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Why do Australia keep failing in the big moments against India?

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Last Updated on 1 year by Charbel Coorey

Opinion: Why do Australia keep failing in the big moments against India? | A look at why Australia keep failing in key stages in BGT matches

It’s 2014/15. Australia are beating India at home once again, taking a 2-0 lead after as many matches. Steve Smith is hitting centuries for fun, Nathan Lyon is bowling Australia to victory, and there are contributions right the way down the lineup.

But, the tide was slowly beginning to shift. Virat Kohli, who took over from MS Dhoni as captain during the series, was starting to impose his never-stand-down attitude on the Indian team. He hit a magnificent 692 runs in the four Tests, including an Adelaide masterclass that took his side close to a memorable victory.

However, it was the celebration for his fourth hundred of the series – in the final Test at Sydney – that said that India are not going to back down any further. Along with the likes of Ajinkya Rahane and Murali Vijay, the visitors continued to fight hard and drew the final two Tests, with the live cricket scores looking better for India than they previously did in Australia.

Since Australia went 2-0 up in that very series, they have gone on to win just three of the next 16 Border-Gavaskar Trophy (BGT) Tests. One came in Pune thanks to memorable performances by Steve Smith and Steve O’Keefe, while the other two came in Perth in 2018 and Adelaide in 2020 – the scene of the infamous 36-all out.

Throughout many of these encounters, especially in the last five winless matches since the 2020 Adelaide Test, Australia have had numerous opportunities to seize the advantage, but have failed to do so. The latest was in Delhi, reducing India to the depths of 139/7 in pursuit of their first innings effort of 263, only to end up losing the Test just 24 hours later.

Why India are winning the big moments over Australia in BGT matches

In 2017, Australia were on top in Bengaluru after winning the first Test in Pune. They let it slip. In 2018/19, they got back in the series in Perth, but were then dominated in the final two Tests. In 2020/21, they held all the cards, but managed to lose.

And now, in 2023, the BGT trophy is staying in India after just five days of cricket across two Tests. Here are a few key reasons why.

India have looked at adversity as an opportunity. Australia, the opposite

There is still a sense of disbelief that India won the 2020/21 series 2-1. After all, they were coming off the Adelaide disaster, countless injuries, extended time away from home and absence of Virat Kohli. With the series locked at 1-1, India’s inexperienced youngsters stared the Gabba fortress in the face and didn’t blink.

Such an effort cannot come without belief. Ravi Shastri, who was coach in the India series, revealed his speech to the India team after the shellshock of the 36. The visitors looked at that low moment as a motivator; the chance to achieve something special, rather than feeling sorry for themselves.

“The most important thing is getting among the players and setting a tone from the outset: what you believe in, what you think of them and changing the mindset to compete and win,” Shastri told The Guardian.

Now compare this to Australia. While the team itself didn’t complain about the Nagpur pitch, the media was up in arms before a ball was even bowled. Whether the coverage got in the minds of the players is cause for debate, but there is little doubt that the players’ minds are muddled by the surfaces below their feet rather than the ball coming out of the bowler’s hand.

Twice in the 2023 series have Australia had the luxury to bat first. And twice they blew it. Instead of seeing the spinning pitch as an opportunity to put India under serious pressure in the fourth innings at Delhi, Australia ran away from the fight, choosing to sweep no matter the delivery in a display of panic that was in complete contrast to India’s fightbacks in 2017 and 2020/21.

India’s trust in their skills to produce the match-changing performances

Cheteshwar Pujara knows what he is good at. He can bat for hours, as he has done so numerous times in Australia. He finds no need to change that, as it allows the others around him to score.

Australia know that getting stuck on the crease in India is a big no no. They also know they aren’t particularly strong on the sweep. Lo and behold, they stayed in their crease in Nagpur and refused to move away from the sweep in Delhi.

Also, it’s not as if Australia haven’t had the opportunities to post bigger partnerships. The first innings in Delhi was rife with starts, mirroring the kind of performances we saw at home in 2020/21.

In that series, Australia produced 24 double-figure partnerships in the first two Tests. Only three crossed 50, and there were no 100+ run partnerships. After bowling India out for 36, the Australians had the chance, through their batting, to sink India further into the mire. Instead, they let them back in the series.

In the first innings of the Sydney Test, there were two partnerships worth 100 runs. In the rest of the innings, there were five 20+ partnerships cut short (26, 27, 23, 32 and 23). Next in Brisbane, Australia had 13 double-figure stands, but just the one century partnership (113).

Australia not as willing to stay in the fight as long as India

It’s simple. India are willing to stay in the fight longer than Australia. Once India gain an advantage, they don’t look back. When Australia look to be getting on top, they hand the advantage back with key errors in judgement such as reverse-sweeping deliveries off leg-stump or the captain – Tim Paine and Pat Cummins – letting the game drift in key stages.

One such example was in the last Test, with Cummins allowing Axar and Ashwin to stroll along, without attempting a single short ball himself until the partnership was well and truly established.

Whether it’s home or away, there is always the feeling that India have Australia at arm’s length because of the sheer trust they have in their skills, and the ability to execute those skills for extended periods. Also, India’s mental strength and stomach for the fight clearly outshines Australia’s, and the results speak for themselves.


Now, it’s time for Australia to stand up and be counted. They can no longer regain the BGT in the 2023 series, but there is a sense of pride when putting on the coveted baggy green. And, of course, there is the small measure of picking up a positive result to seal a berth in the World Test Championship Final.

Charbel Coorey
Charbel Cooreyhttps://cricblog.net
Charbel is the owner & founder of cricblog.net, based in Sydney, Australia. He started the website to fulfill his love for the game of cricket. Charbel has also been featured on other publications including OP India, Times of India, and The Roar, among others. For any story tips or questions, you can contact Charbel at charbelcoorey@cricblog.net.

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