India eager to strike back

India eager to strike back

Runs and rules – this has been the overriding theme of the ongoing seven-match one-day series between India and Australia.

While batsmen have hogged all the limelight for their jaw-dropping performances in the three-match-old series, the new ODI rules (two new balls per innings and a slightly newer one that stipulates only four fielders to be outside the circle at all times except during Power Plays) have largely been blamed for bowlers’ ineffectiveness. India chased down Australia’s 359/9 with ridiculous ease in Jaipur while the visitors scaled India’s 304/9 in Mohali from a losing position.

As the series rolls into Ranchi – skipper MS Dhoni’s backyard -- for Wednesday’s fourth one-dayer, there appears to be no change in the script. A dry-to-the-bone pitch promises another run fest but if the surface here plays to its true reputation – low and slow turner – then the bowlers may get some respite. Against England, India put up a dominating performance while scoring a seven-wicket win with their spinners – R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Suresh Raina – sharing six wickets between them.
   
While there is nothing much to differentiate between home and visiting bowlers, both of whom have come in for severe punishment, the Aussie pacemen have fared a bit better than India’s. With their disconcerting pace and ability to bowl well-directed bouncers, Mitchell Johnson and company have had the better of exchanges with the new ball. What has perhaps exacerbated MS Dhoni’s problems is his spinners’ inability to make an impact on the Aussie batsmen. With only four fielders manning the boundaries, the spinners’ role has become more of restrictive than attacking but the pitches too haven’t offered them much turn, making their task doubly challenging.       
         
When as many as six from the ground staff were seen clearing the already-thin grass cover on Tuesday afternoon, one suspected if India plan to roll out a slow turner like the one against England this January. One-dayers and the use of white ball is indeed a different ball game but given Aussies’ weakness, which was in full view during their 4-0 drubbing early this year, against the turning ball, it wouldn’t be a bad ploy on India’s part.     
It’s relatively tough to extract turn with two new balls in operation per innings, but if the conditions suit, both Ashwin and Jadeja can make batsmen hop in their crease like they managed against England in the Champions Trophy final in Birmingham in June. And mind you, that was effectively a T20 game!
It will also be interesting to see if India continue with the same pace combination of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, R Vinay Kumar and Ishant Sharma. While Bhuvneshwar, relatively economical compared to the other two, will retain his place, either left-arm paceman Jaidev Unadkat or Mohammad Shami may get a look in.
The overall good batting show has also masked the struggles of Yuvraj Singh (seven runs from two innings) and Suresh Raina (56 from two innings) and the two southpaws will be keen to snap their dry run. With three centuries from different batsmen, India have shown their batting is in robust health but the 1-2 series score in Australia’s favour shows visitors’ concerted effort.
There isn’t a single three-figure score from the Aussie batsmen yet they have managed to churn out 300-plus totals in all the matches, driving home the depth in their line-up. Phillip Hughes and Aaron Finch have been providing brisk starts while skipper George Bailey has led from the front with consistent performances. With Glenn Maxwell, Shane Watson and Adam Voges chipping in, Australia have emerged as a formidable batting force, turning the pre-series calculations upside down.
The Jharkhand capital is still reeling under the after-effects of cyclone Phailin that hit the coasts of Orissa with bursts of rain almost every day, but the organisers hope Dhoni’s homecoming will not be spoiled.
DH News Service     

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