This series was billed as the last chance for India to experiment with their ODI squad before going into the 2019 World Cup in England, starting May 30. But coming into the last game of the series at the Ferozeshah Kotla against Australia on Wednesday, Virat Kohli and boys will also have pride at stake with the series level at 2-2.
Losing an ODI series at home will definitely not be ideal preparation for a team touted as one of the favourites to win the World Cup.
The series started with the home team showing complete domination in the first two games, before Aaron Finch and boys made a comeback with a quality win in Ranchi. But not done with registering just a win, the Aussies showed that they are here to make a statement as they chased down India's total of 358 with 4 wickets in their kitty.
Ashton Turner was the star of the show for sure as he hit an unbeaten 84 off just 43 balls to take the visitors home at the PCA Stadium on Sunday. But more than the loss to Australia, it was the inability to defend 358 that will give Kohli sleepless nights. Yes, there was due on the outfield under lights and that made bowling difficult for India's wrist spinners, but then, they are professionals and must cope with conditions on offer.
While the bowling left a lot to be desired, the opening partnership between Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan augurs well for the team going into the showpiece event. While the two had looked a little out of sync in the previous games, Rohit (95) and Dhawan (143) showed that the top-order is in for business.
But the question mark over the no.4 slot remains unsolved and former India skipper Sourav Ganguly rightly said that the spot is still up for grabs as Ambati Rayudu failed to drive home the advantage this series.
The Mohali ODI can't be counted as the top two batted till the 31st over and after that it was more about swinging the bat to glory. But it will be interesting to see if Kohli continues to push KL Rahul in at no.3 and comes in himself at the fourth spot. The move didn't work in the fourth ODI as the platform was set for the batsmen to go for the kill and it was more about smashing the ball than building an innings.
Another area that needs to be looked at is the spot of the wicket-keeper. While all is good till MS Dhoni is around, Rishabh Pant left a lot to be desired with his glovework in Mohali. Two stumpings that should have been completed with utmost ease were missed, let alone Pant's failure to handle the low bounce at times. While it is no worry at present as Dhoni is only resting for these two games, it is a matter that will need immediate attention if Dhoni indeed walks into sunset post the World Cup.
The pace bowling department might enjoy some little movement upfront with some rain in the air in the Capital. But even without that, the fast bowling department has done its job and they will once again look to hold fort at the Kotla.
The Indians decided to give training a miss on Tuesday and that shouldn't be too much of a worry as the boys have been playing non-stop. The wicket at the Kotla is once again expected to be a high scoring one with turn coming into the game in the second half.
For the Australians, it will be about once again showing the world that this team has regrouped well and mean business going into the World Cup. With the likes of Steve Smith, David Warner and Mitchell Starc not even part of the squad, this is ominous signs.
To come down to India and challenge the Men in Blue in almost every game is no mean feat and they will once again look to sign off on a high because after all, the Indians are touted as one of the favourites to win the trophy.
Squads: India: Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, Vijay Shankar, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rishabh Pant (Wicket-Keeper), Mohammed Shami, Ravindra Jadeja.
Australia squad: Aaron Finch (Captain), Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell, Ashton Turner, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey (Wicket-Keeper), Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Lyon, Adam Zampa, D'Arcy Short.
(Baidurjo Bhose can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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