|Shami Ahmed, in Nagpur, on Tuesday. (PTI)
Nagpur/Calcutta: With rain causing havoc in parts of Eastern India, cricket was forced to take a backseat.
Moving on to the western side, there are clear skies in the Orange City, promising the weather won’t conspire again, and more importantly, resumption of cricket.
The focus now is back on whether India can draw level and keep the series alive when they take on the spirited Australians in the sixth ODI, here, at the VCA Stadium, on Wednesday. Courtesy the no result in Ranchi and a washout in Cuttack, it’s India who are under pressure, being in a must-win situation in the penultimate game of the series.
Trailing 1-2, Team India do have reasons to feel let down by the rain. In Ranchi, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma had got them off to a steady start in pursuit of 296.
They may have batted just 4.1 overs in that game, but given the way this series has gone so far, chasing 300-plus totals haven’t been too difficult.
This Indian team has the ability to bounce back when the chips are down. Under the astute leadership of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, they have prevailed over many a critical situation in the recent past, especially in the shorter format.
The present occasion, too, beckons Dhoni and his men to step up and do what they are best at — winning. Having said that, the flaws that have hurt the hosts need to be ironed out in order to ensure Australia don’t run away with the series.
Obviously, they can’t be sorted out overnight, but the likes of Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh can at least try and put up a better effort against the Aussie quicks’ well-directed short-pitched stuff.
Ravichandran Ashwin, however, ruled out getting bogged down by any pressure.
“There is no pressure. We just want to enjoy ourselves. It has been a good and tight series so far,” said Ashwin.
Ashwin said every bowler has been trying to improve. “We are constantly looking to improve. There are always areas that you can work on, constantly looking to improve upon.”
Asked about the way the visitors have upped the tempo in the middle and final overs, Ashwin said the Aussie batsmen had played some high risk shots and succeeded.
"It is the trend of the series. We have been chasing down big scores. We have chased down 360. The score has predominately been around 300. It's definitely challenging in terms of what the batsmen are doing. They are going for their shots. But as I said we, the bowlers, keep trying to devise different strategies and see what we can do."
Asked about the drop in fielding standards, he said: “These things do happen. Batsmen do nick the first ball and it does happen in a game. As long as you are putting in the hard yards then you just have to be okay with it.”
In the three completed matches of this series, it’s only Virat Kohli who has intimidated the visitors every time he walked out into the middle. Had it not been for Dhoni’s breathtaking 139 not out, Australia would have won easily in Mohali, rather than wait till the very last over of the match.
Shami Ahmed showed he could be effective, having rattled the Aussie top-order in Ranchi. He though needs enough support at the other end. It remains to be seen if the team management brings in Bhuvneshwar Kumar back in place of Vinay Kumar who, despite having taken seven wickets in the series, has given away plenty of runs. Leg-spinner Amit Mishra had a longer stint at nets on Tuesday.
At the same time, no credit should be taken away from the rival batsmen, led by George Bailey, who haven’t wasted any opportunity to score runs.
To be honest, Australian batsmen have performed as a unit, with the likes of Aaron Finch, Glenn Maxwell and Adam Voges rallying wonderfully around Bailey. Even left-arm pacer James Faulkner proved the other evening, in Mohali, how dangerous he could be, coming lower down the order.
India (likely): Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ranganath Vinay Kumar/Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shami Ahmed, Jaydev Unadkat
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: Nigel Llong and S. Ravi
TV Umpire: Vineet Kulkarni
Match Referee: Andy Pycroft
Match starts: 1.30pm