CRICKET / Kohli is ‘Man-of-the-series' for his match-winning century in the second match
The series ended the way it began with the rain having the last word.
After the washout at Kochi and a tall-scoring game at Visakhapatnam, the third and final ODI between India and Australia was called off at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Sunday afternoon.
A sharp shower on Saturday night effectively ruined the ground-staff's efforts to dry the playing surface over the last few days. Umpires Billy Bowden and Amiesh Saheba inspected the ground repeatedly along with match referee Chris Broad while rival skippers M.S. Dhoni and Michael Clarke checked the outfield that had its share of damp spots despite the sun's blazing presence since morning.
It was similar to what transpired at Kochi last Sunday and it is a pointer to the inadequacies at two venues, which are essentially used to play football.
Though the cricketing action remained nil, there was some entertainment for the assembled gathering as the sightscreen at the North End, toppled and startled everyone. Soon ropes were secured around the sightscreen and while it was hauled up, the fans did their bit and chorused ‘aihlasa'.
It was the lone drama on a day of long wait until the match was abandoned at 12.50 p.m.
India thus won the series 1-0 and Australia will return home after drawing a blank, both in the Tests and in the lone ODI. The prize distribution function was later held at the team hotel.
Virat Kohli was adjudged as the ‘Man-of-the-series' for his match-winning 118 in the second ODI.
India will look back at that clash at Visakhapatnam with fondness as it gave positive clues about Kohli's talent and reiterated the steady and speedy batting skills of Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina.
The bowling did flatter initially as Ashish Nehra and Praveen Kumar bowled nagging first spells and later off-spinner R. Ashwin bowled tight in the middle overs. Seamer Vinay Kumar unfortunately ran into a belligerent Cameron White and paid the price and that along with the wilting of the attack in the slog, will force coach Gary Kirsten to peer hard at the drawing board.
After a few days' break, Dhoni's men, strengthened with the addition of Test specialists, will take on New Zealand in the first Test commencing at Ahmedabad on November 4.
India's next set of one-dayers — the five-match series against the Black Caps will start at Guwahati on November 28.
Those matches have already lured attention because of the alleged demand by senior players to be rested and their early departure for the South African tour.
The proposed move would mean that the team's core group would now play in the bouncy conditions of South Africa before returning and adjusting to the slow pitches of India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka for the World Cup.
Australia, saddled with a forgettable tour that started with a heart-breaking loss at Mohali and made worse by India's nonchalance at Bangalore and Visakhapatnam, will now head home for the Ashes while critics crowd the air-waves with their summary dismissal of Ricky Ponting's captaincy skills and Clarke's batting ability.
A tour prior to the World Cup in the sub-continent had worked wonders for Australia during the 1986-87 season.
Allan Border had then unearthed talented players like Steve Waugh, David Boon, Geoff Marsh, Dean Jones and Craig McDermott. Later Border's men won the World Cup at Kolkata in 1987.
It remains to be seen whether this current tour, marred by defeats and rain, might in retrospect help the Australians come back with extra hunger and zeal for the World Cup commencing on February 19.