India vs Australia 2nd ODI: After stellar year, a thumping loss to Australia has brought out problems in batting order and team combination for Virat Kohli’s India as they gear up to keep the series alive in Rajkot.
Those in attendance at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday could sense the aura around the Australia team returning. It was such an intimidating all-round display from them that the Indian unit, so sure and solid the entire season, looked like novices at the end of the first ODI.
The onus is now on India to respond. Both the series and their pride is at stake for the hosts in the upcoming Day/Nighter at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium on Friday. A three-game series provides little chance of a comeback. Another poor session and the trophy will be gone.
India’s woes are manifold. They will have to get their batting order right with captain Virat Kohli restored to his original No 3 spot. There’s need to get their homework right, both for the Australia bowlers and their opening batsmen—David Warner and Aaron Finch. On a flat deck in Mumbai, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins had kept the Indian batsmen guessing with their clever variations and effective use of the cross-seam ball.
Rohit Sharma was among those dismissed by a ball bowled cross-seam. It travelled slower through the air and Sharma’s uppish drive was lapped up at mid-off. Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Shami were the others who were also consumed with similar deliveries.
India also have selection issues after Rishabh Pant’s injury. The keeper-batsman edged a bouncer onto his helmet and suffered concussion. So KL Rahul will be keeping wickets again.
To accommodate Dhawan, Sharma and Rahul together, Kohli had come in to bat at No 4 in Mumbai. It did not work. India realise the team will be better served with Kohli coming at No 3 from where he can set the tone. It means Rahul will have to come in at No 4. It will, however, not help Shreyas Iyer who would be again be pushed down to No 5.
Iyer was pragmatic about the situation. “You should be ready to bat at any number because it is really important to play in the team (considering) the competition we have now. It is very important for us to be focused and not cry about not getting to bat at a particular position. Experimentation is something we are looking forward to. Hopefully, we will get a good number for each batsman. Hopefully, it will workout,” said Iyer.
However, there’s no denying the middle-order will be feeling the heat. The top-order, especially Sharma and Kohli, have it in them to take the fight to Australia–they have the record to match the statement. It’s not, however, what the India team management will be looking for from this series.
When in the series opener the in-form players, Sharma and Kohli, fell cheaply, it again exposed the team’s dependence on the two.
Iyer & Co faltered despite there being no pressure to come and hit straightaway. Iyer was out chasing a Mitchell Starc delivery angling away and Pant also fell cheaply. The left-hander was looking good before being surprised by the bouncer. His absence offers Kedar Jadhav a look in.
“It’s not that we have lost the series, we can still comeback and that’s what we discussed in the dressing room. We need to believe in ourselves and also in our teammates that in a pressure situation somebody will stand up and take the team through. We didn’t do that well in all three departments. A lot of areas we need to work on and we will comeback in the next match,” said Iyer.
In the last series also, under pressure in the decider against the West Indies, India had suffered a collapse–Iyer and Pant had fallen for seven runs each and Jadhav was out for nine. It was left to Jadeja and Shardul Thakur to bail the team out with some lusty hitting.
This is an ideal series for the relatively new batsmen to come out of the shadows of their captain and vice-captain, as it doesn’t get any tougher than facing an attack led by Cummins and Starc.
LESSONS FOR BOWLERS
Thakur’s innocuous display against Warner and Finch has added to the selection dilemma. The team is happy with his cameos with the bat at the end under pressure situations but can’t afford him leaking runs like he did at Wankhede. In a forgettable performance, Thakur was taken for 43 runs in five overs. Navdeep Saini has the extra pace and a searing yorker.
India will have to make a choice of going for a strike bowler or someone who can contribute with the bat. There is increased pressure as spearhead Jasprit Bumrah is returning from an injury and may take a couple of more games to find his top gear.
The main threat will again come from the Australia openers. They have taken a liking for the Indian attack and are building an envious record, averaging 106 as a partnership (954 runs in 10 innings with three hundred and four fifty run stands). They will come out stronger after Warner and Finch both scored centuries in the highest opening partnership against India in one-day cricket.
Equally disappointing was how the Indian spinners also failed to make an impression. In trying to add batting depth, either Kuldeep Yadav or Yuzvendra Chahal has been sitting out. But, without Chahal at the other end, Yadav doesn’t look as vicious as he was in 2018.
Iyer said there were a lot of lessons learned from the 10-wicket loss. “Well it happens that (sometimes) you are not prepared. The whole country was not prepared to see us collapsing but it is part of the game. You have to take it in your stride and move forward.”