There was little going against India in the fourth ODI at Mohali. They won the toss, got the better of the bowling conditions, restricted Australia to an easily achievable target and even put up an unexpected sparking performance in the field. Yet, they ended up on the losing side. It can only be put down to a complacent effort by their batsmen on a pitch where the ball was coming on to the bat very nicely till the very end. All India needed was a reasonable score from one of their top order batsmen and decent contributions from a couple of the others and they would have cantered home rather easily. Not only have the home side squandered a rare opportunity to go 3-1 up against Australia, they have also given the ‘wounded’ Aussies a new lease of life in the tournament. And we all know how dangerous they can get once they smell blood.
The entire Indian batting line-up needs to be held responsible for the defeat, may be with the exception of Virender Sehwag, who, it seems, has been given the license (or may be he has taken it himself) of going after every delivery. While it has been absolutely entertaining to watch him taking on the bowlers, how the Indians would wish he can carry on a bit longer. It’s not all that difficult for the man. Asking him to change his natural style would only backfire on India; if only he can be slightly judicious in his shot selection in the remainder of the series, Australia’s woes would be compounded to magnanimous proportions. As it is they are struggling to put together a fit XI. The Indians cannot get a better opportunity to put it across the Aussies, something they have failed to do in a long time at home against the world champions.
Sri Lanka recently sent out the message to the veteran Sanath Jayasuriya that his spot in the ODI team is not guaranteed anymore, unless he performs with some degree of consistency. It may be too early, but the same principle must also apply to Sachin Tendulkar. He hasn’t crossed 50 in any of the four ODIs and the poor decision he got at Mohali cannot be considered as an excuse. The Indian team management must ask itself and Sachin the tough put pertinent question – will he still be around when the 2011 World Cup comes. One is not querying Sachin’s commitment, but it has been often proved in recent times that his splitting the Gambhir-Sehwag combo has harmed the team’s chances.
Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja are still young, yet they need to learn sooner rather than later. What is disappointing is that they aren’t really making a concerted effort to dig themselves in when the team needs. Kohli played an expansive stroke before getting set, whereas Jadeja ran himself out needlessly. Suresh Raina has been on the international circuit for a couple of seasons now and he, more than the other youngsters, needs to put his hand up and lead the brigade of the young guns. When he made his comeback last year, he stroked some sparking centuries. Even though against minnows, the tons made one believe that he was ready to climb up the ladder. That though is yet to happen and, like Rohit Sharma, Raina too will face exclusion unless he performs soon.
A lot to improve upon for India as they head into the next game. The hosts would have reclaimed the top spot had they beat the Aussies at Mohali. But considering their disappointing performance, it is clear that they are not yet ready to take over the numero uno slot.
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