India‘s near-ruthless win at Nagpur can be attributed to a number of crucial factors. Indian skipper MS Dhoni’s knock undoubtedly stood out. But he got excellent support from some of the other batsmen and the bowling too looked a lot more potent with a mammoth score on the board. For Australia, their bowling lacked sting and the batsmen could do little after they lost early wickets in the chase.
Brett Lee’s absence in the Australian side stuck out like a sore thumb. Without their main wicket-taker, the bowling was highly impotent on a batting beauty. Mitchell Johnson, who was expected to take on the lead role in Lee’s absence, was particularly disappointing. The death overs exposed the entire Aussie bowling line-up. While Johnson sprayed it all over, the likes of Ben Hilfenhaus and Shane Watson failed to get the ball into the block hole, as a result of which Dhoni and Raina could swing their arms freely.
Amidst all the carnage, it was only Peter Siddle who stood out, keeping the ball right up to the bat and not allowing the Indian batsmen free runs. Unfortunately, his good performance was not well-reflected in his final bowling analysis. Off-spinner Nathan Hauritz managed to keep things tight. To India’s credit though, they ensured he did not get among the wickets. On rare occasions, the Aussies were slack in the field as well, with Ricky Ponting spilling a skier from Dhoni. That can be safely considered as an aberration and the Australians must be focused on improving the other two aspects of their game.
It can be said that, with a mountain to climb, they had very little chance of succeeding in the chase. Still, the batting performance could have been better. A majority of their batsmen got starts, but none among them converted it into a big one. If your highest score chasing a 350-plus target is 53, it is clear you haven’t been too smart. Here again, some praise needs to be reserved for the Indian bowlers.
Praveen Kumar showed a lot of heart in the manner in which he came back after the battering at Vadodora. The quick cameo he played towards the end in a losing cause must have helped his confidence. And he repaid the faith placed in him by shining in helpful conditions. The dismissals of both Tim Paine and Ricky Ponting were of classical in-swinging deliveries, which Kumar specializes in. It is great to see a bowler still willing to stick to the basics of swing bowling and succeed. The only problem with it is that he gets too predictable and ineffective when the pitch has nothing to offer. This is an aspect he has to work on if he desires to attain greater heights.
Even as Kumar was penetrative, Ishant Sharma’s ‘back to form’ performance was equally heartening. There were ample signs of it in the opening match, but he was still dishing out some loose. At Nagpur, however, he was closer to his best. Getting the wicket of Watson with his first ball must have certainly given him a lot of confidence. He used his height to great effect and the opener had no answer to his rising beauty. Despite his success, India would still do well to restrict his ODI appearances and have him play more Tests so that he can remain fresh for key contests. If there is one big worry for India in the bowling department, it has to be Harbhajan Singh. The Indian offie was yet again far from penetrative. It has been a while since Harbhajan has been going through such a patch. And India cannot afford it to continue for too long, especially with a deserving replacement like Amit Mishra in the wings.
Thanks to the super show by Dhoni and co with the bat at Nagpur, the batting is looking strong once again. And with conditions likely to remain pleasant for the batters throughout the series, they can put beyond their woes at least for the time being. For the Aussies, their top priority will be to try and get their bowling in shape. Brett Lee’s return will definitely help, but Johnson and Hilfenhaus must also realize that they are way better bowlers than what their figures displayed on Wednesday. The batting needs improvement as well though it’s not as big a worry as their bowling. All said and done, let’s not forget that they are indeed the number one team in the world. Nagpur is history and Delhi will be a fresh beginning for both teams.