3rd ODI, Carlton Tri-Series
In many ways, when India takes on England At Brisbane, it will be a battle for second place. These two teams are battling for form, confidence and respect—with India yet to win a game in Australia after more than a month. England, meanwhile, conceded a bonus point to the Aussies, putting them in pole position for a place in the best-of-3 Finals already.
While England have just arrived, India have no excuses for their half-baked performance at the MCG. Australia’s Starc had them on the ropes early on, and if not for Rohit’s century, India’s famed batting line-up would have struggled to put up even 200. No bowling group can be expected to defend 267 in Australia against Australia these days, though the likes of Ashwin and Shami seriously need to re-think their roles in the team. They bowled like amateurs, and let the batsmen off the hook more than once after Bhuvi and Akshar had applied the breaks.
Now is the time in their tour where they have to stop being fine with ‘playing well and losing’. Now is the time to assert themselves, and win at any cost. Against England, could be their best chance. However, it is hard to see how. England may not be the best ODI team, but their bowlers are far more experienced and, I dare say, better than the Indians. Umesh Yadav is turning out to be one of the most inconsistent bowlers to have ever played, while Shami looks injured, and Bhuvi struggles in the death. Ashwin has forgotten that he is a spinner again, and only Akshar is accurate. They didn’t have much to defend, but they defended it badly against batsmen who weren’t the best chasers. India’s batsmen are expected to put up 300 on a regular basis, because that is the only way they are expected to win games—to bat better than their bad bowling. They are suffering from the 3-opener syndrome, the likes of which caused an uproar in 2011 when Gambhir, Sehwag and Tendulkar were rotated. Dhawan is already the liability at the top, and Kohli at 4 doesn’t make sense. Rohit and Rahane can open, with Kohli, Rayadu, Raina, Dhoni to follow. The middle order is thin, and needs a stabilizer, the lack of which is hurting the Indians to finish big. With Dhawan, Kohli, Rahane and Dhoni all failing at the MCG, it was always going to be hard. Only two can afford to fail at a time, if they are to flex their batting muscles more often. They haven’t had the best time against England—with Broad, Finn, Woakes, and that man Moeen back to haunt them. It wont be easy at all, especially with skipper Morgan back in form.
Bell will come good soon, and they could become a force to reckon with after the departure of Cook. With Root, Ali and Buttler, they have some of the youngest and most talented names in cricket, but are struggling as an outfit. Still, it is early days for Morgan, who is trying to reassemble a team after the 2014 debacle. Their Sydney loss to Australia was a bit of a warmup, with their entire top order failing. Jordan and Woakes are handy with the bat, but there should be place for only one of them in the line-up. They really need Jimmy back to rile the Indians, and if nothing, to make Kohli his bunny again. England will put up a stiff fight, and they arguably look better and more balanced on paper in overseas conditions. India, meanwhile, struggle to find a wicket taking bowler.
ENGLAND could pull off an upset, which could very soon turn into a formality if INDIA don’t find a way out of their slump. The batting has to click; they have no choice.