If India are to complete a historic victory in Australia, Virat Kohli surely started the summer odds-on favourite to take home man of the series honours.
Fast forward to the New Year and it’s two unassuming Indians vying for what would be the cherry on top of one of the tourists’ greatest achievements – a maiden series victory in Australia.
For all Kohli’s larger-than-life theatrics and world-beating ability with the bat, his star has been dimmed by a relatively unknown batsman by India standards and a fast bowler playing just his tenth Test match.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Jasprit Bumrah have emerged as India’s unlikely heroes in Australia, with one of them to add the series’ highest individual honour to their trophy room. But who will take the chocolates?
To put it simply, the 25-year-old quick is a fast-bowling phenom.
After helping India clinch the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with a supreme display in Melbourne, Kohli declared: “Jasprit obviously is the best bowler in the world … He is a match winner, without doubt.” It’s by no means a far-fetched statement despite Bumrah playing just his ninth Test at the time.
The quirky right-armer has taken 20 wickets at a mind-boggling 14.65 to put Australia’s ‘famed’ fast bowling cartel to shame in their own backyard.
Rarely – if ever – has an Indian fast bowler dominated a rival Australian attack away from home but with Bumrah the proof is in the pudding. Mitchell Starc (13 wickets for the series), Josh Hazlewood (12) and Pat Cummins (14) have been provided a masterclass in pace bowling, as Bumrah – though three Tests – continually beat the outside edge, attacked the stumps, and brutalised Australia’s batsmen with short-pitched missiles.
Australia’s three quicks have failed to dismiss a single Indian batsman lbw this series, while Bumrah has trapped six Aussie victims leg-before.
Test greats and cricket pundits around the country have lamented Australia’s inability to unearth an ‘old-school’ batsman in the Pujara mould – a man who values his wicket above all else.
The No.3 batsman has rarely put a foot – or hand – wrong on his way to plundering 458 runs and three centuries (to date) over three-and-a-half Tests.
Pujara’s stoic innings have earned comparison’s to India’s original ‘wall’, Rahul Dravid. But unlike the fourth highest Test run scorer of all time, Pujara’s ability to completely nullify Australia’s lauded bowling attack on their home turf has guided India to an almost inevitable series win.
To put his series feats into context, Pujara has registered twice as many runs as Australia’s highest scorer Travis Head, while occupying the crease for well over 1000 balls to strangle the hosts into submission.
WHO IS YOUR MAN OF THE SERIES – BUMRAH OR PUJARA?