By Jai Bednall

COMMENT

Remember those conversations over Christmas lunch about how good the cricket had been between Australia and India?

How, after two closely-fought test matches in Adelaide and Perth, it was looming as a historic series in the mould of the 2005 Ashes where match after match went down to the wire?

Not to be.

The weather prevented Virat Kohli's side ending its tour on a high note and sealing a 3-1 series win in Sydney, as the match was called a draw without a ball being bowled on day five.

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The Aussies were 6-0 at stumps on Sunday, trailing the tourists by 316 runs and the clouds remained in the NSW capital as persistent drizzle brought an early end to the match.

India were hoping to take 10 Aussie wickets today to end a historic visit that saw it win a test series in Australia for the first time — but the weather gods weren't on the same page.

Still, the tourists will be ecstatic with the 2-1 series result, which means they leave the country as the outright winner for the first time after 71 years of trying.

What's more, the Aussies' batting woes proved unprecedented - no one wearing the baggy green this summer managed to score a hundred, making it the first time in 136 years Australia has failed to produce a century-maker in a four-test series on home soil.

After the thrills of bowler-friendly pitches in the first two clashes, watching the matches in Melbourne and Sydney have been like going from Christmas ham to mince pies.

It's a summer shame and cricket powerbrokers — particularly in Australia — can't afford to write the situation off as the breaks of the game.

Some of the reasons that saw the series fall in a hole are controllable and should be fixed.

THE SPORTSMANSHIP WAS BORING

This will be an unpopular opinion for some but give me a Mitchell Johnson-Virat Kohli staredown over Tim Paine-Rishabh Pant banter any day.

The series was trending the right way in Perth as Paine and Kohli started to get under each other's skin. But the umpires — and who knows what conversations were had behind closed doors — quickly shut it down.

And we were the poorer for it.

Cricket Australia made sure we heard every delightful exchange between the wicketkeepers as they surged on with their image repair job, but it was cute at best, not real entertainment.

Captains Tim Paine and Virat Kohli clashed in Perth. Photo / Getty
Captains Tim Paine and Virat Kohli clashed in Perth. Photo / Getty

The entire approach to the Indian side — and Kohli — was frustrating, to be honest.

More Australians objected to the catch Peter Handscomb claimed to end Kohli's triple figure innings in Perth than the one KL Rahul scooped up in Adelaide to leave Josh Hazlewood and the Aussies 31 runs short of victory.

They were almost identical but our willingness to bend over backwards to be good sports shone through.

And it wasn't an isolated moment.

What other sport has its CEO and former captains criticise fans for attempting to intimidate or put off the opposition with booing?

Test match cricket is supposed to be war. Surely we can begrudgingly appreciate Kohli's brilliance without talking about him like the second coming of Bradman.

He only averaged 40 in the series after all and last time I checked Steve Smith's average was still significantly better (61 to 54) so why the rush to brand Kohli the best in the world?

THE AUSSIES WEREN'T GOOD ENOUGH

But not the ones who were focused on most.

The uproar at Marnus Labuschagne's selection in Sydney was misdirected.

It really doesn't matter how well your last-selected player performs — ask Rahul.

He scored 57 runs in five innings but it didn't hurt India.

The conversation started to turn in the right direction at the SCG as the real culprits started being exposed.

Marnus Labuschagne was a surprise inclusion for the Sydney test. Photo / Getty
Marnus Labuschagne was a surprise inclusion for the Sydney test. Photo / Getty

Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh needed to lead the batting in the absence of Smith and David Warner and didn't come close.

In retrospect, Australia only needed them to combine for about 125 runs in four innings in Adelaide to ensure the worst result in the series was a draw.

They managed less than a hundred.

The bowlers were also put in the gun during India's long first innings in Melbourne and Sydney but while not at their absolute best they weren't the problem this summer.

They put Australia in position to claim what should have been a 2-0 lead, and it would have been a different series at that point.

THE COIN TOSS KILLED THE CONTEST

It's an old argument but the facts remain undeniable — the coin toss is too important in the outcome of a cricket test.

We spend hours and hours debating selections and tactics to within an inch of their life but at the end of the day calling heads or tails correctly is far more important than any other decision a captain makes.

India are unbeatable under Kohli when they get to decide who bats first, winning 18 and drawing three of 21 correct calls entering the Sydney test.

Tim Paine has won one toss from seven matches as skipper — in Perth, his only victory.

It's not just an advantage, it's decisive and more than anything — yes, anything, even Cheteshwar Pujara's runs or Jasprit Bumrah's wickets — resulted in India winning the series.

The Indian Cricket Team celebrate winning the Border Gavaskar trophy against Australia. Photo / Getty
The Indian Cricket Team celebrate winning the Border Gavaskar trophy against Australia. Photo / Getty

Test cricket is right to hold on to certain traditions but when something is a clear problem it has to go.

Former coach Darren Lehmann agrees, but his suggestion of having the opposition choose what they want to do wouldn't have helped Australia this summer.

How about one toss at the start of the series and alternating from there?

THE PITCHES IN MELBOURNE AND SYDNEY STUNK

Another dead horse but it should keep getting flogged until something changes.

Test cricket can't afford to have batsmen dominate in today's cluttered sporting and streaming landscape.

Relying on the loyalty of fans to stick with an inferior product is a risky strategy as the ability to change the channel to something more interesting becomes easier and easier.

Why would a sports fan have continued watching Chetweshwar Pujara and the Indian batsmen plod along in Sydney when Golden State and Houston were fighting out a 135-134 overtime thriller at the same time?

Test cricket remains the most exciting form of the game when batting looks difficult but when it's not it becomes one of the most boring sports to watch in the world.

It doesn't matter if batting averages drop to 40 or if matches are regularly finished in three or four days.

Give the bowlers — and the fans — what they want.

The coin toss influence also makes a spicy pitch crucial.

There's no point packing 70,000 fans in on Boxing Day only to have batsmen block them into submission.

Or to have a pitch begin to deteriorate on days three and four if the game has already been decided before then because one team batted for all of days one and two.

Groundsmen of Australia, please err on the side of creating a wicket that offers the bowlers too much.

The obsession with five days of cricket is overrated — especially in Sydney where it's almost a guarantee we'll lose time to the weather.

Pat Cummins of Australia is bowled by Mohammed Shami of India during day four of the fourth test. Photo / Getty
Pat Cummins of Australia is bowled by Mohammed Shami of India during day four of the fourth test. Photo / Getty

What makes test cricket special is every match and every series feels incredibly important because history is made and you never get a chance to change it.

But Australia's approach to the ball-tampering sanctions, the preparation of our pitches and the selection of the team gave the impression Australia were happy as long as it looked like we tried hard in this series.

Expectations should have been higher and fans suffered as a result.

Hopefully, the game won't too.