India brace for another pace test
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Start time 1330 local (0800 GMT)
On a slow pitch in Pune, Australia's fast bowlers made the Indian batsmen hop and jump, asking old questions about their ability to handle high-quality pace bowling. India are going to be put through the same test again, but in conditions that will add another level of difficulty. The series moves to Jaipur, where the pitch - on the evidence of how it played during the IPL and the Champions League this year - will be spicier and in a way, rather Australian.
The quartet of Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay, Shane Watson and James Faulkner didn't just deliver a win in the first ODI, they also put seeds of doubt in the minds of the Indian batsmen, forcing them on the back foot with predominantly short of length bowling, but cleverly mixed it up with accurate bouncers and teasing fuller ones.
Virat Kohli acknowledged that too. "Very few batsmen get out to short deliveries," he said. "It's not a wicket-taking delivery but a tactic used by teams. But at international level, one should be ready to play any delivery that is thrown at him." It was a 'tactic' that was executed to perfection by Australia's bowlers, two of whom - Watson and Faulkner - have played more matches in Jaipur in the recent times than anyone in the India side.
Australia's seemingly inexperienced batting has taken advantage of India's weak bowling too. In 70 overs, they have amassed 505 runs, that too without Watson making a contribution. Aaron Finch continued his dominating form this year and Glenn Maxwell provided those sudden spikes in scoring later in the innings.
It's still early in the series though. India's top three have looked comfortable against the Australian seamers and it's about how the rest pull their weight. That includes the bowlers, who, until now, have looked tired despite this being just the start of the new season.
Form guide (Most recent games first)
In the spotlight
The figures of 10-0-38-1 don't tell the whole story of Mitchell Johnson's spell on Sunday. Johnson was at his menacing best, hustling the batsmen with deliveries that were hurled around 150 kmph. His only wicket was that of Yuvraj Singh, who was given a good working over. Yuvraj stayed on the back foot for five deliveries expecting the short ball, but only got full ones. Then came the snorter, which Yuvraj could only edge behind. It was a masterful spell. However, the other Johnson, the one who sprays the ball around, is never too far and Australia will hope the bad one keeps his appearances to a minimum this series.
Ishant Sharma's career has been almost as long as Johnson's - both have played the same number of Tests. But while Johnson's form follows a cycle, Ishant's stays in a perennial trough with a few stray spikes. The only remnants of the exciting young bowler who debuted in 2007 are his run-up and his hair. He has lacked pace and leaked runs in the two matches against Australia, but with limited fast-bowling stocks, India don't have the luxury of letting him go. Kohli, Ishant's Delhi team-mate, also defended him, saying, "I don't think you can drop a player on the basis of two poor matches." Ishant has just two more matches to do something of note before the squad for the last four ODIs is announced.
MS Dhoni has a tendency to stick with the same XI and is not likely to disturb it just after one ODI, but there is a case to try out either Jaydev Unadkat or Mohammad Shami.
India (probable) 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suresh Raina, 5 Yuvraj Singh, 6 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Vinay Kumar, 11 Ishant Sharma/Mohammed Shami/Jaydev Unadkat
Brad Haddin left the field during the first match after being accidentally poked in the eye by James Faulkner, but he was back to keep wickets later in the day and should remain part of the XI. Australia are not likely to make any changes.
Australia (probable) 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Phillip Hughes, 3 Shane Watson, 4 George Bailey, 5 Adam Voges, 6 Glenn Maxwell, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 James Faulkner, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Clint McKay, 11 Xavier Doherty
Stats and trivia
- In the last five years, the average of India's middle-order batsmen (Nos 4-6) is below 35 against only three teams - Pakistan, South Africa and Australia.
- In the same period, India's bowlers have struggled against Australia. Each Australian wicket costs them 46.55 runs, which is their worst against any team
"In T20s, everyone gets hit. Even Australian bowlers went for a 200-plus score. They didn't change their bowlers in the next match. This is my opinion and rest is on the team management. I am not the captain or the coach to decide on selection matters."
"I don't think we used the short ball any more than any other game we play, but we were happy with the result. We do have plans against certain players though."
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo