In a set of matches that oscillated between the extremes of pulsating shots and the pitter-patter of rain, the contests between India and Australia could not have asked for a better script than the one it has now ahead of Saturday’s one-dayer.
The series is level at 2-2 and when M.S. Dhoni’s men and George Bailey’s hopeful bunch walk out for the seventh and final game of a rousing duel, the stage seems set for a grand Diwali night though this is also the season for the North-East monsoon to churn in from the Bay of Bengal.
Fans however would hope that Bangalore’s quirky weather stays sane and that the Indian team will offer joy on a long weekend that started with Friday’s ‘Kannada Rajyothsava’ Day before the festival of lights illuminates the next 48 hours.
The backdrop has been about the runs that the likes of Virat Kohli and George Bailey have hit as it is about the pity for bowlers, caned all over the park, be it at Jaipur, Mohali or Nagpur.
India walks in with an acquired swagger, thanks largely to its top-order that has fired in unison. The troika of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and most importantly Kohli, have lent adrenalin, calm nerves and frenetic runs against steep asking-rates.
For Kohli, the venue is a second home and the man, who leads Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League (IPL), spoke about his affinity for the city and also wished its denizens, who were busy celebrating Karnataka’s formation day.
The top-three and Dhoni to a certain extent, have scored a major chunk (1033) of India’s runs. It is a strength that has to be savoured but the frailty of Suresh Raina and even Yuvraj Singh (seven runs averaging 2.33) is a cause for worry.
The left-handed duo has to click and Dhoni will hope that in case there is a breach, Yuvraj will step up. The fact that Mitchell Johnson has flown back home, will surely offer some respite.
The bowling though needs to be tight, a tough task amidst ICC’s batsmen-friendly rules. The BCCI’s press-release about Ravindra Jadeja being rested for the Tests against the West Indies, to alleviate his shoulder-strain, may have hinted at fewer options for Dhoni in a decisive game but on the match’s eve, Jadeja was an active participant in the nets and also turned his arm over.
Across the fence, Australia will miss Johnson’s menace in the middle-overs as its focus has seemingly shifted to the Ashes while Brad Haddin insisted that the team is still in the ‘here and now’ and is excited about the series-decider.
Besides Kohli’s overwhelming presence, the ODIs so far have also been about Bailey’s (474) mammoth aggregate. The visitors’ captain has emerged from the shadows and can now hold his own space amidst the Michael Clarkes and the Shane Watsons, when the Australian selectors look ahead to their home season.
Meanwhile the final word is yet to be heard about an injured Adam Voges and a decision on his availability will be made on Saturday.
The pitch, according to curator Narayan Raju, will be like a ‘typical IPL wicket’ and runs are assured.
The decks have been cleared for a fast-and-furious brand of cricket and it is the perfect recipe for eager fans.
The teams (from):
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, R. Vinay Kumar, Mohammad Shami, Jaydev Unadkat, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra and Ambati Rayudu.
Australia: George Bailey (captain), Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, Adam Voges, Glenn Maxwell, Phillip Hughes, Brad Haddin, James Faulkner, Clint McKay, Xavier Doherty, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Callum Ferguson and Moises Henriques.
Umpires: Nigel Llong and S. Ravi; Third umpire: Anil Chaudhari. Match referee: Andrew Pycroft.
Match starts at 1.30 p.m.