India v Australia, 4th ODI, Chandigarh October 6, 2007

India must attack as a unit

George Binoy assess India's lack of partnerships during the one-day series against Australia and says they must bat as a team to get themselves back into the contest



Yuvraj Singh fired on his own at Hyderabad, he needs support if India are to win © AFP
The first three one-dayers of the seven-match series have reiterated the truism that cricket is a team game. Individual excellence, it's been demonstrated, can only take you so far. The Australians have supported each other with bat and ball while the Indians haven't; the result best expressed by the 2-0 score-line in Australia's favour.

Ricky Ponting said that he would always prefer to bat first - unless they came upon an unusually green pitch - and India can expect the 300-plus targets to become a feature throughout. Unless the Indian batsmen come up with a plan to score at six an over, be it batting first or second, the series might slip away from their grasp.

In all three games so far, India have lost early wickets and the middle order hasn't been able to string together sizable partnerships. The Australians have batted in pairs - one batsman has rotated strike while the other has accelerated - and wickets in hand has allowed them the luxury to consciously slow down when the situation arises.

Recent history has shown that Australia are most vulnerable when attacked with a collective purpose. During the CB series in February, Ed Joyce, Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell played leading roles in England's hat-trick of victories against Australia but they were solidly supported by the rest. The trio's big scores were important but the useful cameos strung together by the rest were equally valuable.

A week later a relatively second-string Australian side were whitewashed in New Zealand; shockingly surrendering 330-plus cushions in two successive games. And it was only because of a succession of partnerships between Ross Taylor, Peter Fulton, Craig McMillan and Brendon McCullum. Australia were harassed in pairs and the expressions on their faces showed they weren't prepared for it.

Yuvraj Singh 115-ball 121 in Hyderabad was a spectacular century which, more often than not, could have been a match-winning knock but chasing 291 required more than one batsman to take on the attack.

Yuvraj and Sachin Tendulkar added 95 for the fourth wicket but India were always behind the asking-rate after they had lost 3 for 13 early on. Mahendra Singh Dhoni joined Yuvraj in a 65-run stand but he was dismissed for 33 at a crucial stage, when India needed him to carry on for much longer. Dhoni admitted that he got out at the wrong time; had he stayed on for another five to seven overs, India could have got closer.

India's recent Test series triumph in England, their first in 21 years, was achieved largely because of their ability to bat in pairs. Despite none of their front-line batsmen managing centuries India posted commanding totals. The one-day series, though, didn't see the trend continuing and it came as no surprise when it cost them the series.

At Southampton, Edgbaston and Old Trafford, they had only one partnership over 50; at Lord's, in the deciding one-dayer, they had none. Not losing wickets at regular intervals, as the Australians have shown, is the simplest way of posting a large total or chasing one down.

Yuvraj , Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly - should he play - and Dhoni are all capable of stellar one-day innings but a solitary blaze is unlikely to trouble Australia. The guns must blaze together. And soon.

George Binoy is an editorial assistant on Cricinfo