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India favourite at weigh-in

Home side,strong on experience,begin battle for top spot against young Aussies.

Written by Chinmay Brahme | Pune |
October 13, 2013 3:55:37 am

Clint Mckay and James Faulkner steamed in with the hot afternoon sun on their backs. For the next 20 minutes,both bowlers went full tilt at Phillip Jacques and Aaron Finch and the plan seemed simple enough — both Mckay and Faulkner peppered the batsmen with short deliveries. Slower bouncers and quick deliveries which reared off the practice pitches as both bowlers followed a set plan.

During the Yuvraj Singh-led blitz in the one-off T20,the Australian bowlers were guilty of bowling too full a length,thereby allowing the Indian batsmen to drive and loft. Here, Ahead of the series opener at the MCA stadium in Pune,changing tracks was the order of the day. With pitches likely to assist batsmen though the seven-match series,the bowlers will be called upon to stem the run-flow using everything in their armory.

Another factor that will worry Australian skipper George Bailey,who has never played an ODI series in India,is the gulf in experience between the two sides. The combined number of caps for the entire Australian squad stands at 627 while MS Dhoni,Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh alone have played a total of 684 games.

The Australian captain,like most visiting captains,made the customary remark about India’s batting strength,saying,“They are a very well balanced side with a very deep and strong batting line-up. We cannot make the mistake of focussing on one guy because someone else can jump up and hurt you,” Bailey said.

Incidentally,Australia have never lost a seven-match ODI series in history and also come in with an unblemished record as far as ODI series victories over India in India go.

In-form batsmen

Most of the Indian batting is in relatively good nick,Rohit Sharma,the side’s newest opener along with Shikhar Dhawan,though has a point to prove after enduring a rather lean tour of Zimbabwe. Sharma,scored only one half-century in four outings,twice squandering away starts.

For Australia though,Aaron Finch,after his pyrotechnics in the Twenty20 at Rajkot,is expected to be tasked with providing a strong foundation at the top. The rest of the Australian batting unit,in the recently concluded one-day series against England,managed to put up only a patchy performance. With full-time skipper,Michael Clarke,whose assured batting earned him the man of the series award in England,missing out,the onus is on Shane Watson and Bailey himself to come up with the goods. Watson,belted a typically aggressive 143 off 107 balls in his last ODI outing for Australia while Bailey has been a steadying influence in the Australian middle-order,averaging 52.6 in England. The duo,along with Finch and Phillip Hughes,who will most likely open,are expected to carry Australia’s batting.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma’s bowling in the eight ODIs that India has played this year at home has been impressive. Kumar with an economy rate of 4.25 and nine wickets from the eight games along with Sharma’s 12 wickets,albeit at a more expensive rate,are expected to take care of the new ball duties. Jaydev Unadkat’s performances on the Zimbabwe tour — he picked up eight wickets in five games with a tidy average of 17.37 — means he may figure at some point in the series. Vinay Kumar too was among the wickets. picking up three scalps in the T20 at Rajkot,and would be in the mix.

Johnson may lead attack

Mitchell Johnson,who sat out the T20 for precautionary reasons,is expected to spearhead the Australian attack. “Mitchell’s got the extra yard of pace and the ability to swing the ball early on,both assets extremely crucial in this part of the world,” was Bailey’s assessment. Clint Mckay,who picked up seven wickets at an average of 20 in three games against England,along with James Faulkner and Nathan Coulter-Nile are likely to start for Australia. Bailey’s state-mate and left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty is the lead spinner for Australia,with Bailey saying that Doherty’s containing stump to stump line would come in handy against India’s three left-handed batsmen.

*Live on Star Cricket: 1.30 pm

‘We are still coming to grips with new rules’

Pune: At the start of the ODI series against Australia,skipper MS Dhoni admitted that the side was still coming to grips with the new ODI rules. “If you see the ODIs,now we will have one more fielder inside (the 30-yard circle). I don’t know where to bring in that one fielder inside in the last ten overs when the batsmen are intent going for the bowlers. That’s one area where we have to work on. We have to see how to use that channel to put pressure on the opposition,” he said. “Hopefully,we can see how we can use different bowlers to the best of our ability to restrict the opposition and not give away those extra 20 runs,” he said. (PTI)

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