IND vs AUS 4th test: Smith To Lead In Ahmedabad, Cummins stays home
IND vs AUS 4th test: Smith To Lead In Ahmedabad, Cummins stays home

IND vs AUS: Smith makes the Australians tick after a horrific start: After Cummins left, Steve Smith took over as captain, batsman, and fielder, even though a big score eluded him. India has won the Border-Gavaskar Trophy for the fourth time in a row, beating Australia 2-1 on the subcontinent after a grueling four-Test series. Following three low-scoring games on blazing turners, the tour concluded in Ahmedabad on a batting paradise where four players hit triple digits – a draw seemed inescapable.

Winning a Test series in India remains Australia’s ultimate frontier, with its most recent trip to the subcontinent ending in disaster.

The 2023 Border-Gavaskar Trophy was Australia’s last chance to defeat India. Yet, Usman Khawaja, David Warner, and Nathan Lyon have all come up short three times in the last ten years. Both Steve Smith and Mitchell Starc, both 33, are unlikely to return in 2027, with the Australian stand-in skipper admitting that this will most likely be his last Border-Gavaskar Trophy in India.

Steve Smith makes the difference:

A day after taking the ugliest swipe of his career in “one hour of madness in Delhi”, Steve Smith and Australia looked down and out. Old rivals sharpened their knives. Even the statesmanlike Michael Atherton tried his hand at it.

Australian legend Allan Border would bring up the most insane point about Smith giving the thumbs-up to Indian bowlers after getting beaten and using that as a symbolic image for Australians getting too “soft”. It was ridiculous because Smith has always had tics like that, in good and bad times.

Not only was his batting declining, but so were his catching abilities, which were noticed by the likes of Mark Waugh. Former Australian greats and old English hands rubbed their hands in disgust and glee, respectively, as the heat was turned up on Smith and Australia. In this context, Pat Cummins returned to Australia to be with his dying mother, leaving Smith as captain. David Warner missed the tour due to a concussion and fracture. Josh Hazlewood was also unable to get in shape in time.

Cummins’ Australia appeared shell-shocked in the first two Tests, with panicked reactions ranging from selections to middle-order batting. It began with the exclusion of Travis Head, their in-form batsman, from the first Test, as well as Matt Renshaw. The selectors’ lack of faith in them became a self-fulfilling prophecy within the team, as their batting crumbled in the first two Tests on spinners. Smith had shown great promise in the first innings of the first Test, but he fell, leaving his teammates without a savior.

Australia’s fortunes in the series began to improve when they were at their lowest point, which coincided with Smith enjoying captaincy, batting, and catching.

What makes the positive difference:

ICC T20 World Cup 2021: Steve Smith ready to forgo T20 World Cup 2021 for upcoming Ashes
Steve Smith

Smith was similarly efficient on the sandpit in Indore, setting the fields for Kuhnemann that allowed him to bowl as close to the stumps as possible and on the middle-stump line, where he caused havoc that set up the game for Australia. He never let India settle into a single line of attack, cleverly shifting the young spinners.

And Smith, the catcher, stood out in the decisive moment that meant the difference between victory and defeat. When Cheteshwar Pujara threatened to take the Indore game away with one of his finest knocks against spin in the second innings, Smith threw himself low to his right at a leg slip to snag a stunner.

It’s unfortunate that this is his final Test in India, and he may not have had a big score in this series, but watching him bat in India has always been a treat. Smith doesn’t do it the way others do it; he does it the way he wants to do it: forward, backward, sideways, with those wonderful hands working overtime, eyes staring at the ball like an obsessed lover; a modern-day original.

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