Harbhajan Singh 1, Grand Inquisitor 0

Updated: 25 March 2013 11:50 IST

Australian players didn't play enough balls on the field or show enough off it. They let down not only their countrymen but also fans in India who have grown up admiring the Australian Way: tough, spirited, and overflowing with self-confidence.

Harbhajan Singh 1, Grand Inquisitor 0
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I owe Harbhajan Singh an apology - and I hereby make one. When the offspinner said before the start of the Australia series that India would win 4-0, I jumped on the high horse, which I keep in my study for just such an occasion, and dismissed him as the rattler-in-chief of the Indian team, shooting his mouth off and displaying greater jingoism than common sense.

India had never won four Tests in a series before, I said, and was unlikely to do so now after twice losing all four Tests in series in England and Australia and then losing a home series to England for the first time in 28 years.

And so I went on, rather like Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor, my logic impeccable, my arguments based on recent record and irrefutable a few weeks ago. Rather like in the novel - although I wouldn't bet on Harbhajan having read 'Brothers Karamazov' - Harbhajan might say today, "Your arguments were powerful, but my love (for an Indian whitewash) was greater."

And so it has come to pass. I was wrong and Harbhajan was right.

But how could I have guessed that this was not an Australian team, but merely a team from Australia? That the visitors had placed a soft-soft approach above aggression, that rather than turn tigers when some players were dropped for a minor infringement these internationals chose to become sheep, accept their faults and congratulate their coach and captain for their enlightened decisions?

Australian players didn't play enough balls on the field or show enough off it. They let down not only their countrymen but also fans in India who have grown up admiring the Australian Way: tough, spirited, and overflowing with self-confidence.

The Australian touch was evident only sporadically. In Chennai, Clarke was clearly out caught behind but chose to hang on when the umpire was unmoved and went on to make a century. In Delhi, Peter Siddle got in the way of Ajinkya Rahane who seemed to be the favourite target of the chatter. But sledging only the debutant? How low is that?

It is difficult not to feel sorry for this Australian side. Few visitors have done well on the dust bowls of India - VVS Laxman was to say on the opening day in New Delhi that it looked like a third day's track - but a combination of inexperience, poor man management and technical drawbacks meant that this lot had no chance.

Will coach Mickey Arthur pay for this? India's coach Duncan Fletcher was given an extension after the country's miserable performances (which, perhaps, means that he should now be sacked after the 4-0 win if the Board has to appear logically consistent).

This was not a series that Australia lost. It was one that India won, and the distinction is important. Despite losing all four tosses and needing to play the tricky fourth innings on crumbling tracks, India came through with remarkable composure.

Cheteshwar Pujara's unbeaten 82 on the final day in Delhi was scored at a strike rate of 90 - he was untroubled, and India can rejoice in having discovered (or in his case rediscovered) a rare gem. There is something pure and uncomplicated in his approach to batsmanship.

It was a stunning final day's play. Marred only by commentator Ravi Shastri's excited pronouncement: "The Test series has set up the IPL nicely."

Oh so that's what it was - merely a dress rehearsal for the IPL!

Topics : Cricket India Australia Harbhajan Singh Australia in India 2013
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