.

“Darren has been fantastic … speaking about different things we need to do, rather than harping on what we could have done there (in Sri Lanka).

“The skipper’s really helped in a big way, he’s driven all the learnings from the Sri Lankan Test series.”

O’Keefe paid tribute to Sriram following his career highlight, but Smith and Australia’s batsmen have also been working with the 41-year-old.

“I have a chat with everyone … that is the freedom I get from my head coach, which is amazing,” he said.

“It’s not about bombarding them with information, it is about speaking at the right time and just giving them little tidbits.”

The series continues in Bangalore on Saturday.


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