India’s battered bowling unit will have little time to regroup with limited resources at its disposal as it attempts to save the One-Day International (ODI) series against Australia in the second match in Sydney on Sunday.
It wasn’t just the margin of defeat – 66 runs – but the manner in which the home team exposed India’s vacant cupboard of all-rounders will give Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri numerous points to ponder.
Hardik Pandya’s 76-ball-90 was at best a good innings, but just in like the Champions Trophy final in 2017, his sparkling knock was never going to help India win the contest. Pandya has admitted frankly that he will not be bowling anytime soon, leaving India without the full services of the Gujarat all-rounder.
That leaves captain Kohli with bowlers who can’t bat and a top order where none can bowl.
With Australia’s top three – captain Aaron Finch, David Warner and Steve Smith – hitting the straps right away, Jasprit Bumrah & Co. will have no option but to pick up the pieces and give a better account of themselves on a strip that promises to be a belter.
It is highly unlikely that India’s combination will change unless both Yuzvendra Chahal and Navdeep Saini are declared unfit. The duo collectively conceded 172 runs in 20 overs in the first ODI, with the wiry wrist-spinner leaving the field after the completion of his spell after sustaining an on-field injury.
Saini, on the other hand, has back spasms, and T. Natarajan has been inducted in the 50-over squad as a cover. In case they are ruled out, Shardul Thakur, who can bat decently, could be a replacement.
For Australia, highly rated all-rounder Cameron Green has a chance to win an ODI cap as Marcus Stoinis picked up a side strain during the first game on Friday. Both skipper Finch and Smith hinted that Green is in line for an ODI debut.
While the choice of five bowlers in the first ODI certainly hurt India, some of the shot selection at the top of the order left a lot to be desired, especially Shreyas Iyer, whose dismissal was an embarrassing sight as he fended awkwardly at a well-directed bouncer from Josh Hazlewood. The extra bounce was also the undoing of Mayank Agarwal.
Kohli – a man revered by the Australian team, media and public at large – would love to play a signature ODI knock, glimpses of which were on display during his 21 on Friday.
“From the batting point of view, we had a chat briefly after the game – all of us committed to playing positively and that’s why you saw everyone go out there and play with intent,” Kohli had said after the match.
The lack of a sixth bowling option will put tremendous pressure on Bumrah, whose erstwhile ODI form has deserted him since his return from a stress injury. While he was brilliant in the recently concluded Indian Premier League season, just like in the New Zealand series in February, the Gujarat slinger looked pedestrian at best at the Syndey Cricket Ground in the first game.
An equaliser on Sunday will be easier said than done.
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