In the wake of India's remarkable thrashing of Australia in the first Test, a frank confession from skipper Rohit Sharma has rubbed salt into the wounds of the visitors. Arriving in India on a high after a successful Test summer at home, Australia were comprehensively thumped by an innings and 132 runs in just two and a half days.
It was an abrupt crash back to earth for Pat Cummins and company, particularly after a gamble at the selection table which saw Travis Head, the most prolific run-scorer over the home summer, dropped in favour of Matthew Renshaw. The recalled former opener struggled batting in the middle order with scores of just 0 and 2 for the match, but he was far from the only Aussie to struggle at the crease.
Save for Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, none of the Australian batsmen were able to remotely come to grips with the surface in Nagpur - defying the expectations of Sharma. Instead, the spin tandem of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandra Ashwin dominated, the latter taking eight wickets across Australia's two innings.
The total collapse of Australia's batting lineup, particularly in the second innings, left many observers alarmed - but not Sharma, who was pleasantly surprised by how the match unfolded. He said after the game that he had expected a much more hard-fought contest in the field.
“We were prepared to have hard day‘s bowling, spending session after session. We never thought they would get bowled out in a session,” Sharma said.
“As you saw, the pitch became slower and slower and there was no bounce on the pitch, so it was a bit of surprise. I don‘t know the mental status of the Australian team. I can vouch for our team and we are the ones who want to play on pitches like these … because we have all grown up playing on pitches like these, so there is no talk about pitches anymore in the changing room.
“Australia love playing Test cricket and they take pride in representing the country and so we are quite aware of them bouncing back and what they can do as team as well. We want to play the cricket we are playing and we would continue to do that in three games that we have. As captain, I need to focus on what we have in Delhi and then move on from there.”
Australia wounded after brutal thumping in first Test
After Cummins won the toss and elected to bat first, Australia were skittled for 177 on day one, while India racked up 400 during their only innings. Australia's batters looked clueless against Ashwin on a turning pitch as the prolific India spinner starred with figures of 5-37, giving him eight wickets for the match.
The tourists narrowly avoided their lowest Test innings score against India - 83 at the MCG in 1981. A tour that began with so much promise, as Australia looked to win a Test series in India for the first time since 2004, is in disarray.
India will take a 1-0 lead into the next match at Delhi's Arun Jaitley Stadium, a venue where they have not lost a Test since 1987.
"Sometimes it's almost easier to put behind you those kind of losses," Cummins said. "You are looking at small margins, you have to have a hard look at your game and the big strides you need to change to give yourself the best chance next week.
"We've had a really good run the last 12 months. There hasn't been many losses in that change room. I don't think we need to reinvent the wheel, it's just tweaking different approaches to how we play, and maybe particular methods."
Australia's first match in India in six years started in chaotic fashion and ended the same way. Australia badly missed the services of allrounder Cameron Green, who is no certainty to play in Delhi as he continues his recovery from a broken finger.
Fast bowlers Mitchell Starc (finger) and Josh Hazlewood (achilles) will also be pushing to be selected for the second Test. The only bright spot for Australia was the stunning debut of offspinner Todd Murphy.
The 22-year-old finished with figures of 7-124 to become the sixth Australian to take seven or more wickets in his debut Test, with the most recent before him being spinner Jason Krezja in 2008.
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