Hopeful India vs depleted Aussies

Men in Blue look to cash in on injury woes in the rival camp in second one-dayer

Hopeful India vs depleted Aussies

‘Can you touch the sky?’ Harbhajan seems to ask Sachin Tendulkar during India’s training session. ‘See I’m going to take off’ appears to be the maestro’s reply. AFP

Even in victory in the first match in Vadodara, Australia had lost more ground than they gained. If the Harbhajan Singh-Praveen Kumar onslaught on their unsuspecting bowlers wasn’t enough to dent their confidence, Monday’s developments which rendered Brett Lee and James Hopes hors de combat would sure have severely hit their morale.

The question mark over Mitchell Johnson’s availability has done little to help the visitors’ cause. While it will all boil down to which team is hungrier and more motivated, the expected return of Yuvraj Singh coinciding with the injury setbacks to Australia should hold India in good stead.

Nagpur as a venue will evoke mixed reactions among the Australians. It was here at the old VCA stadium that, under stand-in skipper Adam Gilchrist, they had breached the ‘last frontier’ to claim the Test series in 2004. Three years later, in 2007, they clinched the seven-match one-day series with a game to spare.  However, Ricky Ponting’s men lost the bilateral Test series at the newly-constructed stadium in Jamtha last year, and the developments over the last 48 hours may just be the portent of things to come, India will be hoping.

More than thinking about the chinks in the opposition ranks, India will do well to concentrate on their strengths, and there are a few positives MS Dhoni’s men can count on. While the fightback in the opening one-dayer was undoubtedly the most pleasing aspect, Ishant Sharma’s bowling was encouraging without being spectacular.

Also, the value of Yuvraj’s return to the side can’t be quantified. The left-hander’s towering presence in the team not only strengthens the batting manifold, his rapidly improving part-time left-arm spin affords flexibility in bowling. The Punjab batsman’s arrival means Virat Kohli will have to warm the bench simply because another disposable member of the team – left-arm spinning all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja – provides the bowling option as well.

Apart from this, it’s unlikely that Dhoni will effect any other change from the previous match, though there might be a bit of tinkering in the batting order as Yuvraj, unless the situation demands, will walk in at No 4, a slot held by Suresh Raina for sometime now even if he batted at six in the last game. The top three will remain unchanged and a lot depends on how Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir exploit the conditions in this day-night match, where dew is going to be a big factor.

Though Praveen, impressive only in patches, leaked runs aplenty in Vadodara, the UP bowler should get another chance to prove himself. Harbhajan has on a number of occasions shone with the bat of late, but his bowling has been under scrutiny for a while. Being the most experienced bowler in the side, it’s time the off-spinner got his act together.

While India’s bowling isn’t in great shape, Australia’s wears an inexperienced look after their injury travails. With Lee and Hopes out, Doug Bollinger and Ben Hilfenhous are likely to make the cut while Shaun Marsh may get the nod if Johnson too is ruled on match-day. It remains to be seen whether or not they will split their successful opening combination of Tim Paine and Shane Watson if Marsh, also an opener, is included. 

Even before the series began, the most logical way of beating Australia appeared to be by outbatting them. With the visitors’ bowling weakened considerably now, this is as good an opportunity as India can get.


Teams (from):

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, Ashish Nehra, Ishant Sharma, Sudeep Tyagi, Amit Mishra. 
 
Australia: Ricky Ponting (capt), Shane Watson, Tim Paine, Shaun Marsh, Mike Hussey, Cameron White, Adam Voges, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Doug Bollinger, Nathan Hauritz, Jon Holland.  

Umpires: Amish Saheba and Sudhir Asnani. Third umpire: Shahvir Tarapore. Match referee: Chris Broad (England).

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