When India play their first ODI against Australia on Tuesday, almost one year would have passed since they lost their first match in the tri-series against the same opposition Down Under in 2015. That match was the beginning of India’s miserable outing in the tri-series and what one would not have known at that time – a series of losses in ODIs in 2015.
Leaving aside the World Cup in 2015, India’s performances don’t compliment its number two status in the world rankings. After the three losses in the tri-series (and one abandoned due to rain), India had a successful World Cup where they registered seven straight wins before losing to eventual winners Australia in the semi-final. Zimbabwe was another happy outing for India as they lost only one match out of the five limited-over matches (both ODIs and T20Is). But then, it was Zimbabwe.
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India’s record in 2015 doesn’t draw a happy picture. Losses to England, Australia, Bangladesh and South Africa sum-up their past year. In all, India played 35 international matches in the shorter versions of the game including the warm-up matches of the World Cup. They could only win 15 of them and two were no-results. Let’s breakdown the 17 wins.
Eight of them came in the World Cup (one win in warm-up against Afghanistan). One win against Bangladesh and four against Zimbabwe during the middle year. Later, India managed only two wins – against South Africa.
A deeper analysis shows us that India managed only four wins against opponents ranked five and above in the rankings. Also, India lost four matches to Bangladesh and one to Zimbabwe. Therefore, it is time India return to winning ways heading into important tournaments like the Asia Cup and World T20. But will it be easy?
The core of the team since the Australia tri-series has been the same. In the upcoming series, India will the miss the services of Suresh Raina (not picked) and Mohammed Shami (ruled out due to injury). Even after that, the bowling department seems strong with the return of Ishant Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja. Ravichandran Ashwin has been India’s most successful bowler in the past one year and he will once again look to trouble the Australia batsmen. The newest member of the squad, Barinder Sran looked impressive in the warm-up fixtures.
Going by the performances of the batsmen in the two practice matches that were played on Friday and Saturday, it seems a department sorted. Shikhar Dhawan scored a fluent 74 and so did Virat Kohli. Rohit Sharma was at his best in the one-day game. MS Dhoni and Ajinkya Rahane chipped in with their little cameos. By the looks of it, the team looks in the best shape. The captain cool is coming after a break of two months and the fans are waiting for the Dhoni to return to dominance in the shorter formats.
A good result here would be a boost to the captain who has looked off colour since his Test retirement in December 2014. It is also equally important for India under transformation.
India are hosting the T20 World Cup which adds to the pressure. The team has ample fixtures before the mega-event with the current series and a series against Sri Lanka at home and then the Asia Cup in Bangladesh which will be played in the T20 format. During these tournaments, the 2007 champions of the T20 event need to get everything right to lift the tournament they ended as runners-up in the last edition.