PREMATURE CELEBRATION: Ishant Sharma
Raina defends Ishant | Bowlers' nightmare | Coach on Ishant | India unchanged
RANCHI: After decades of grinding/pulverising the opposition out of the contest on homegrown dustbowls, India are now decrying a spate of changes that they think heavily favour batsmen. The two-new-balls ruling and the imperative to limit outfielders to a maximum of four has come under sharp focus after skipper MS Dhoni pronounced that such changes were to the detriment of the bowler – more often than not that bowler being Ishant Sharma.
It would be fairly accurate to say that Ishant’s torrid 48th over at Mohali underlined India’s bowling woes in a series they’ve conceded a score above 300 every single time. The official recourse, however, was to shove the new rule book in the face of reporters: a double-whammy of modifications that deprives bowlers of reverse swing (thanks to the two new balls) and constricts the number of quicksilver outfielders to four instead of the original five.
India find themselves in a situation they’re largely unaccustomed to: trailing as they go into the fourth match of a home ODI series. At Dhoni’s home ground, the JSCA Stadium, in what is almost a must-win encounter, there is as much debate and discussion on the new rules as there is on India’s flailing bowling attack.
If what happened at Mohali doesn’t force Dhoni to makes changes to the eleven, perhaps nothing will, for both Ishant and R Vinay Kumar have been gifting runs like charitable hosts. The Indian’ captain’s obstinacy to persist with players is known. But there is a general feeling that he too may have reached the end of his tether.
That considered, left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat stands a good chance to get a game on Wednesday and join Bhuvneshwar Kumar in an attempt to ramp up the frontline. Even that might not be enough, considering off-spinner R. Ashwin’s dreadful form – something that may allow the wily Amit Mishra to sneak in, at a venue where England were shot out for 155 by India's spinners early this year.
It is only their batting that has allowed India to remain competitive. Openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are in terrific form; Virat Kohli is on his way to becoming the best ODI batsman in the world; Dhoni remains the coolest finisher in the business. That the hosts chased down 360 inside of 44 overs at Jaipur and piled on an over-300 total from 154/6 at Mohali says enough. Rohit, Kohli and Dhoni have all struck centuries in the series, and India’s only test so far has come against the raw pace and bounce of Mitchell Johnson.
“He has been the star. He's been very consistent the last three games. He's bowled with some fierce pace,” said Aussie opener Phil Hughes on Johnson ahead of the fourth match. He was at pains to clarify that Faulkner's treatment of Ishant - or Australia's treatment of all Indian bowlers bar Jadeja - was nothing personal.
"Ishant has been a quality bowler around the world for a number of years. You always respect that. Definitely as batsmen we respect all the bowlers. When a bowler has a ball in their hand, they're always a chance of bowling a dot or getting a wicket," he explained. His respectful nature has not stopped Hughes from contributing a solid of 47, 83 and 22, and forming the ideal foil to Aaron Finch’s blazing ways. Along with skipper Geroge Bailey (the leading Aussie batsman in the series) and the experienced Shane Watson, the openers have ensured a score in excess of 300 every single time. Hughes was also rather more welcoming to the new ODI rules.
"What's going ahead has been fantastic. If you look around at the different countries it works in different ways. You come here and the wickets are quite good for batting but if you go to England or Australia you could have a pitch that offers more for bowlers," he concluded.
India (from): MS Dhoni (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, R Vinay Kumar, Amit Mishra, Jaydev Unadkat and Mohd Shami; Australia (from): George Bailey (c), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Xavier Doherty, James Faulkner, Callum Ferguson, Aaron Finch, Brad Haddin, Moises Henriques, Phil Hughes, Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Clint McKay, Adam Voges, Shane Watson.
Match starts at 1.30 pm