Amidst the justifiable jubilation following Indian Test team's first-ever series win in Australia earlier this year, some sober voices asked a 'What if' question. What if Australia had Steve Smith and David Warner in their line-up? Would they have averted an Indian win?
Some Indian fans brushed this question aside. One very senior journalist also asserted that Smith and Warner wouldn't have made a difference to the end result. The Indian pace bowling attack, in their view, would have dealt with them as well as they did with other Aussie batsmen.
This is utterly delusional. Steve Smith's form before his one-year ban and after it should convince everyone that his presence in a side makes a huge difference. And now, David Warner's avaricious run-scoring against Pakistan has once again proved that, whatever be his performance away from home, in Australia, he is as prolific as anyone.
Taken together, the way Smith and Warner have been scoring runs should make all Indian fans, Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri grateful that these two weren't playing when their team was in Australia.
For all those who are not convinced of this assertion, just look at the Ashes series earlier this year. Take out Smith's performance from it and Australia would have, in all probability, lost 0-4. They ended up drawing the series 2-2. And this was when Warner endured a miserable series.
Impact of Smith and Warner
In Test cricket, we have repeatedly seen that one man's success can lift the collective performance of the team. If one batsman is batting well, he will build partnerships with others and make them play better. That batsman would soak in a lot of pressure from the opposition bowling attack and allow breathing space to lesser players.
Now, if two batsmen in a team are scoring heavily, the bowling attack of the other team would expend almost all its energy in dealing with them. This would render their bowling to other members of the line-up less sharp. This was witnessed in the 2017/18 Ashes down under and also in the 2019 edition.
Would Indian bowlers have stopped them?
Some people would argue that the quality of Indian bowling is so good that they would have dealt with these batsmen successfully. Even if this argument is accepted, it cannot be stretched to the point of asserting that both Smith and Warner would have had completely barren four matches in the series against India.
Anyone who saw that series knows that the biggest reason for Australia's loss was the complete spinelessness of their batting. Nobody from their side got a hundred. Warner and Smith are, undoubtedly, much better than all those who played for Australia in that series. Even if they hadn't scored a ton of runs, but had made substantial contributions, it would have made a huge difference.
After all, the final scoreline was 2-1. Couple of fifties each from both of them, had they been playing, might have been all that was needed to deny India victory. So, if you are an Indian fan, do rejoice in India's triumph but don't think that it was without a big helping of good luck.