Australia is the No.1 Test nation in the world, but to prove we deserve that title our batsmen need to start showing some grit today, writes Robert Craddock.
India dominate Day 2 of Boxing Day Test
The next few days will decide whether Australia truly is the number one Test team in the world.
We know Australia at home are devastating frontrunners but do they have the collective mettle to climb out of the deep, dark valley that appeared from nowhere?
These are the Tests when players’ careers are defined … when the wicket is tough(ish), the bones are creaking, the batsmen are set and the deficit is bulging.
Does Australia have a Ben Stokes, a Steve Waugh or an Allan Border in its ranks, a man strong enough to swim against the tide for long enough to break the game?
Any Australian batsmen who shines knows the selectors will never forget their deeds. Normally it’s the bowlers who have to bail out the team.
This time the batsmen must stand up as well.
This has been a fascinating Test already but the best of it is yet to come.
India’s lead of 82 is not out of hand – yet – and their tail does have a reputation for vanishing with a click of the fingers.
But if they are still batting at lunch on day three history tells us Australia will not climb the mountain.
Australia, so buoyant after their Adelaide rampage, suddenly look red-faced and rattled. Stumps was almost a merciful relief for Australia on day two. That’s how much India dominated the day.
No-one saw this coming. The Indian side we mocked as the Adelaide 36ers in the first Test have morphed into the Melbourne Tigers. Go figure.
Australia’s patient, precise radar of Adelaide has suddenly started to scramble amid the pressures of Ajinkya Rahane’s endless patience and a flurry of dropped catches which made fieldsmen feel like Christmas turkeys.
The secret spice in India’s effort is the confident way they played Nathan Lyon, using their feet, attacking him and trying not to let him settle.
They have put significant thought into how they play Australia’s anchorman in the belief that if they can snap the anchor rope the rest of Australia’s planning will wobble.
In some ways the final act of the day – Travis Head having a dolly from century-maker Rahane jarred from his hands as rain and wind swept the ground – embodied the theme of a day of dishevelment for the home side.
If India rebounds from being bowled out for 36 and winning this Test it will, in its own way, stand beside Stokes Headingley miracle as cricket’s comeback of the century, especially with Virat Kohli missing.
India have picked a high risk team in this Test but it is a better team than they chose in the first Test and their gambles have worked.
Keeper Rishabh Pant may at times appear to have cement in his gloves but his jaunty 29 gave the innings a vibrant pulse while Ravi Jadeja’s unconquered 40 was equally priceless.
The bonus for India is they have five bowlers to press home their advantage. The pressure is on.
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