Maybe, even the national selectors didn’t give too much importance to the ODI leg of the ongoing limited-overs series in Australia. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have sent such a lightweight squad to face the world champions. With T20 being the flavour of the first quarter of the year – World T20 begins in less than two months – the Sandeep Patil-led panel picked an experimental side for the 50-over games. Suresh Raina was dropped and Yuvraj Singh, Amit Mishra, Harbhajan Singh and Varun Aaron had been overlooked. Gurkeerat Singh, Manish Pandey, Rishi Dhawan and Barinder Sran got the nod instead. Three of them played at the MCG on Sunday with Gurkeerat and Dhawan making their ODI debuts, while Sran featuring in his third match at this level. The youngsters badly let India down with their performance and game awareness. (REPORT: Maxwell shines as Australia win series)
The visitors once again batted first and were on 243/3 after 44.2 overs, when MS Dhoni came to the crease. It was kitchen sink time and the skipper started to fire on all cylinders.
James Faulkner was whipped over the deep mid-wicket for a flat six. One ball later, Dhoni smote the left-arm seamer past extra cover for a boundary. It was so refreshing to see him regain his attacking mojo. He had become a grafter of late.
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From India’s point of view it was imperative that Dhoni took most of the strike during that phase, especially after Virat Kohli’s departure. The latter became the fastest man to reach 7,000 runs and 24 tons in this format of the game on his way to a run-a-ball 117. He nicely set things up for his captain to go full throttle at the death. Unfortunately, Dhoni barely got a chance to bat. Gurkeerat made a futile attempt to hit everything out of sight rather than just putting bat on the ball and helping Dhoni do the needful. It was poor cricket from the 25-year-old who has had been with the team since the home ODIs against South Africa.
Rishi committed the same error in the last over, getting oblivious to Ravindra Jadeja’s presence at the other end and deciding to go for glory. India could manage only seven runs in the final eight (one wide) deliveries of their essay.
Gurkeerat and Rishi bowled 11 overs between them during Australia’s chase, giving away 60 runs without a wicket. They never looked like taking one. The former dropped a sitter to allow Aaron Finch a reprieve when he was on 20. They have been selected to play for India on the heels of an impressive domestic season. But Gurkeerat and Dhawan, and also Sran, still have a long way to go to meet the international standards. In hindsight, it was a wrong decision not to include Axar Patel in the playing XI.
Unlike the first two matches, the hosts were put under pressure this time as India dismissed George Bailey, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh and Matthew Wade in the middle-overs. At 215/6 after 38.1, it was anybody’s game. But Glenn Maxwell played a brilliant hand to secure an unassailable 3-0 lead for his side. India’s bowling, except Jadeja, was once again inconsistent. Fielding at times was patchy. Direct hits remained elusive. A lightweight unit was done in by Australia’s depth.
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