India went into the series against Australia as clear underdogs. And, over the course of the two matches nothing has changed to suggest that the tide will turn. The two main weaknesses for India, as discussed in detail during the preview to the series, have indeed come back to haunt the visitors. India have failed to finish off strongly with the bat in both matches, and those 30-40 few runs have cost them. The inexperienced Indian batting was always expected to struggle against a strong Australian line-up, which has exactly proved to be the case.
MS Dhoni candidly admitted after the Brisbane ODI went the same way as the game at Perth that there are only two ways forward for India from here – either they score 350 plus batting first, or chase whatever the Aussies set. The Indian bowling is just not good enough to restrict the Australians either way. In case, India bat first they must aim for finishing at seven an over. Of course, they run the risk of ending up with much fewer in case things do not go according to plan. But, the Indians are not left with much options really.
In case Australia win the toss and decide to bat first, India will have to be prepared for a massive chase. This again is not an ideal situation for the visitors, but they must back themselves, especially with the top order in such great form. Given the scenario that India find themselves in, they will need more from Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in the form of quick runs. It does sound unfair, especially on Rohit since he has already scored two big hundreds, but with no one to accelerate at the end, it will help if the top order scores faster.
Staying with the top order, the form of Shikhar Dhawan remains a massive worry as India head into the do-or-die game. India cannot drop the struggling opener since there is no other specialist batsman in the side. But, Dhawan’s failures are hurting India. The one good aspect for Dhawan is that he is returning to his home ground, the venue where he blasted a fantastic hundred against South Africa in the World Cup. Ajinkya Rahane batted well at Brisbane, but he too must try to up the ante in the last few overs if the opportunity comes again.
There really isn’t much India can do about the bowling. Ishant Sharma was brought in place of Bhuvneshwar Kumar for the second game, but it didn’t change India’s fortunes. Umesh Yadav also has struggled, while the spinners have failed to maintain any sort of control over the Aussies. Even more disappointing has been their fielding, which has stumbled under pressure. The Aussies have used the angles of the ground well, and have run hard. Melbourne will be tougher given the size of the MCG. One really cannot see India overcoming the Australians, unless they can come up with a spectacular effort out of somewhere, which they are eminently capable of.
--By A Cricket Analyst