India look to hit back after heartbreak

India look to hit back after heartbreak

SERIOUS TALK: Indian captain Virat Kolhi (right) having a word with opener K L Rahul and head coach Ravi Shastri during their practice session at the M Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru on Tuesday. DH Photo/ Srikanta Sharma R

In the current limited-over series, India and Australia are teams with drastically different objectives.

Australia, who managed to win just a single bilateral series in a forgettable 2018, are eyeing to regroup. A team short on experience but bustling with talent, Australia are aiming to pull off big wins to regain their confidence ahead of the World Cup. By narrowly prevailing in the first T20I in Visakhapatnam, the visitors are a win away from a much-needed series win.   

Indians, on the other hand, are in a better frame of mind ahead of the quadrennial event in England. Ranked No.1 in the world, India have more or less zeroed in on the nucleus of the side for the marquee tournament beginning May 30. They would have loved to play two more ODIs, as expressed by skipper Virat Kohli, instead of these two T20Is to identify men for a couple of remaining spots.

Still, for India, the two-match T20I series is no more than an opportunity to test their bench strength. This approach was clear when the selectors picked the likes of Siddharth Kaul, Umesh Yadav, Mayank Markhande and rested first-choice players like Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami for the series. Despite trailing 0-1, it appears that the team management would continue to experiment in the final T20I here at the Chinnaswamy stadium on Wednesday.

The last-ball thriller in the first game at Visakhapatnam exposed India’s death bowling issues in the absence of the experienced Bhuvneshwar. The wily Jasprit Bumrah, one of the best operators in the slog overs, gave India a good chance to win the tie with a sensational 19th over, giving away two runs and taking two wickets. However, Umesh Yadav failed to defend 14 runs as Australia registered a three-wicket win.  

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s painfully slow knock (37-ball 29) attracted criticism. Though more was expected from the veteran, the slow nature of the pitch made life difficult for batsmen from both teams, as pointed out by Glenn Maxwell after the game. The surface at the Chinnaswamy is expected to offer more for the batsmen.

“I guess the wicket here would be better than what we saw in Vizag. It looks like a good wicket and we expect more runs on this pitch,” said Krunal Pandya. The all-rounder felt India’s biggest positive from the first T20I was their bowling. “It was a great effort from the bowling unit. Everyone chipped in and we almost defended 126,” he said.   

On the batting front, it remains to be seen if opener Shikhar Dhawan will return, in place of his regular partner Rohit Sharma, who could be rested. Dhawan, who sweated it out at the ‘nets’ on Tuesday, could open with K L Rahul, who made a classy 50 in the first game.   

For Australia, a team trying to regain its former self in the aftermath of the Sandpaper-gate, scripting a series win here will do a world of good to their confidence.

“It (series win) hasn’t happened for a while, especially overseas, in a place like India, so foreign to Australian conditions. Winning against one of the best sides in the world would be a huge result for us,” said all-rounder Pat Cummins.

Glenn Maxwell, D’Arcy Short and skipper Aaron Finch are the key men with bat while Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nine and Jhye Richardson can challenge the Indian batting as Australia seek momentum ahead of the five-match ODI series.