New Delhi, Dec 30 (PTI) The legendary Sachin Tendulkar has played against some of the finest Australian teams in his time but when he looks at their current batting line-up, he feels it is "less settled" with some "playing for their spots".
Following India's incredible turnaround in the second Test at Melbourne after the Adelaide debacle, Tendulkar spoke to PTI about Australian batsmanship, Ajinkya Rahane's captaincy, the performance of debutants Mohammed Siraj and Shubman Gill.
"When I look at this Australian batting line-up and look at some of the earlier line-ups, I feel earlier line-ups were settled ones. Those players batted with a different kind of intent but this team doesn't look very settled," Tendulkar said.
In three completed Australian innings in the first two Tests, the Indian bowlers bundled them out for 191, 195 and 200 respectively, something not heard of in the days of Allan Border, Mark Taylor, the Waugh brothers. Or during Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden, Damien Martyn, Adam Gilchrist and even Michael Clarke's time "In this current Australian team, there are players who are not in good form and are unsure about their spots. In earlier teams, those batsmen batted in their slots as there was a lot of surety in their batting line-up," Tendulkar said.
One of the highlights of the series so far has been Ravichandran Ashwin's duels with Steve Smith and Tendulkar explained why the senior off-spinner enjoyed an upper hand.
"In the first Test, Smith got out to an arm ball or you can call it a straighter which Ashwin releases differently. An off-spinner bowls a straighter which skids off the surface when fingers are not on top of the ball." Tendulkar then explained how Ashwin gets the ball to turn and bounce.
"In the second Test, it was not a slider but fingers were on top of the ball which produced bounce and turn.
"Steve Smith played a normal flick to a regulation off-break that any batsman does by instinct and fielder was brilliantly placed there.
"It was a well-planned ball and wicket by Ashwin. Both are class players, so someone is going to have a better day and so far, Ashwin has come out winner in first two Tests." Tendulkar was all praise for Rahane's captaincy as well as his match-changing hundred on a day when batting was difficult under overcast conditions.
"I felt this was a brilliant performance by our team, the manner in which our team was able to play and the way Ajinkya led the team. Also if you look at senior cricketers and their contribution, it has been good," he said.
For someone who has always disapproved of any sort of comparisons, Tendulkar didn't want to compare the leadership styles of Rahane and Virat Kohli.
"People shouldn't get into comparisons with Virat. Ajinkya has different personality. His intent was aggressive. "I would like to remind everyone that they are both Indians and they both play for India, so no individuals comes above India. Team and country is above everything else," he said.
Rahane's knock of 112, according to Tendulkar, was a perfect blend of caution and aggression.
"I thought Ajinkya batted brilliantly. He was calm, relaxed and composed. He had aggressive intent but aggression was rightly balanced by calmness and surety.
"So he did not miss opportunities when a boundary ball was there. And when one had to be patient, he was patient. The intent was very good." He didn't forget to mention pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah's contribution in the victory.
"In the fast bowling department, Bumrah as the leader of the attack has taken more responsibility and whenever the chips are down, he has pushed himself harder. That's the sign of a champion bowler," he said.
The maestro also praised Gill, who played two impressive innings of 45 and 35, and Siraj, who picked five wickets on debut.
"Shubman looked confident and comfortable. He played some good shots off short pitched stuff that Australians bowled. Someone upfront who goes out and scores 45 and 35 so, it is surely a good start," Tendulkar said of the 21-year-old.
He was liberal in his praise for Siraj.
"Let's also not forget how Siraj has also bowled. It did not appear to me that he was playing his first Test match," said the man, who has played 200 Tests.
"The way he bowled his first over and then built it up gradually but never did it look that he was playing his first match. The plans were well thought out. He executed it well. Both debutants were comfortable in execution of their plans." One of the biggest reasons for India's victory, according to Tendulkar, was the presence of three multi-dimensional cricketers in the middle and lower-middle order.
"Jadeja has batted well and it worked. We keep talking about five bowlers, but having Rishabh Pant at No. 6, Jadeja at No. 7 and Ashwin as No. 8 with four hundreds also helps.
"That partnership between Jadeja and Ajinkya was crucial. They added invaluable runs and that put them under pressure. Also crucial were runs that Pant was able to score," he concluded.