The introspection has been serious with the players seeking the analysts out for some hyperactive sessions at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium here. The loss at Pune has driven home some bitter lessons and India, smarting under that humiliating experience, realises it must reorganise its strength and look to tame Australia at this juncture of the seven-match one-day series.
In modern cricket, because of the exacting schedule, there is little time to work on a weakness between matches. The remedial methods have to be rapid and results instant, for there are replacements ready to step in.
Ian Chappell had his reasons to call this series meaningless but then the Indian cricket authorities think differently. The players are part of a caravan that looks to whip the passions of a cricket-crazy nation. The losses hurt for a very short period and the triumphs are celebrated long. That the Australians had a plan at Pune was clear. They bowled fast and pitched it short too, much to the discomfort of some of the Indian batsmen. An age old problem had resurrected in the last one-dayer and posed a reality check on India’s batting potential when tested by the short ball. This is not the most menacing attack in the cricket world but it did point to a most vexing issue that could confront the Indian camp when playing overseas in the next year or so.
When batting, the Australians identified the bowlers to feast on. They spared the slow bowlers but paced the innings to perfection and created the desired pressure that forced the Indians into submission.
India’s woes were compounded by some erratic stuff from its seamers. The early loss of Shikhar Dhawan was a minor setback but poor shot selection sent the team hurtling towards defeat. The compact performance of the T20 win at Rajkot appeared an aberration now. Some old worries remained and invited a furious assessment.
Not that one session of ‘nets’ would drive the shortcomings away. Ishant Sharma worked to pitch the ball up and Rohit Sharma’s extended shadow practice to pick the away going ball and leave it were visible efforts but the stage would be different on Wednesday when the Australians seek to build on the advantage gained from the last match.
Australia gains from the fact that it has no big names. Each player is out to make a statement and facilitate the situation for George Bailey, the captain who led by example, scoring a match-impacting 85. There is reason to believe that Australia will push India hard since the pitch is expected to encourage bounce. Curator Taposh Chatterjee has taken pains to prepare a “sporting” track with a tinge of grass.
The teams (from): India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt.), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, R. Vinay Kumar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ambati Rayudu, Mohammad Shami, Jaydev Unadkat and Amit Mishra.
Australia: George Bailey (capt.), Shane Watson, Aaron Finch, Adam Voges, Glenn Maxwell, Callum Ferguson, Phil Hughes, James Faulkner, Moises Henriques, Brad Haddin, Xavier Doherty, Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay and Nathan Coulter-Nile.
Umpires: Richard Kettleborough and Vineet Kulkarni; Third umpire: C. Shamsuddin. Match-referee: Roshan Mahanama.