Following the marvellous victory at Nagpur, India would like to believe that they have gained the upper hand in the series for the moment. Add to it Australia’s injury woes as well as the training debacle at Kotla – they had to skip proper practice due to wet pitches – and India are in with a realistically great chance of going 2-1 up in the series. That said, they need to exercise caution. India have often stumbled in the recent past due to complacency, the signs of which were there during the closing stages in Nagpur. Their lethargic approach meant the last Aussie pair managed to get some good batting practice. However, if the Indians do get their act right for the second time running, Australia could be in for a real tough time.
What the Australians need at the present moment is an uplifting effort from one of their seniors. A century from either among Ponting, Hussey or Watson can turn things around for them. One exceptional performance is often enough to ensure a side’s win in a one-dayer. More than their batting though, it is their bowling to which they need to give some serious thought. Now that Brett Lee is unavailable, Mitchell Johnson has to take over the responsibility of the senior bowling pro. True, he himself is not 100 per cent fit. However, considering the state of his team, he will be expected to rise above the pain and perform.
Ben Hilfenhaus found the going pretty tough at Nagpur, which means the other pacer in the squad Doug Bollinger might get a chance, so also may Moises Henriques, who could replace Adam Voges, in an effort to strengthen the all-round department. Peter Siddle and Nathan Hauritz have been Australia’s two best bowlers on display so far and their side would want them to continue in the same vein. If anything, Hauritz will be expected to be slightly more attacking.
Probably the only good news the Australian team has received in recent hours is that Tim Paine’s replacement Graham Manou will arrive in time for the Delhi match. That he also has some international experience is an additional plus. But expecting something extraordinary from him would be asking for too much, as he is sure to suffer from some amount of jetlag. Even so, the fact that he will available itself is good enough for Australia considering the crisis situation.
In sharp contrast, India are suddenly looking like a winning combination. With Gambhir, Dhoni and Raina among the runs, India managed to put up a rock-solid batting performance at Nagpur. Add to it, the ominous cameos played by Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag and the fact that Tendulkar has yet to reach double figures in the tournament. The opposition camp would be feeling rather jittery. One has to keep in mind though that it was just one game where everything clicked. The Aussies would undoubtedly come back hard at the Indians despite all their troubles.
The home side thus needs to carry on from where they finished off on Wednesday. The low, slow Kotla pitch will offer a tougher challenge and the batters need to be prepared to adapt to the conditions. Bowling wise as well the Indians must stick to their guns. Now that Ishant Sharma has rediscovered his rhythm, he should also realize what suits him best. Praveen Kumar has to just continue doing what he did so well at Nagpur, get the early breakthroughs as well as dry up the runs. The temporary spearhead of the bowling attack, Ashish Nehra, is going through one of his better patches and India would hope it lasts for a longer duration, since his presence makes the bowling line-up all the more potent. Regarding Harbhajan Singh, it remains to be seen how he is dealt with – both by the team management and the Aussie batsmen, who are getting increasing confident against him.
As mentioned in the very beginning, all the pointers suggest India have the upper hand. But while they do possess the better arsenal, the men in blue still have to go out and perform. How well India exploit this golden opportunity will in all certainty determine the fate of the game.
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