Ahead of the highly-anticipated four-match Test series, cricket pundits and fans placed their money on Team India to overcome the Australian challenge. But, contrary to popular perception, the visiting Australians shot down the high-flying Virat Kohli brigade to take a surprising 1-0 lead in the series.
Battered and bruised, the world no. 1 Test side desperately needed to win their fans back as the two cricketing giants locked horns in Bengaluru. The second match, filled with personal duels and sensational comebacks, saw the home side bouncing back with a 75-run triumph to level the series.
With the four-match series evenly poised at 1-1, the two teams now head to Ranchi where the third match of the series could probably decide the fate of the all-important series.
On one hand where Kohli's side will be oozing confidence following their morale-boosting win in Bengaluru, the Steven Smith-led Australia find themselves vulnerable with some major problems to address.
The Decision Review System (DRS) controversy in the second Test would have surely disrupted the mindset of the visiting players. And, if that's not enough, the fact that Mitchell Marsh and Mitchell Starc have been ruled out of the ongoing series due to injuries is only going to add to their woes.
Blow for India:
Mitchell Marsh ruled out!
Blow for Australia:
Mitchell Starc ruled out!
While Marsh suffered a shoulder injury, Starc has been ruled out due to a stress fracture in his foot. The absence of Marsh might not hurt the visitors, but not having Starc in their line-up is arguably a major setback for the Aussies.
Starc has been a vital cog for Australia in the ongoing series. Turning the tide in Australia's favour in Pune, the left-hander played a crucial knock of 61 runs in the first innings and then went on to dismiss Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli in successive deliveries to give his side a stronghold of the match.
Mitchell Starc ruled out of the #INDvsAUS series and Steve Smith don't want to follow the rules. God Save Aussies now. ?— Sir Rohit Sharma (@imWrong45) March 10, 2017
In the second Test at Bengaluru, Starc continued to terrorise the Indian batsmen, dismissing Ajinkya Rahane and Karun Nair in consecutive deliveries in the second innings. After Rahane and Pujara shared a century stand denting Australia's chances, the lanky seamer bowled a brilliant spell to bring his side back into the game.
Mitchell Starc has a stress fracture. Out of tour. Australian team has just stress.— Jarrod Kimber (@ajarrodkimber) March 10, 2017
In the two Tests he played in the series, Starc scored 118 runs and took five vital wickets at an average of 30.20.
Injured Mitchell Starc ruled out of the remaining test series. Sucks to be in the Aussie camp right now, I guess. #INDvsAUS— Abhishek (@ChiknaVakeel) March 10, 2017
With Starc sent back home to start his rehabilitation, the Australian cricket board is yet to announce his replacement with Tasmania's Jackson Bird part of the squad as a reserve fast bowler.
Well, the absence of Starc is clearly going to be a game-changer, not just for Australia, but also for India who will now fancy their chances to run away with the series.