With rain forcing the last two games of the seven-match one-day to be abandoned, India are now in a tight spot. Australia are leading the series 2-1 with two games to go. The only way India can now win the series is if they are victorious in the upcoming two matches, at Nagpur and Bangalore, weather permitting of course. The equation is pretty simple for India on paper, but on the field, it will be an extremely challenging situation. There will be less pressure on Australia, knowing they only have to win one game to clinch the series.
India only have themselves to blame for the situation they find themselves in at present. They were on the verge of winning the third ODI without much trouble, but one over from Ishant Sharma changed it all. What should have been 2-1 in India’s favour ended up with the scoreline favouring Australia. At that moment, it seemed like the momentum had shifted Aussies’ way. But, with weather interrupting the last two matches, one wonders whether that one over will prove to be the defining moment of the series.
Since India have to win both the remaining matches in the series, it automatically means that they cannot falter in any aspect, and will have to be on top of their game in all departments. Batting has always been their strength, and they will heavily depend on their batters to pull them out of trouble. Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma’s contribution, as always, will be extremely crucial at the top, but how the batsmen deal with the short ball might well determine which way the series goes. Australia have found a definite chink in the Indian batting, and will go all out to exploit the same.
There a few Indian batsmen, in particular, who have a point to prove against the rising stuff. Since his match-winning blast in the sole T20, Yuvraj Singh has looked deflated against the short ball. The southpaw definitely needs to fire. Suresh Raina has just not seemed the part. He has been asked to bat at number four, but has been worked out by chin music. Raina has often claimed that he has no issue against the short ball, but his record, including this series, proves otherwise. Last but not the least, Ravindra Jadeja has also been taken out by the short stuff more than once. Can the trio turn the tables?
Bowling will definitely be India’s weak spot. Mohammad Shami’s spell in the fourth match was a definite positive, but he will have to continue his good work. Also, Shami would need support from the likes of R. Vinay Kumar, Jaydev Unadkat, or whoever plays, even if it is Ishant! Bhuvneshwar Kumar must come back into the eleven for he can at least keep the runs down in the early overs when not picking up wickets. Further, Ravichandran Ashwin will have to improve his performance significantly. All in all, India cannot afford a lapse in any department.
--By A Cricket Analyst