Some obsessions are worth the price you pay.
For Virat Kohli’s India, its obsession with winning a Test series on Australian soil is now just a game away.
“If you want to win a series away from home it has to be an obsession. And once you’re obsessed, changing your decision because of opinion is not an option at all,” Kohli said.
“I think that’s been the most important factor for us, that we haven’t changed our mindset. At the end of the day, your belief is what matters because you’re out there competing.
“Hats off to the whole team for sticking together, believing in themselves and being obsessed with getting results.”
— #7Cricket (@7Cricket) December 30, 2018
India is within reach of its breakthrough win in Australia after another top-order Australian batting capitulation at the MCG.
It was as methodical as it was predictable as Australia lost wickets with greater regularity and punctuality than Melbourne’s trams.
Set 399 for victory after India declared at 8-122 in its second innings, Tim Paine’s team was never going to win this Test match.
England’s 1928-29 touring team reeled in a victory target of 332 with three wickets in hand at the MCG to set a record for a run chase that remains the benchmark.
Plenty of fine teams have attempted to better that mark in the decades since and come up short.
This particular generation of green caps never looked capable of rewriting that piece of history.
Australia’s batting presents as a montage of self-sabotage by a modestly talented group who aren’t able to offset their inadequacies with the kind of stubborn resistance and work ethic that Test cricket demands.
The numbers don’t lie.
Australia’s top six batsmen in the three Tests this summer have mustered an aggregate of 828 runs at an average of 23.
That doesn’t even reach all-rounder status.
No Australian top-order batsman has averaged more than 30 so far in this series.
None have compiled a century in the first three Tests at home, and only one batsman has saluted the dressing room for a century in Australia’s past eight Test matches.
Not since the England tour of 1978-79 when Mike Brearley’s team routed Graham Yallop’s Australian team at the height of the World Series Cricket split has Australia’s batting looked so fragile.
(That’s being tough on Yallop’s men though, as both the captain and Kim Hughes notched up centuries early in that series).
There is a bull market for runs in Australia and it seems set to continue for some time.
The tough thing for Australian cricket fans to accept is the nature of the dismissals.
Travis Head (34) worked hard to get himself into an innings and just as quickly repeated his disastrous first-innings cross bat shot to be bowled by Ishant Sharma.
Mitchell Marsh is so low on confidence at the crease it’s almost painful watching him bat and waiting for the hammer to fall.
WICKET: Mitch Marsh goes for 10.
— Fox Cricket (@FoxCricket) December 29, 2018
Marsh started 2018 with a century against England at the SCG. He followed up that innings with an impressive 96 in the win against South Africa in Durban before the world caved in on Australian cricket in Cape Town.
It’s been a rapid decline in form for the big West Australian since then. In 2018 he played 15 Test innings at an average of 21.7 – it’s the sort of form that would have you heading back to Shield cricket as some young gun pressed their claim for selection.
Except he isn’t and they’re not.
And that’s as much a reflection on the dearth of emerging talent as it is on Marsh’s inability to shake off the funk he’s clearly trapped in.
There is no price to be paid for Australia’s batsmen for their recklessness and impatience, for it seems Australian cricket simply doesn’t have the currency to spend.
The squabble over Aaron Finch’s role as a Test opener at the start of the series seems risible now.
— Telegraph Sport (@telegraph_sport) December 29, 2018
The Victorian selectors refused to bat Finch at the top of the order and were howled down by all corners of the cricket world for having the temerity to make their own determination on Finch’s suitability to open the innings.
Well, there’s a reason why Victoria has been collecting Sheffield Shield titles for fun in recent years. They know their players and what they’re capable of.
Finch may have a role in this team, but it’s clear that facing the new ball isn’t one of them.
The one shining light in the match was the performance of Pat Cummins, who was the only Australian bowler to dictate terms to the Indians.
WICKET: Jadeja goes for 5.
Pat Cummins is on 🔥
— Fox Cricket (@FoxCricket) December 29, 2018
His match figures of 9-99 are a career best but it was as much his tenacity and durability that impressed.
Add to that his superb 63 with the bat in Australia’s second innings and you’d be hard pressed to find a better all-round performance from a Test cricketer in a losing team.
Many wondered if the injuries that plagued Cummins after his Test debut in November 2011 would mean he would never reach the heights that brilliant performance in Johannesburg promised.
Cummins has been all that and more.
As the Sydney Test approaches, he’ll be hoping a few of his teammates can rediscover their taste for the fight.
You can’t choose the level of your talent, but you do get to choose your mindset.
Tim Paine and his team have just a few days to sort it out and get that right.