India stare at must-win situation

India stare at must-win situation

India find themselves in an unfamiliar position in the one-day series against Australia, having conceded a 2-1 lead to the visitors.

Now, they will have to win the two remaining games (Nagpur on Wednesday and three days later at Bangalore) to avoid a black spot on their otherwise proud home record.
While their batsmen have done a rather good job, the Indian bowlers’ effort has come in as a massive disappointment in the series.

Agreed, the pitches were as flat as you could find anywhere evidenced by a string of 300-plus scores, and Australia have a set of batsmen suited for the limited-over format. But the general waywardness of the Indian bowlers too contributed to India lagging behind in the seven-match series.

While the focus was mainly on Ishant Sharma after he conceded 30 runs to James Faulkner in an over at Mohali, R Ashwin, the man skipper MS Dhoni turns to in times of crisis, too has been largely ineffective. The Tamil Nadu off-spinner has given away more than six runs per over (6.11 to be precise) for his five wickets.

The largesse of his front-line spinner has put Dhoni in a difficult situation. He doesn’t have someone who can choke the run flow in the middle overs or someone who he can confidently summon to take the wickets.

Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, the most economical Indian bowler at 4.85 runs per over, has done a good job in the middle overs. But the lack of support from the other end has nullified his impact.

If Ashwin too was at his parsimonious self then the Aussies would have found the going tough. But it has also something to do with the attitude and approach of the Australian batsmen. There were doubts over Australians’ ability to stand up against the Indian spinners after their struggles in the Test series earlier this year. However, they looked a confident unit in this series, going after India’s premier spinner with lot of chutzpah.

That has somewhat caught Ashwin by surprise, forcing him to experiment in his effort to stop runs and take wickets. The cavalier approach of Australians has only added pressure on the offie, who was often summoned by Dhoni after Aussie openers – Aaron Finch and Phil Hughes – have given their side a forceful start.

The Australians have also managed to carry forward that momentum in the middle over, and they have to profusely thank skipper George Bailey for that. The Tasmanian right-hander has been in excellent touch throughout the series, and oscillated between the dual role of shock absorber and battering ram with utmost ease. His stats so far reveal that as Bailey has amassed 318 runs from four matches at 106 with three fifties, the best from either side.

So, the Indian bowlers need to stitch together 50 tidy overs to restrict the Australians, and then hope that the batsmen continue their good run. Despite Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina not firing, the Indians have managed to cross 300 on a couple of occasions in this series, including that thrilling chase of 360 at Jaipur.

But it cannot be denied that more runs are required from the willows of Yuvraj and Raina. Australian’s strategy of unleashing Mithcell Johnson on the left-handed duo has been a successful one thus far in this series, and the left-arm pacer has exploited their discomfort against short-pitched deliveries with ruthless efficiency.

Johnson has extra pace, easily 10-15 kmph faster than any other bowler in this series. He has put that into use very cleverly against Indians, identifying the weak areas of most Indian batsmen. In the process, Johnson has bowled more overs in the middle overs, and the Aussies haven’t minded one bit that the left-armer has been a tad under bowled in the first Power Play segment.

Indians will perforce have to negate the ‘Johnson Effect’ on the morrow at the VCA stadium, and the result of it will have a direct impact on their chances of leveling the series.

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