Bowlers key to India's chances in do-or-die Nagpur ODI
Handicapped by the poor form of some of their bowlers, India will be under intense pressure when they go into the do-or-die sixth One-Day International against an upbeat Australia in Nagpur on Wednesday, fully aware that any slip-up could cost them the series.
The visitors are sitting pretty with a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, after the fourth and fifth games at Ranchi and Cuttack on October 23 and 26 respectively, were washed out.
The hosts need to pull up their socks and fire in unison to upset the applecart of the Australians, who started the tour with a record of winning juts two seven-game series in the past.
Aussies high on confidence
The Aussies, though, are high on confidence.
"From our point of view this is the game we want to win. We don't want to save it for the last game on Sunday (at Bangalore). We want to wrap up with this game. Obviously, from their (India's) point of view they need to win to stay alive and from that point pretty crucial for them," said Australian left arm spinner Xavier Doherty ahead of the crucial match.
Image: Australia captain George Bailey gives a pep talk to his players
Dhoni, Kohli consistent
India will be hoping their main batsmen fire. Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni are the team’s leading scorers, the former consistently brilliant and the captain in sublime touch. Dhoni’s superb innings at Mohali helped the team recover and post a challenging 300-plus total that was successfully chased down by the visitors.
Openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma produced top drawer batting in the second ODI at Jaipur with excellent knocks of 95 and 141 not out that helped India chase a huge target of 360 with plenty to spare.
India will be looking forward to this left-right combination to provide a very good start again at the VCA ground, where 300 or more scores have been put up on four occasions.
Image: Mahendra Singh Dhoni hits a six
Middle order apathy
The worry for India is the middle order, given the way Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh struggled against the pace and bounce extracted by Mitchell Johnson in Mohali.
The 31-year-old Queenslander produced a scintillating show in the last game that was not washed out and he will come hard at these two batsmen again in the all-lefties' battle.
The wicket at the Jamtha stadium may not be as conducive for Johnson's type of bowling, but he and the other speedsters have certainly exposed some chinks with their short-ball attack in the Indian batting line-up.
Raina and Yuvraj haven’t done much in the series so far but are capable of coming up with a scintillating show at some stage of the competition and the hosts will welcome such a display in this do-or-die game.
Image: Yuvraj Singh
Photographs: Hamish Blair/Getty Images
'Spinners will have role to play'
Doherty expects some turn from the wicket after the run-fest witnessed so far in this series.
"I expected some spinning wickets as we got in the Test series here (earlier this year). Probably the last game it rained (in Ranchi) or it might have been spinning a bit. Looks like this wicket will spin a bit and spinners will play a bit more of a role," he said.
From India's point of view, some extra turn would be very welcome, especially for the struggling R Ashwin, whose economy rate has gone for a toss in the batting-friendly conditions.
He has also continued to use his strange ploy of coming round the wicket and bowling 'carrom' balls to the right-handers.
Image: Xavier Doherty
Photographs: Hamish Blair/Getty Images
Ashwin needs to get his act together
Ashwin, who grabbed 29 wickets in the four-Test series against the visitors in February-March, has taken some heavy punishment from the in-form Australian duo of opener Aaron Finch and skipper George Bailey.
The tall Tamil Nadu off-spinner needs to get his act together to lend good support to the accurate left-arm spin of Ravindra Jadeja. The other option in front of the team is to bring in leggie Amit Mishra, who is yet to play a game.
To add to India's bowling woes, Ishant Sharma has not looked like stemming the flow of runs after the way he was hammered for 30 in the 'death' over at Mohali, but his replacement, Mohammed Shami, impressed in the rained-off game at Ranchi.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar too hasn’t looked good enough so far and gave way to Jaydev Unadkat in the Ranchi match which was abandoned when rain came during India's run-chase.
Shami, Unadkat and R Vinay Kumar, who too has been expensive, formed the new ball combination in Ranchi.
It remains to be seen whether Ishant will be given another chance to rectify his poor display in the series as he had a long stint at the nets with Ashwin n Monday.
India: M S Dhoni (Capt./wk), 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: George Bailey (Captain), 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.
Umpires: Nigel Long and S Ravi
Third umpire: Vineet Kulkarni
Match starts: 1:30 pm.
Image: R Ashwin