| Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Shikhar Dhawan, in Jaipur, on Tuesday |
Jaipur: World champions and the No. 1 team in the ICC one-day rankings, India, were already the hot favourites against George Bailey’s relatively young Australia side even before the seven-match series started. What strengthened the belief further was India’s emphatic win in the T20 tie at Rajkot.
But a rude wake-up call came when Australia scored a resounding 72-run victory in the opening one-dayer in Pune. More than the defeat, the Indian batsmen’s apparent discomfort against short deliveries gave rise to speculations that there could be further embarrassment waiting for the home side in the series.
On Wednesday, when the two teams meet in the second ODI at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium here, India will have a real tough task on hand. Apart from levelling the series, the Indian batsmen would have to ensure the Australian bowlers do not have the upper hand. In Pune, Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay and James Faulkner had India in all sorts of trouble.
The Pune setback notwithstanding, the Indians looked a confident lot during the morning training session. Though practice was optional, every team member except Ravichandran Ashwin toiled hard for three hours at the nets. They also played a game of football in which Shikhar Dhawan stole the limelight with his deft touches and ball skills.
India’s top scorer in the Pune one-dayer, Virat Kohli, was not ready to accept that the home batsmen were victims of short balls in the first match. “All teams bowl short at times, but yes, the Australians have some extra pace, which they used in the last match,” said the Delhi batsman.
“You should see how many people actually got out to short balls. Most batsmen lose wickets edging to the slips or being trapped leg before or being bowled. We should be good enough to play everything at this level and we are confident we can… we are not worried about the short ball,” added Kohli.
Brad Haddin, too, said the Aussies were not too dependent on short deliveries. “I don’t think we used the short ball any more than what we did in other matches,” said the Australian.
But then, negotiating with shorter deliveries was not the only problem the world champions faced in the first match. While their batsmen did not do enough to chase a 300-plus total, their bowlers remained guilty of giving away too many runs.
If Vinay Kumar was disappointing, seasoned Ishant Sharma was a complete let down in the seven overs he bowled. No doubt that Aaron Finch, Bailey and Glen Maxwell batted superbly, but one expected the Indians to bowl in a more convincing fashion.
So pedestrian was Ishant that it even raised doubts about his ability to hold his place in Wednesday’s tie. Kohli, however, brushed aside any chance of Ishant being dropped for the second ODI. “I don’t think anyone should be dropped after just two games. He has bowled very well for us over the years...he has been one of our most important bowlers in recent times,” Kohli said.
Australians, on the other hand, would definitely look forward to consolidating on their lead in the series on a wicket which has a tinge of green that looks encouraging for fast bowlers.
To add to it, the Aussies have two players – all rounder Shane Watson and pace bowler Faulkner – who have played more matches on this field because of their association with IPL side, Rajasthan Royals.
Both the cricketers, however, have the experience of playing T20 cricket here and not the 50-over format. Wednesday being a holiday, a capacity crowd is expected to fill the stands in support of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men.
India (likely): Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, R Vinay Kumar, Ishant Sharma.
Australia (likely): Phil Hughes, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, George Bailey, Adam Voges, Glenn Maxwell, Brad Haddin, James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay, Xavier Doherty. Umpires: Richard Kettleborough and Vineet Kulkarni. TV: A. Shamsuddin.
Match Referee: Roshan Mahanama.
Match starts: 1.30pm