If cricket matches were played only on paper, India would win hands down at Nagpur. Australia will be depleted by the absence of Brett Lee and James Hopes, taken out of the equation by injuries, whereas India would be bolstered with Yuvraj Singh, in all probability, returning to action. However, that’s not how things work out on the cricket field. So even though India would consider themselves lucky to be taking on a depleted Aussie XI, they will still have to go out and perform to level the series at Nagpur. Moreover, the Indians have to pull their socks up in each and every department.
There are likely to be some definite changes in the home team. If Yuvraj comes in, it will be a straightforward decision to be bench one of the young guns – Virat Kohli or Ravindra Jadeja. There is a faint possibility that both might sit out if India decide to go in with the extra spinner in Amit Mishra, with Yuvraj as the part-time option. Apart from that, there shouldn’t be any modifications in the batting department. However, that doesn’t mean all’s well. The top and middle order needs to get its act together. They can be excused for the Vadodara failure considering it was the first game of the series, but cannot afford to repeat their mistakes at Nagpur.
Virender Sehwag looked ominous during his brief stay on Sunday and would be itching for a big score. Among the others, Sachin Tendulkar would be keen to find the middle of the bat after an unusually below-par performance whereas MS Dhoni must be keen to lead from the front. Opener Gautam Gambhir was the only one who lent some solidity to the Indian chase at Vadodara and the rest, including the ‘sometimes flattering, sometimes deceiving’ Suresh Raina, can learn a lesson from his batsmanship. Gambhir, himself, has to continue with his good work.
Bowling wise as well, Dhoni and co have plenty to ponder upon. After the pasting he took at Vadodara, Praveen Kumar’s confidence might well have taken a beating, his fighting knock with the willow notwithstanding. And so, it is a risk the Indians would not like to take in a crucial game. Munaf Patel will most likely be his replacement, but whether he will prove to be a suitable alternative remains to be seen. Ishant Sharma has found some rhythm no doubt, but needs to maintain the consistency over a period of time for him to be blindly trusted by the team management. Finally, the time has come for Harbhajan Singh to sit down with the team think-tank and discuss what role he has to play in the one-day side. Of late, he has been neither been totally attacking nor completely defensive in his tactics, but has been stuck somewhere in between, barring a few games, in which he managed to make an impression. That leaves India with only comeback man Ashish Nehra as the form bowler, a far from ideal situation.
For Australia, expect Ben Hilfenhaus and Shaun Marsh to get an opportunity in place of Lee and Hopes. That apart, they don’t have too many worries. All their batsmen got runs and bowlers crucial wickets. If anything, some improvement is needed in the death overs bowling as well as in the field. Also, they stumbled during the batting powerplay, but the same applies to India as well.
As it often happens in this part of the world, day-night games are affected heavily by dew. Hence, the team batting first will have to post a huge score if they want to beat the wet conditions in the field. One only hopes that the final result is decided on the basis on which team played better cricket and not external factors.
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