Angry India proof that Australia are doing well
First things first: Steven Smith and Pete Handscomb did the wrong thing in Bengaluru. There was no justification for trying to seek a steer from the team viewing area about whether or not to refer an lbw decision, and Nigel Llong did exactly the right thing to wave Steven away without the option of taking his review.
A bit like a yellow or red card in soccer, the on-field penalty applied by Llong should have been the end of the matter. Instead there were the remonstrations of India's captain Virat Kohli on the field, then his provocative allegations post-match. While it has been easy to get lost in the detail of the accusations, the underlying fact is that Kohli and India got angry in Bengaluru. They did so after being on the end of an unexpected thrashing in Pune.
It was interesting to me how the Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland handled the affair. He jumped to Steven's defence with strong words that the players on tour would have appreciated. But at the same time he also sought to cool matters behind the scenes with the BCCI, ultimately leading to a code of conduct charge being dropped.
That has freed the series from being hijacked by claim and counter-claim, much as the "Monkeygate" series was in Australia in 2008. More specifically it has freed up the Australians to keep up their bid to beat India, and a clear mind will be as valuable an asset as anything over the next two Tests.
Kohli and his team had little choice but to get angry during the second Test: up to that point they had been beaten on skill by Steven's team, who had shown excellent temperament in preparing for the series and accepting whatever conditions came their way without whingeing. Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were grinning on day one of the Pune Test as the ball spun miles, but it was Australia who finished on top.
Having roused his team with anger, Kohli succeeded in creating a real cauldron of an atmosphere in the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, and in a difficult fourth-innings chase Australia were unable to handle the pressure, as shown by the DRS mistakes made around the dismissals of Shaun Marsh and then Steven. That frenzied fourth afternoon should not dissuade the Australians from maintaining their disciplined and focused approach in Ranchi, because over the course of a long Test series, skill will invariably hold up better than emotion.
Australia do have a couple of areas in which they can find that little bit extra to succeed where they fell short in the second Test. First, there is more to come from David Warner at the top of the order. Over the first two Tests it was obvious how hard David was working to find the right method for India, but in doing so I felt he was a little too tentative, especially against Ashwin, who has such a strong record bowling to him.
David has it in him to play the decisive innings of this series, particularly on pitches where low scoring increases the impact of a batsman who is capable of scoring as quickly as David can. Critically, he will need to identify the right moment to take control, a bit like Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist did when under pressure on a sharply spinning deck in Mumbai in 2001. To do so will take courage, but as his first-innings dismissal in Bengaluru showed, a tentative approach won't do too much good either.
Another key will be Australia's fielding, a topic that can get tiresome but is just so important. David and Steven were among those who missed a handful of hard chances in the second innings in Bengaluru, offering KL Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara the breathing room to prosper, much as India's misses allowed Steven to go on to his tremendous hundred in Pune. As any series goes on, it can get harder to maintain the freshness that allows for the best quality of fielding: that's why it is vital for Steven's team to make the most of half-chances.
Lastly, I don't have a problem with the Australian selectors' gamble on Pat Cummins, taking him to India off the back of one Sheffield Shield match to replace Mitchell Starc. I've got two reasons for this. One, we have already seen in this series that genuine pace is a critical element to success on unresponsive pitches. Two, Australia find themselves in a position few dreamed of being possible before the series. Victory from here would be the equal of anything achieved in recent Australian Test history. In that light, the decision to seek a return from CA's investment in Pat makes sense.
Former wicketkeeper Brad Haddin played 66 Tests for Australia