India hold back spin
Neither Aaron Finch nor David Warner looked convincing in the first ten overs. They didn't get their team off to a flying start either. There was a case to bring either of the two legspinners, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, in the first ten overs in a bid to break the partnership but India chose to continue with the seamers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah instead. Since the seamers were not leaking too many runs, Kohli's choice of continuing with them can be understood. But there was certainly a case for introducing the spinners before the two Australian batsmen were set. In fact, Kuldeep, who took a hat-trick in the second ODI, came on to bowl only in the 22nd over.
Tactic of bowling within the stumps
As soon as a couple of balls bounced a few times before reaching MS Dhoni, India changed their tactics: the slip cordon was quickly removed and two fielders were positioned in front of the stumps. The focus of both India seamers was to finish within the stumps, and caught-behind was no longer considered a wicket-taking option. The only way India would take wickets were bowled, leg-before and caught in front of the stumps. While it is easy to advocate such a line because of the conditions, it is not easy to execute that ball after ball. There's a room of at least two feet while maintaining the outside-off line with the new ball but that is reduced to only a few inches while bowling within the stumps. It's easier to execute the delivery if the ball is reverse-swinging, but controlling a new ball with that much accuracy is difficult.
Finch's steady build-up
Finch's strength is playing through the off side. Most new-ball bowlers bowl full and outside off to induce the edge, but that strategy plays into his hands. The conditions and India's awareness of Finch's strengths meant that he wasn't provided any width throughout and, to his credit, he responded beautifully. He started slowly in the beginning and opened his arms only after he was well set. He has an amazing ability to hit straight sixes without using his feet and that that did not allow Kuldeep and Chahal to bowl full; every time they did so, he took the aerial route down the ground. All four of his sixes came in the V down the ground, and he accumulated 39 runs off 22 balls in that region. Seventeen full-length deliveries bowled by India's spinners yielded 44 runs for Finch, with four fours and four sixes.
Maxwell, and India's use of the bouncer
Facing his second delivery, Glenn Maxwell was on the receiving end of a short ball from Hardik Pandya and he played it awkwardly. Virat Kohli brought Bumrah from the other end, hoping to put pressure on Maxwell, but Bumrah did not bowl any bouncer in that over. He tried a couple of yorkers but there wasn't a lot of reverse swing, and the chances of a new batsman missing the full ball were negligible.
The idea of bringing on the lead pacers in the middle of an ODI innings is to pick wickets but that must play out in the lengths they bowl and the fields they use. Kohli brought both Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah when the Finch-Steven Smith partnership was flourishing but both bowlers tried an orthodox line and length, with an orthodox field.
Short spells to no effect?
The ball hasn't swung this series and that has taken a major wicket-taking option away from the Australia quicks. The lack of swing automatically forces the bowler to drag his length back and challenges him to find another method to take wickets. One would expect a lot of bouncers, especially against Ajinkya Rahane, but that wasn't the case. Rahane wasn't bounced even once. Also, Smith's bowling changes were difficult to fathom. He held strike bowlers back after a few overs. While Nathan Coulter-Nile was a little expensive, and therefore his removal could be justified, taking Pat Cummins off the attack after only three overs did not make sense. If it was done to protect him and manage his workload, then Australia will be blamed for compromising the present for an uncertain future.
Pandya or Pandey at No. 4?
Most of the batting spots for this Indian team are fixed except the No.4 slot. KL Rahul was given the opportunity three times against Sri Lanka before Manish Pandey was drafted in. While Pandey did well in the fourth ODI against Sri Lanka - 50 not out, followed by 36 in the final match - he bagged a couple of low scores in the first two games against Australia. On Sunday, India lost their second wicket at 147 in the 24th over and looked set for an easy victory. It might have been the right time for Pandey to walk out and play a sizeable knock to further his case. But the team chose to send Hardik Pandya instead. The idea was to attack Ashton Agar and take him out of the game. Flexibility in the batting line-up is always a great thing but considering that India needed less than 6 an over with Virat Kohli in middle, there wasn't an urgent need to disrupt the order.
The part-time bowling option
It's not often that you find teams going through the entire 50 overs with only five bowlers. It is even more unlikely in subcontinental conditions, with the flat tracks, where it is inevitable that one of the five bowlers may have a bad day. Interestingly, Kohli has not used a sixth bowling option even once in this series. And in Indore, even when Australia's frontline bowlers were leaking runs, Smith didn't introduce one of the part-time options.
Pandya versus pace
Pandya's ability to hit sixes against spinners is well-documented. In fact, the frequency with which he hits them will instill fear in teams that plan to bowl spin to him. In Indore, however, the stand-out feature of his innings was his competence against pace. While he is not as aggressive against pace as he is against spin, Pandya is capable of keeping the quicker bowlers at bay and hitting proper cricketing shots in between. On Sunday, he proved that he isn't a mere finisher, but a batsman who can build an innings as well.