Hyderabad: India may not necessarily press the panic button but it is a rude awakening call for the World Cup which is around the corner. After spectacular series win Down Under and then in New Zealand, the Virat Kohli’s team tasted a 2-3 defeat against the resilient Australians, who showed indomitable spirit by bouncing back after losing the first two ODIs. The Justin Langer and Ricky Ponting-coached team proved a point that they are back in business. The loss has raised many questions mark for India before the World Cup in England.
Having started the tour as underdogs, the Australians grew strength-to-strength before clinching the T20 and ODI series. The Australians broke that myth of India’s invincibility at home. In fact, the series underlines the fact, India need to make concerted effort to regain the confidence before the World Cup. Though skipper Kohli may not agree, this Australian team has rattled the Indians. The batting looked vulnerable and the bowling exposed with the home team unable to find a winning formula after victories in Hyderabad and Nagpur.
Perhaps, the turning point of the series came in the third match in Ranchi when Shikar Dhawan dropped Usman Khawaja a sitter at gully off Ravindra Jadeja when the left-handed opener was on 18. He went on to hit his maiden century and was involved in a huge opening partnership with Aaron Finch. The Aussies or Khawaja did not look back after the third ODI. The Indian think-tank read it wrong at Ranchi as they elected to field first and hoping to cash on the dew factor that never came.
That was enough for the Aussies to strike back strongly. The Aaron Finch-led team came with a plan and they executed them to perfection. Led by the fiery speedster Patrick Cummins, the bowlers had a firm grip on the Indian top order. They made early inroads except for the Mohali match where Dhawan hit a century while Rohit Sharma made 90s. They put on a huge partnership. Kohli may have hit back-to-back centuries but was undone by the Aussies who plotted his dismissal by bowling wide outside the off-stump. Aussies knew that the openers and skipper hold the key in India’s fortunes. Once the, the trio were dismissed, India’s challenge fell flat.
India’s inability to find a No.4 batsman was the biggest worrying factor. Ambati Rayudu, who till the New Zealand series was considered hot favourite for this spot. But his poor form has become a matter of concern. Nor the return of KL Rahul helped India’s cause. Kedar Jadhav was a failure both as batsman and a bowler. Nor young Rishab Pant was any encouraging factor. He is still shaky as a wicketkeeper, particularly against the spinners. That is the reason the presence of the experienced Mahendra Singh Dhoni has become very crucial now as India realized in the last two matches. Will Vijay Shankar provide as right answer for the all-rounder’s spot?
But it was Jasprit Bumrah’s poor show in the death overs that proved a detrimental factor. His yorkers or slower deliveries were ineffective. The Aussies did not allow him to settle down. As a result, Bumrah leaked runs. The Indian bowlers were a pale shadow to the Aussies who came on hard on the home team batsmen. Kuldeep Yadav proved expensive. Mohd Shami was outstanding in the first two matches but then injury forced him out of two matches.
It is a big compliment to the Aussies. They believed in themselves. Khawaja made most of the series with his disciplined batting. The Australian batting revolved around this doughty left-hander. The Aussies ensured that they put up big scores in the series and the magnificent chase in Mohali was icing on the cake with Aston Turner announcing his arrival to World Cricket.
But it was Cummins who broke the back of Indian batting along with Jhye Richardson. They were mean and aggressive. Leg spinner Adam Zampa strangled the Indians with his variations and speed. It was a series that Aussies have much to celebrate and with return of banned Steve Smith and David Warner, Australian should start as strong favourites in England World Cup.