As forks in the road go, the remarkable Indian win in the 2nd Test was pivotal in this unexpectedly compelling series.
With it representing a huge momentum shift after India was under real threat of facing a heavy defeat going into day three. Only for the combination of telling lapses by the Aussies letting the hosts off the hook allowing India to take full advantage through their resolve as a unit and lethal skill in the confines.
The momentum in the wake of Bengaluru has become tidal wave like with the Aussies dealt a telling blow losing Mitchell Starc. Starc is irreplaceable in the Aussie 11, not just for his strike bowling and the meaning it represents to the rest of the bowling unit but also his underrated lower order batting that has already proved definitive in the series.
Looking forward to Ranchi and the series going forward, Starc's injury is a standing 8 count that the Aussies will find hard to recover from
Equally as crucial in the turnaround were the renewed tactics of the Indian batsmen to the Aussie spinners who up until that point had been lethal in the series. It led to a quantum leap of returns for the Aussie spin twins of Steven O'Keefe and Nathan Lyon from 234/26 in the first three innings of the series reduced to 118/2 in the pivotal 2nd innings of the 2nd Test. The changed batting guards to counter Lyon after him obliterating the Indian batting in the first innings with 50/8 was a standout. With the guard marked on a more off stump line challenging the off spinner to counter with his line and proving decisive when he failed to do so
It provided a pointer to the impending storm of the Indian top 6 usually resembling a murderers row in home confines awaking from its mysterious slumber.
A worry for the tourist made all the more valid with Virat Kohli astounding all by only averaging 10 so far in the series along with the vastly underrated Murali Vijay strengthening the hosts batting by returning to the top of the order.
Kohli is bound to awaken at some point, it seems an inevitability.
Putting the acid on Australia to counter, raising the question whether they can?
The toss is always crucial in Tests in Asia, but looms series defining in this Test
Australia to stay valid in the series needs to win it, bat long and big.
A scenario that will rely on Dave Warner finding his feet in the conditions after giving rise to his detractors that diminish him as a 'flat track bully'. His Indian average of 24.41 after 6 tests on top of his away record in Tests of 35.82, as opposed to a home average of 59.21 does little to quieten them.
His time is now, particularly in lieu of a top 6 that only has two averaging over 25 in the series.
The loss of Mitch Marsh at 6 to injury will aid the batting but the plan to either insert speculative entities such as Marcus Stoinis or Glenn Maxwell in his place is hardly an answer. Particularly with the duo averaging respectively 17.9 and 25.9 with willow in the Australian first class comp the Sheffield Shield this season. Made worse with the duo playing in the strongest team in the competition, Victoria.
Inserting Usman Khawaja in the top 6 would represent greater sense, particularly with the need for a 5th bowler hardly justified with the spinners getting through so many overs. Fans will point to Khawaja's struggles against spin in Sri Lanka recently, but after a brilliant Summer with bat in Australia, he certainly deserves a chance and fully justifies one before the aforementioned 'bits n pieces' duo masquerading as 'all-rounders'.
If you need further justification for Khawaja, think of Ricky Ponting's initial struggles in Asia and how he adapted to the demands.
Extending my rant over Khawaja, if he is not at least given a go, then why was he selected for a place on the tour in the first place?????
The other side of the coin is if the toss falls in India's favour and it bats it is likely to represent the first nail in the Aussie coffin in the series.
With them fuelled by their remarkable win in the 2nd test coupled with them slowly getting on top of an Aussie attack now missing a key figure in Starc.
If they post a big first innings score a heavy defeat for the Aussies would not surprise