India v Australia, 3rd ODI, Delhi October 30, 2009

Who's the force with?


For half an hour at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Friday, James Hopes took throwdowns from Tim Nielsen in the nets even as the rest of his team-mates warmed up in the main stadium. He made sure he stretched while playing the sweeps, paddles and reverse-paddles. He then proceeded to bowl quite a bit, before batting some more.

Australia were desperate, but after the fitness test they chose not to risk Hopes. Brett Lee bowled a few deliveries from four paces, and it was clear he wouldn't be playing either. Graham Manou, the replacement wicketkeeper for the injured Tim Paine, was still several hours' flying time from India.

Two days ago after being mauled in Nagpur without Lee and Hopes, Australia are 'Paine-less' as well.

The win in Vadodara was just five days ago but this already seems a different world for them. Till Harbhajan Singh and Praveen Kumar's freak partnership, it seemed like the highs from the England series and Champions Trophy hadn't ended for Australia.

Lee couldn't bowl out his quota then, Hopes' hamstring gave way and Shane Watson and Peter Siddle came down with a sudden bout of half-volleys and full-tosses. It was reminiscent of 2008 when Harbhajan and Zaheer saved the Bangalore Test, after which it was all India.

From looking like world champions, Australia are struggling to find 11 men standing, let alone a best XI. They might be desperate but they are not panicking just as yet. Ricky Ponting doesn't worry about what has happened over the last six days.

"I am not a big believer of momentum from game to game," Ponting said. "Momentum is all that's happening in a particular game. I don't think much of it carries from game to game. I think many of the games that I have played in the past have changed too quickly to be attributed to momentum.

"India played very well in the last game, and the injuries we have cost us at Nagpur. We know we have to improve. It's one thing to talk about, and another thing to go out and do."

Ponting has a point, in that you land in a city, rest for the night, train the next day, play the day after, and travel to the next city. Throw in new pitches, new grounds and new environments and repeat the cycle six times. If anything, it should be difficult to build momentum in such a series. There is hardly any time to brood over a loss either.

India, though, see the things differently. "We can say that we lost the first match because we didn't bat well or bowl well, but we took a lot of positives from that game," MS Dhoni said. "The way Praveen and Harbhajan batted, the momentum swung towards us slightly, and then we performed well in that second match in all departments. We are paying more attention to the momentum that we have, and are hoping to capitalise on it. We will try to do well this match rather than worrying about injuries in the Australian team."

However, Dhoni indicated he wasn't overestimating the concept. "What really happens in a long series like this is that it suddenly becomes a five-match series," he said. "You carry a bit of momentum and confidence, but for every game you have to start from scratch. Every batsman who is in good form has to go out and score runs for the side. At the same time, the players who have not done well in the last couple of games need to come back and perform."

Both teams are treating it differently, and it is perhaps too early in the series to talk of decisive momentum. The scoreline still says 1-1 and, though it may well be a five-match series from now on, Australia - who came into this series without two first-choice men - have lost three more. They will do well to overcome that on Saturday as the series promises a couple of more shifts in momentum.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mukund on October 31, 2009, 18:27 GMT

    having Henriques instead of Nannes is a joke.

  • Amahl on October 31, 2009, 9:50 GMT

    What I dont understand is simply this. Where in the world is Brad Hodge? That man should be in India and I just cant understand why the Australians are so reluctant to take him on. That would inject some experience and confidence into this side who are struggling from the batting perspective. What's more, he bowls useful off spin. I really feel he could be the addition Australia needs to bring back that 'momentum' Ricky was talking about.

  • Lou on October 31, 2009, 9:08 GMT

    pavz, give it a break. Even in the Champion's Trophy the Aussies were missing Clarke, Haddin and Bracken, 3 first picks, than Ferguson got injured during the tournament. Now Lee and Hopes are out. As an Aus fan, this team is looks incredibly new to me. MJ can't last much longer. He must be one of the most overworked cricketers in international terms.

    But hey, that's modern cricket. The Aussie's have practically replaced an entire team in the last 2 years with all the retirements anyway. And it's very interesting to see how new players perform.

    The Pura Cup and the one day competitions in Oz should be corkers as eveyone must see themselves with a chance for a cap.

  • Agnel on October 31, 2009, 8:24 GMT

    As an Indian, I am happy that Australia have messed up with their team selection first of all. They did not choose David Warner, Stuart Clark, David Hussey, Simon Katich and Phil Hughes all of whom were in form, had just played in India in the Champions league and were very fit. When a side loses Clarke, Bracken, Haddin, Ferguson before the series and then lose Hopes, Lee during it with Johnson rendered half crumpled, the selection of team is just baffling to say the least! And not to mention leaving out dangereous Dirk Nannes, I dont really know whats wrong with the Aussie selectors. I am further happy these 'Indian selection traits' are now affecting the star team as well!!!

  • Mark on October 31, 2009, 7:58 GMT

    Clearly this article is poking fun at the concept of momentum, particularly at this stage of the series. And I'm sure that the captains and players themselves think it's all a bit of a joke as well, having to say this and that. But that's their job isn't it. On that note both Dohni and Ponting are spouting just the kind of gibberish you would expect them to under the current circumstances. Maybe too many other things to worry about. I long for a captain to, once in a while say what they really think and show a bit of their own character and originality, although, if I was getting paid that much, maybe I'd tow the party line into the plethora of banality too. BTW, sure, they get paid a lot more than the used to, but I agree that there is simply too much international cricket at the moment. I'm losing interest. There's no build-up, no anticipation. I am an Australian supporter but would expect India to win. Australia will have to do something a little special to win the series.

  • Prasad on October 31, 2009, 7:28 GMT

    Pavz, Ponting's not whining, nor is he bringing up excuses. Australia genuinely have a problem. Haddin, Bracken, Clarke didn't come. Now Lee, Hopes are out. Johnson is half-fit. Paine, though not a 1st choice player, is out too. Imagine what happens to India team without Sehwag, Tendulkar, Yuvraj and Dhoni. In the first match, you were crying India lost because Yuvraj wasn't there. Please think sensibly before commenting. And whatever players they have, you would put water on the training pitch, so they can't practice. It's disgraceful. The Indians always think Ponting is bad and needs to be insulted. Pls. show some respect. Believe it or not, Ponting is behaving much better now than the Indians can ever notice in their lifetime. I'm an Indian living in Australia, and know for sure that Aussies like to express their feelings frankly. That's exactly what Ponting is doing. What's wrong with expecting Lee would come good after CLT20, then getting disappointed when Lee pulls up sick?

  • Md on October 31, 2009, 6:17 GMT

    I agree that this is not the best australian side but thats not india's champions trophy india too missed the services of sehwag,zak and yuvi and struggled.same is with australia here and we could have got mch more tight matches and closely fought series betwwen these two countries had australia were playing their best 11.overall i think india should have no problem winning the series.

  • Arshad on October 31, 2009, 6:16 GMT

    well said, chokkashokka. I think professional players should not be complaining about the schedules at all.

  • Naveen on October 31, 2009, 4:26 GMT

    Biggest +ve India can take is winning against Australia without significant contribution from Sachin Tendulkar

  • pavan on October 31, 2009, 4:07 GMT

    now who's whining people .. australia bringing up excuses saying about injuries and they are handicapped.. recall the same to india's plight a few months back . people were going gung-ho that india were whining and giving excuses .. the rule applies to everyone . whenever you lose your top players , you are already down in confidence and ability as a team .. australia is atleast lucky in a way that they are playing a bilateral series rather than the champion's trophy when team is missing some top players ..

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