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Cracker of a contest on cards

G Unnikrishnan, Bangalore, Nov 1, 2013, DHNS:
Spotlight firmly will be on the struggling Yuvraj Singh. DH Photo/ Srikanta Sharma R
The domination of batsmen has been so absolute in the ongoing series that the bowlers might have felt like castaways.

Multiple factors have contributed to the series being a lop-sided one such as flat pitches and a new set of rules, making it mandatory the use of two new balls and just four fielders outside the circle.

The helplessness of bowlers was best described by Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni when he said some of the bowlers felt like it would be better to use bowling machines in matches.

Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, George Bailey and Shane Watson from either side have gorged on the defenselessness of the bowlers, and the series-deciding seventh ODI at the M Chinnaswamy stadium on Saturday may see another run glut on Saturday. India and Australia have shared the honours so far to be tied at 2-2.

But amidst the rampage of batsmen two names stood out – Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina. They have come to this series with a lot of expectations. Yuvraj has been in brilliant touch prior to this rubber, smashing a bucketful for runs for India ‘A’ and in the Challenger Series.

And his blistering, match-winning fifty in the one-off T20 at Rajkot too heightened the expectations on him finding his way back to the old form. But since then he has been going through a relative low, struggling to make an impact in the three innings he got a chance to bat in this series thus far.

The sequence of 7, 0, 0 at Pune, Mohali and Nagpur respectively might have disappointed his team-mates and himself, and the stylish left-hander would be eager to make amends on the morrow, of course should he get a chance to bat. Just for the comforting factor, it was in this ground that Yuvraj took his first step towards returning to the Indian team more than a month ago, hammering the West Indies ‘A’ bowlers into submission.

Raina too has a similar case. The UP left-hander has been guaranteed a long run at the No 4 position with an eye in the World Cup 2015. In that context, Raina’s string of low scores (39, 17, 16) in this series may have a lesser impact on his place in the team but he certainly would not like to leave his fate on the mercy of the powers that be.

Their patchy run looked even more pronounced because of their struggles against short-pitched balls, against Mitchell Johnson to be more precise. Even on some of the most lifeless tracks you will ever see, Yuvraj and Raina were stretched by the extra pace and disconcerting bounce generated by Johnson. However, both Raina and Yuvraj can heave a sigh of relief, as the left-arm pacer will not be a part of the seventh ODI. Johnson has returned to Australia to speed up his preparations for the upcoming Ashes series.

In all probability, Nathan Coulter-Nile, the only other remaining specialist pacer in the Aussie squad, should come in place for Johnson. They also have the option of bringing in all-rounder Moises Henriques for morrow’s game, should middle-order batsman Adam Voges not recover from a sore back.

Back to Raina and Yuvraj then. It has been a tribute to the might of Indian batting line-up that without the aid from two of their most prominent batsmen the hosts have managed to cross 300 on almost all occasions, including those thrilling chases of 360 and 350.

The primary reason for that is the free-scoring ways of Dhawan, Rohit and Virat at the top. But somewhere the law of average is bound to catch up with the trio – as it has been the norm in every sport – and some runs from the willow of Yuvraj and Raina would wholeheartedly be welcomed.

From a series perspective, India would like to win the first series of the fresh season, while Australia would be eager to enter the Ashes with a series win in their kitty. So, prepare for cracker of a show on the Diwali day.

 

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