T20 win brings cheers

Ravindra Jadeja... all round show in the T20 match in Melbourne.-AP

The abbreviated form of the game presents the Indian side, with several young faces, to put the Australian nightmare (drubbing in the Tests) behind. Over to S. Dinakar.

Melbourne has to be among the best connected cities in the world. You can buy a ticket and use it for buses, trains and trams. The capital of Victoria is elegant and stately with a wonderful blend of the old and the new. The city has a distinct European feel about it.

When the Indian cricket team was here last, there was a great sense of anticipation ahead of the Boxing Day Test. The side was in with a chance going into the final stretch of the game and then the Aussies pulled away. The host won at the MCG and then rolled over India in the remaining Tests. Now we are in a different month and a new day. The abbreviated form of the game presents the Indian side, with several young faces, to put the Australian nightmare behind.

The crowd travelling to the MCG comprises a fair number of Indian supporters. They are hopeful of an Indian turnaround. Meanwhile, Dhoni's men end their losing streak in Australia by levelling the two-match Twenty20 series win a victory at the MCG. There, finally, are smiles in the visitors' camp as fireworks light up the night sky. The beating of the drums by Indian fans rents the air.

Ravindra Jadeja is the toast of the Indian side with his handy left-arm spin and game-changing fielding. He could not have timed his display more lucratively. In the auction of the cash-rich Indian Premier League the next day, Jadeja goes for $2 million! One of the Australian mainline newspaper asks — “Is he (Jadeja) worth that kind of money?”

Can the Indians repeat their Twenty20 spirit and energy in the first ODI of the Commonwealth Bank triangular series? There is a surprise as the Indian XI is announced. No Virender Sehwag. The marauding opener, who conjured a world record 219 in his last ODI innings in Indore, is ‘rested' for the game. It's incredible that the Indian batsman that the oppositions fear most is not figuring in the tournament opener; early momentum can be so crucial in a competition of this kind.

The Indian team-management, it emerges, will have a rotation policy going at least until the long drawn league phase — each team plays eight games — is done with. Skipper Dhoni says, “We wanted to give Rohit Sharma a chance and one of the seniors made way for him.” The Indian captain then talks about the 2015 World Cup down under and stresses the importance of giving the younger cricketers a run in these conditions ahead of the big event.

The reasoning appears bizarre. For a start, India, crushed in the Test series, needs to play its best possible XI to restore some pride and make a serious bid to win the triangular series. ‘Resting' cricketers at the beginning of a tournament just does not make sense. Then, there is no guarantee that the youngsters who perform in this edition of the ODI triangular series will be around till 2015. Plenty of things could happen in between; their form could dip, they could lose their places.

Dishing out winning cricket is a lot about playing the in-form cricketers. If the batsman strikes form and then is ‘rotated' for the next match, he stands the risk of losing touch. Teams with ‘settled' XI often go on to triumph.

Well, apart from adhering to a strange rotation policy, the Indians commit tactical blunders as well at the MCG. The think-tank opts for three spinners on a lively track. The ploy backfires. Jadeja goes for big runs and someone quips, “If the IPL auction had happened tomorrow, he would not have got half the money!”

The Indian pacemen impress before the rain intervenes and the match is shortened to 32-overs-a-side game. When the match commences again, the Indians desperately seek a third seamer who is not around in the XI! The three spinners prove expensive and the Indians lose by a mile. The side's game-plan is awry.

The nearly five-hour flight from Melbourne to Perth is a tiring one. I catch up Paul Reifell, former Australian fast bowler and now umpire. “Fast bowling is demanding physically, but umpiring is taxing mentally,” he says.

Perth, the jewel in Western Australia, is a hot but leafy city with a relaxed pace of life. But things are not so relaxed for the batsmen out there in the middle. The Western Australian Cricket Association (WACA) pitch is among the quickest in the world. The pacemen can make the batsmen hop around here. But it is the Indian spinners who have the Sri Lankan batsmen in a tangle. Ravichandran Ashwin and Jadeja bowl in tandem and then script a win with the willow after Sri Lanka appears to hold the aces going into the final phase of the match.

It's warm in Perth and it's a night of Indian celebrations. A win, even one of a scrappy nature, can be a wonderful tonic in times of distress.