After four games, this somewhat tiring three-nations series is nicely set up. India won a game at the MCG, Melbourne last night and two of her previous games have been rained out. Sri Lanka has 2 points from a rained out game, while Australia has a win and 2 points from a wash-out. Sri Lanka meets India on Tuesday in what could be a battle that opens up this series or tightens the score-board. Even though they were outplayed in Sydney by a rampant and professional Australia unit, Sri Lanka looks like a capable side. So after many years of tiring one-sided cricket, it looks like this series — ironically, the last tri-series in Australia — will be a cracker of sorts!
In last nights’ game, India out thought and out-bowled Australia. The Indians seemed to have a plan for each batsman and stuck to it. The days that the team had in MCG to themselves seemed to have worked! Ishant Sharma thundered in and bowl a foot outside off to Matthew Hayden. They wanted Hayden to make the running and offered him nothing on his pads or close to the body. Similarly, they had a plan for Michael Clarke and for Ricky Ponting. The fielding was sharper and the catching was good too. It is easy to see why this young Team India has captured the imagination of a few Australians in the commentary box. With the calm and fearless M. S. Dhoni at the helm of affairs it is easy for the Indian fan to dream again!
Australia was all out in some 43.1 overs for 169. This does not happen often. No doubt, the scoreline was benefited by poor umpiring that cost Adam Gilchrist (LBW off an inside edge) and Stuart Clark (seemed to not nick a ball that carried through to M. S. Dhoni). And when India was batting, Sachin Tendulkar got a healthy nick and was pouched behind the stumps — it wasn’t given. It is hard to predict what might have been, had these decisions gone against India.
However, I thought India bowled well and that is heartening to see. Ricky Ponting admitted after the game that Ishant Sharma made a big difference. The young Indian quick got Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Andrew Symonds — three top-drawer batsmen. But more importantly, he has improved steadily with each outing. He was entrusted with the new ball in yesterdays’ game and came out trumps. Sree Santh looked dangerous too and Irfan Pathan backed the with some wily stuff of his own. Team India, which is without Zaheer Khan and R. P. Singh, probably its top-2 ODI pacers, is looking sharp at the moment.
In the batting, Rohit Sharma and M. S. Dhoni batted beautifully to get India home. It was disappointing to see India not get the bonus point, but the victory is perhaps more important in the larger scheme of things.
One worry would be the continuing bad form of Yuvraj Singh. Nothing seems to be going right for this young man on this tour. He needs a big innings. India needs it too. With a fit and in-form Yuvraj Singh, this team can reach the finals and create some damage. If not, it may be a bridge too far.
With that in mind, it may not be a bad idea for Team India to think in terms of sending Yuvraj Singh in as opener in the game against Sri Lanka in Canberra. He can play with more freedom and be more carefree. In the last two games he has come in with wicket-preservation mindset and that may not quite be the best frame of mind to be in when one is trying to breakout of a form slump.