JAIPUR: Australia are to beat India by a 6-1 margin to usurp them from the No.1 spot in ODI rankings. While that seemed unlikely at the outset (India being by far the better team, winners of the Champions Trophy, defending World champions and masters of the 50-over game in home conditions) a pasting at Pune in the first ODI has brought an Aussie series win out of the zone impossibility.
That still doesn't mean that Australia can romp home by a five-game margin. But at Jaipur’s Sawai Mansingh Stadium, India’s job of restraining the rampaging visitors will not get any easier. The key to Wednesday’s second ODI will be how the home team’s vaunted batting faces up to a terrifying fast bowling attack on a wicket that has decent bounce and carry for those who bend their backs.
In the first game, India’s pursuit of a big target never took off as Mitchell Johnson turned in a hair-raising first spell with the new ball. Johnson bowled consistently over 150 kmph and disallowed the top order from getting off to a flyer. Suresh Raina was beautifully set up, as was Dhoni, and Rohit Sharma followed his usual practice of squandering a decent start. Almost all the batsmen were troubled by hostile pace and after chasing down a 200-plus score in the only T20 at Rajkot, India crash-landed when they were required to hold it together for a duration of 50 overs.
Ironically, India’s own problems stem from a misfiring bowling arsenal, one whose waywardness is epitomized by Ishant Sharma. The lanky fast bowler, identified as a spearhead not too long ago, has been mercilessly flayed by Aaron Finch, George Bailey and Glenn Maxwell in the last two games. Medium pacer R Vinay Kumar has been erratic and off-spinner R. Ashwin doesn’t seem to be on top of his game.
This has left the talented Bhuvneshwar Kumar and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja the only ones capable of putting the brakes on the opposition. At the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, what might further distress India is that Johnson, Shane Watson and Faulkner – thanks to CLT20 and IPL - have some decent local experience and will relish bowling on a Jaipur surface that offers something to bowlers of their ilk.
It’s not often that India’s standard home template has failed. MS Dhoni’s team has made its reputation by showing great courage in the face of chasing big scores, a side that has some of the most dangerous names in overs-limit cricket: Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, the irrepressible Shikhar Dhawan and skipper Dhoni himself. But it’s not easy to bank on your batting when the bowlers have been utterly devoid of impact. Nor would it easy for the hugely-favoured Indians to come back from a two-match deficit if Jaipur too goes the way of Pune.
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 (IST).