New Delhi: It's become the norm now to see Virat Kohli with bat in hand in a tense chase, soaking up the pressure and guiding team India to victory with his outrageous talent.
The two successful 350-plus chases in the current India-Australia series have been two of the high points in a fantastic calendar year for India in ODIs, one in which India have won four series and could go on to win a fifth successive in Bangalore on Saturday.
Having begun the year with a 1-2 defeat at home to Pakistan, India went from strength to strength in the five ODIs against England, then stormed to the title at the Champions Trophy in England, won the tri-series in the West Indies before sweeping Zimbabwe on their home soil.
The common thread in all those victories, apart from Kohli’s increasing magnificence, was the solid starts that new opening pair Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma provided.
After struggling for a couple of seasons, India finally seem to have found long-term incumbents for the ODI opening slots, given Dhawan’s comfort in playing off the front and back foot and Rohit’s reinvention as the sheet anchor.
The rise of these young turks has coincided with the fall of the established stars in the side – the left-handed pair Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina.
Though the two are firmly in the selectors’ plans for the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, neither has looked the part in this series in particular, with the pace and bounce of Mitchell Johnson bothering both.
For Yuvraj, 31, the year has been a nightmare. In the early part of the year, he hit just one half-century against England and was dropped after a string of low scores. Forging his way back into the squad with some strong domestic performances, he cracked a match-winning 77 in the T20 in Rajkot, but in the ODI series, he has scored seven runs in three innings, including two ducks.
On each occasion, he has fallen victim to Johnson, twice edging to the wicket-keeper and once bowled. His 2013 record stands at 165 runs from 12 matches (average 16.50) and just one half-century.
The 26-year-old Raina, meanwhile, has been pushed up as India’s new No. 4, but has managed just 39, 17 and 16 in the three knocks he’s got. On two of those occasions, he has fallen to his old foe, the short rising ball from Johnson.
His record stands at 635 runs from 27 matches (average 39.69), including five half-centuries, four of which came against England in January. Since then, he has hit just one half-century, a 65 not out in Bulawayo against Zimbabwe.
If anything, with the two new balls and the field restrictions, middle-order batsmen ought to be doing better than before, given that the harder ball comes on to the bat better and there are more gaps to hit boundaries into. But in the case of Yuvraj and Raina, it seems obvious there are some issues that need to be sorted out before they assume catastrophic proportions.
Reproduced from Mail Today. Copyright 2013. MTNPL. All rights reserved.
- Highest successful chases by India in ODIs
- Kohli forces Australia to run for cover
- Kohli and India re-write record books
- Super-charged India overrun Australia
- Mind over matter for Dhawan
- Rohit delighted with match-winning knock
- Rohit's reinvention needs to be a long-term affair
- Don't forget the contributions of senior players: Yuvraj