Australia 343 (Matthew Hayden 134, Phil Jacques 66, Anil Kumble 5 for 84, Zaheer Khan 4 for 94) & 351 for 7 dec (Michael Clarke 73, Phil Jacques 51, Harbhajan Singh 3 for 101) beat India 196 (Sachin Tendulkar 62, Saurav Ganguly 43, Stuart Clarke 4 for 28, Brett Lee 4 for 46) and 160 (VVS Laxman 43, Saurav Ganguly 40, Mitchell Johnson 3 for 21) by 337 runs
It is curious tribute, coated with wistfulness and a tinge of tragedy, that the most obvious part of Ganguly's 100th Test is that more than anything, India miss the spunk the side had when he was captain.
There are two ways (well, there are a 100 convoluted, over-intellectualized ways but two basic ones) in which the 499 run target could be viewed. You could look at it for what it is- a near impossible target, a definite defeat, a huge thrashing. Or you could look at it for what it should be- a brilliant opportunity, a win all-lose nothing chance to impose yourself on the series despite a defeat by making a lunge for the target and getting close, giving the Aussies a scare.
The thing about Ganguly's side was they could be completely outplayed and beaten but there would always be the brashness, the bloody-minded 'no matter how many punches you throw at me I will always get atleast a couple back at you, which is why you should be afraid of me' belief. The ideal number two is one who keeps pressing on and coming at the number one no matter how badly he is thrashed, which is what can work in a big-bully template that Australia operate in. Trying to associate any of the above qualities with the Indian performance in the first test is an exercise that can make you laugh, or make you a laughing stock.
The Indian batting line up is one which has double centurions from number 1 to 5, and centurions from 6 to 8, but they seem completely unaware of that. Unlike the side in 2001 and 2003-04 which looked hungry for blood, this side looks like a corporate businessman thrown into the Amazon jungles- unsure, uncomfortable, cautious and who when faced with a ravenous man-eater, looks to try and negotiate with the creature and arrive at a mutually agreeable solution rather than throwing rocks at it.
It is difficult to shake a defeat of this magnitude off, but a side as mercurial as India should be able to do. By their nature, the Indian batsmen are like superheroes - dawdling, timid losers by day and mighty heroes by night, except that with the Indian batting line up, the transformation seems to be at random points of time, brought about by unexpected and unseen events. What they will really, really like now in Sydney (since it hasn't come in the second innings here, even if in a losing cause) is one extraordinary, brilliant, brave and belligerent individual effort, a Laxman 167, or a Sangakkara 192, to shake them out of their general state of nothingness.
This series was (it is so natural to say 'was' now instead of 'is') expected to be a cracker not just because the Indian team is, on paper, a decent match for Australia but more because unlike other teams to have washed up in mediocrity at its shores, the Indians actually had some arrogance, a lack of fear. With this defeat, you can hear the Englishmen, the West Indians, the Lankans and the rest of the cricketing world nod their heads and welcome a new member to their club. There might be more articulate ways to put it, but it was quite pathetic, really.