Australia v India, CB series, 1st ODI, MCG February 5, 2012

India beaten in battle of strategies

The plan to go in with a spin-strong attack is fraught with risk in Australian conditions, as India were made to realise at the MCG

Two entirely different ODI philosophies came up against each other, and the more attacking one, the clearer one, won. Matthew Wade, David Hussey and Michael Hussey played the important knocks that gave Australia a target to defend, but the real difference between the sides was in their bowling attacks.

Australia went all out against the India batsmen, not bothering about the odd wide or about the odd streaky shot. India had two fast bowlers who rely more on control than pace; they did well between them, perhaps exceeded themselves in bowling the first 11 overs for 35 runs, but were followed by a collection of spinners, who on most Australian pitches will remain a defensive strategy.

It didn't help that India were caught by surprise by the extent of the rain, and were suddenly left with just three overs of pace once the rain subsided. How much can rain be blamed is a different matter altogether. India knew it was going to rain, which is why they fielded first, but left themselves open to the prospect of 30 - even more - overs of spin, knowing full well how average R Ashwin has been for the better part of the tour.

MS Dhoni said he made the choice because the resources are sparse. Zaheer Khan is injured again - Dhoni didn't mention which of the knees - but is expected to be available for the Perth ODI against Sri Lanka. Irfan Pathan, Dhoni said, would make it three bowlers bowling at 130kph or even slower. Umesh Yadav has been rested. He last bowled on January 27, which gives him eight days to recover.

Dhoni doesn't have an enviable supply of bowling resources at his disposal, but this is nothing but a restrictive mindset, which works better in subcontinent conditions where the pitches are more responsive even to part-time spinners. The margin of error is little for spinners here despite the big playing fields, and the slow bowlers today transgressed that margin merrily, going for 154 runs in 17 overs between them.

Dhoni was severe on them. "We were two bowlers short [today - Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja]. Two bowlers went for a lot of runs. You bowl loose deliveries, but there are certain deliveries that are so loose that will always go for a boundary. Today we bowled quite a few of those. Even though the field was big, I think the execution wasn't really great."

India will need to re-examine the subcontinent strategy of playing with an army of part-time spinners on these pitches. "Of course if plan A doesn't work, you have to go with plan B," Dhoni said. "We also have to see the resources we have got. We don't have a fast-bowling allrounder. Irfan [Pathan] is a part of the side, but he has just come in.

"We will also have to see if we can have variation in the bowling. If you have the same bowling line-up, in the sense, if you have all bowlers bowling below 130, you don't have the kind of variation needed. You have to decide if it is better to play with three seamers or sticking to three spinners. With pace comes the opportunity to score runs, so you have to be very consistent if you have to score fast."

Australia didn't need any Plan B with the ball. They did with the bat, but they handled it pretty well. They had an ordinary start when they were given nothing to hit by the new-ball bowlers, but Wade took India on just after the rain break, and the Hussey brothers shredded the spinners. It was striking how their bowlers went after India's top order.

That was their Plan A, to reopen some of the Test wounds. Ryan Harris hurried through with aggression, Mitchell Starc swung the ball, and got Gautam Gambhir out with the short one again. The better part was when Rohit Sharma scored a streaky yet run-a-ball 21, Australia didn't step back despite this being just a 32-over game. Harris even bowled a wide trying to get into the ribs of Gambhir, but didn't mind it.

Australia know the conditions well, they are playing according to them. India have a fair knowledge of the conditions having spent more than a month in the country, but through bull-headedness or through lack of resources, they are trying to make things work the only way they know. If it does work, they will have truly outdone themselves.

Amid all this, India's new young batsmen, who have been the talking point over the last month and a half because of the non-performance of the seniors, are out in the limelight again. Suresh Raina has been bounced out again, and a premeditative Rohit didn't look convincing at all. All the youngsters have lifted the look of the side with their fielding, but they know will have to score more than they save in the field.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on February 7, 2012, 8:13 GMT

    we need tons of guts to call the time up for seniors in tests and even in odis. we have to try atleast one new opener if not both with rahane. this is high time and lets start living without these seniors. atleast if this makes us lose few games let it be. we will catch up. middle order should have pujare and rohit apart from kohli. a bowling allrounder like pathan should be in the team rather than serving drinks/biting his nails outside.

    captaincy needs to be attended to. strategies have to be reworked around spin and pace departments and last but not least field placements!!!

    A wholesome sincere and impartial attempt be made for the rehaul and betterment ofIindian cricket. But where and thro whom these tons of guts are coming from????

  • Dummy4 on February 7, 2012, 7:51 GMT

    Nampally sounds like a guy who knows cricket.Listen to him.Simplify Dhoni's leadership.He is handling it like it is rocket science.Keep it simple, stupid.No need to be too cute.That's my advice for Dhoni.

  • Desmond on February 7, 2012, 7:12 GMT

    Indian seamers were better than Australian counterparts in this match which means that Dhoni's strategy is all wrong. I remember an ODI in the tri-series in Australia where India tied with WI (both 126 all out). India had four seamers who had used their 40 overs and WI were 126 for 9. Sachin was given the ball to bowl the 41st over and WI last man was out caught in the slips probably first fall of Sachin which was an outswinger. Why was Sachin not used as a seamer when he is in the playing 11?

  • Dummy4 on February 7, 2012, 5:58 GMT

    Dhoni's strategies are bamboozling to say the least. Picking 2 slow medium pacers in Melbourne makes mockery of a selection. It is literally 5 spinners on operation. Hope better sense prevail and change his strategy before the series gets over. He was so adamant in not effecting any change in the playing 11 and lost the test series. He played the same batting lineup from test 1 through 4 and the result is there to see.

  • Al on February 7, 2012, 3:56 GMT

    Agree with @amarasir123 - India should drop Sachin Thendulkar, there is no point having a player for the sake of getting his 100th hundred. Also drop Gambhir or Raina and play Manoj Tiwary. Ashwin has been a flop so far. Pathan can do better than Ashwin.

  • Dummy4 on February 7, 2012, 3:45 GMT

    Please fire Dhoni for God's sake. He is not fit to be a captain in any format.

  • Andrew on February 7, 2012, 0:38 GMT

    @Nampally - Ozzys are very good against wrist spinners, in Oz we play wrist spinners even better. Warne's Shield stats weren't as good as his Test stats - tell you something? For a country that has produced Warne, MacGill, Grimmett & O'Reilly we do know a bit about leggies. As for Rahul Sharma - yes he should be given a go because Oz pitches are much more conducive to wrist spin as opposed to finger spin.

  • Dummy4 on February 6, 2012, 23:17 GMT


    So many problems will be resolved in 1 shot ranging. Think about it.

  • Dummy4 on February 6, 2012, 21:39 GMT

    "Irfan has just come ito the team" Dhoni says ! Well, hes been in Aus for over a week now and besides, has played in Aus on two full tours earlier in his career in 2003-04 and 2007-08. Next thing you know he will be saying that the inexperience and newness of Rahul Sharma and Vinay Kumar is helping!!

  • Navraj on February 6, 2012, 21:31 GMT

    I am very much agreed commentrs written by Mr Ravi Gupta, plus decision taken by MS Dhoni to bat first was very wrong too? When you know you have two stable openers like Sachin n Gambhir why did he chose to field first? In Australian pitch conditions are always to bat first doesn't matter which part of the Australia you play? Dhoni shouldn't have play with two spinners in first place specially in Australia? Where all pitches are bouncy! I think Dhoni brain has stop working after loosing so many matches continously? I thinks he needs a big break?. Then he needs to give more chance to leg spinner rather than off spinner?

  • No featured comments at the moment.