Team India, fresh from a morale boosting 3-0 Test series victory over South Africa, is not at its favorite touring destination. They have traditionally never done well in Australia (except 1985 and 2008), and their first bilateral 5-match ODI series down under isn’t going any differently. As we speak, they’re 4-0 down against a third string Australian bowling attack.
While it’s easy to pin blame on every single department of this malfunctioning Indian ODI team, the reasons are more specific. Behind every high-scoring defeat, there seems to be a trend that refuses to cease. These haven’t been demolitions – even worse, they’ve been competitive bat-vs-bat matches that eventually come down to the slog overs.
Here are 5 things we’ve learned from India’s humbling down under:
5. AUSSIE PITCHES? NAH!
The ODI World Cup that was held last year in Australia and New Zealand involved two ODI double centuries (by Chris Gayle and Martin Guptill). Think about that – 2 double centuries on grounds traditionally created to make it difficult and hard work for batsmen. Gayle’s double against Zimbabwe, in fact, came on the same ground (Canberra) where Australia scored 348 in the 4th ODI, with Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan getting centuries in a tanked chase and India just falling short after blazing towards 300. The first 2 ODIs produced scores of 308 and 309, with Australia easily chasing them down, after which a 295 was chased down at Melbourne, too. Shockingly, the Perth pitch was the slowest of the four – and the last ever match was played at the famed WACA before the new stadium takes over next year. These drop-in pitches in Australia also produced a record-breaking Test series aggregate between Australia and New Zealand last month – where batsmen like Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and David Warner made merry of on flat wickets. No score is too much in ODIs anymore, and it’s a pity that the ACB has compromised on its balanced pitches in order to rake in the crowds and money.
4. SELFISH BATTING OR INCOMPETENT BOWLING?
Debates have raged about whether Rohit Sharma perhaps paced his charge till too late when India batted first and put 300+ totals on the board consistently – whereas it escaped most myopic visions that India’s middle order contributed virtually nothing to the last 5 overs of each match. Not surprisingly, only at Perth in the first ODI, when Rohit was still at the crease, India scored 60 off the last 5. These new rules that allow 5 fielders outside the circle in the last 10 overs has caused the downfall of M.S. Dhoni, the finisher, and India will be ruing the fact that they didn’t choose Suresh Raina for the one series he could have made a huge difference to. Ravindra Jadeja has done nothing as a batsman, and even the new guys like Rishi Dhawan and Gurkeerat Singh have failed. It doesn’t matter how much India put on the board though, because their bowlers – led by the inconsistent Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav – have made life very difficult for their team. With no batting middle order and bowlers who look like amateurs in overseas conditions once again, Dhoni’s headaches are now splitting migraines.
3. WILL THE FINISHER STAND UP?
M.S. Dhoni has been failing as a middle-order batsman ever since the new ODI rules came into effect. At Canberra, when all he had to do was his job (and finish, after Shikhar and Kohli laid a superb foundation, impossible to destroy), he was dismissed for 0 – exposing the incompetent middle order to gleeful Aussie bowlers. It’s not the first time India have lost after their top order scored centuries, and it won’t be the last. Gurkeerat at 5 only proves how the tail starts early, and Dhoni must definitely be considering quitting the captaincy in order to extend his ODI career. He should because his bowlers haven’t responded to him. He has placed his fielders at all the wrong positions, and he looks like a victim of his team’s blatant weaknesses.
2. THE AUSSIE BATSMEN
Even this young, second-string Aussie team boasts of batsmen – and more importantly, superb all-rounders like Maxwell, Marsh and Faulkner – that go right till no. 9. Not only that, the top order of Steve Smith and George Bailey have rotated the strike far more effectively than the Indian top order, and have run more 2s and 3s, played less dots (due to India’s rubbish bowling) and have read the fields perfectly over their 4 ODIs. Even when the team struggled in the 3rd and 4th matches, and looked like they were going down, Smith kept his cool and didn’t make any knee-jerk changes. He knew the inexperienced Indian temperament would show eventually, and thus kept the phenomenal home-winning streak of 18 consecutive ODIs alive. India could have again been the team to deny them when Kohli and Dhawan went great guns in Canberra, but India lost 9 wickets for 47 runs – perhaps their most shocking collapse in limited overs cricket recently. It’s therefore no surprise that the Indian top order’s 5 centuries so far this series have come in a losing cause, as compared to the Australians’ 3 centuries. What was that, Ravi Shastri? Individual records, what?
1. BLAME IT ON THE TURNERS
Every international team has become so strong in their own home conditions that it becomes sort of a joke when they travel to other shores. The 3-0 mauling of South Africa happened in a series that ruined batting averages and brought the likes of Ashwin and Jadeja – home specialists par excellence – to the core. Soon, Ashwin became no. 1 in the world, and came to Australia as the most feared spinner in cricket. This notion was dispelled within two ODIs at Perth and Brisbane, where Ashwin leaked runs without taking many wickets, and was eventually dropped for the Melbourne game, where, ironically, he could have been of some use. Except for the MCG match, Jadeja too proved ineffective, and the glorious dustbowls of Mohali and Delhi feel like light years away. You’d have to think Ravi Shastri would sooner or later admit that his strategy of producing ridiculous demon turners at home only works for players looking to be tigers at home. The same bowlers are rendered impotent abroad, which says a lot about why no youngster wants to grow up to be a bowler these days.