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Battered India hoping to banish bowling woes; Ashwin set to return

Last updated on: January 19, 2016 17:12 IST

- India's batsmen have gone about their job efficiently, posting big totals on the board but the bowlers have been ordinary at best, allowing the hosts to chase down those tall scores in each of the first three ODIs of the five-match series.

Team India

IMAGE: Mahendra Singh Dhoni leads his team off the field after the third ODI against Australia in Melbourne. Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

The series already out of their grasp, India are desperate to salvage some pride by avoiding a whitewash in the ongoing ODI series against Australia.

But for that to happen their spiritless bowlers need to put up an inspired show to stop the rampaging hosts in the fourth and penultimate One-Day International in Canberra, on Wednesday.

World No. 2-ranked ODI side India are hoping for a massive improvement in their bowling performance to clinch an elusive victory against World champions Australia.

India's batsmen have gone about their job efficiently, posting big totals on the board but the bowlers have been ordinary at best, allowing the hosts to chase down those tall scores in each of the first three matches in Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne and conceding a 3-0 lead.

It will be the first time that India will take on Australia at the Manuka Oval. The Men in Blue have played here only once before, losing to Sri Lanka in the 2007-08 CB Series.

The current team bears a completely different look from that time, when the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir were still part of the playing eleven. As such skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Rohit Sharma and Ishant Sharma are the only ones to have played a game at the venue.

Two names from that side, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh, will be back in the T20 set-up by the end of this week. While it will be in preparation for the fast-approaching World T20 back at home, the prevalent atmosphere in the ODI squad is one of transformation.

Back in 2007-08, Rohit and Ishant were visiting Australia for the first time, and both were expected to hold the key to the future.

Eight years later, they have grown into their roles further.

At the same time, youngsters Manish Pandey, Gurkeerat Mann and Rishi Dhawan have taken their first steps in international cricket.

The focus will be on this trio when Dhoni names his playing eleven and leads the side onto the field.

In the first two matches of this series, India fielded their first-choice eleven. When that didn't work out as planned, they threw everything they had at the Melbourne in terms of team selection, thus bringing in the two debutants.

Ishant Sharma

IMAGE: India fast bowler Ishant Sharma. Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

It was a bit premature to drop Pandey. He batted only once in two matches, that too in the death overs. But Dhoni opted for the all-round abilities of Gurkeerat, who also batted just a few deliveries while going wicketless with the ball, and it remains to be seen what the team management's approach will be for this fourth ODI.

Shikhar Dhawan scored a first half-century in this series at Melbourne, his second in eight ODIs, and in doing so perhaps assured himself of playing in the remaining two matches as well.

His innings was a patchy one, though, as he had 54 dot-balls in his knock, but importantly he threw his wicket away at a crucial juncture.

Even so, the Indian team management isn't in the habit of dropping its key players just when they are hoping to come good.

From the batting standpoint, there isn't much room for manoeuvring. It will not come as a surprise if the same combination is played again, the only toss-up between Mann and Pandey. The latter doesn't bowl and that could yet again go against him, with a dry-looking pitch expected at the Manuka Oval.

It could also bring off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin back into the frame, with the management keen on giving him a couple of games to fine-tune his bowling ahead of the T20 series.

He is a key member of India's T20 plans, irrespective of conditions and thus India could be looking to play two spinners again.

That could put Rishi Dhawan's spot in jeopardy too, while strengthening the case for Mann.

Either way, the team management ought to be giving these youngsters a couple more chances before they leave for home. None of the three are part of India's squad for the three-match T20 series.

Rotation ought to be the management's policy, especially since they are already suffering owing to Mohammad Shami's injury problems.

Barinder Sran looked tired in Melbourne. Umesh Yadav has been playing since the onset of the season in Sri Lanka, while Ishant Sharma has played the bulk of the matches too. Bhuvneshwar Kumar could be given a look-in again if one of the three pacers is afforded a rare rest.

Meanwhile, the Australian camp seemed pretty relaxed on training day ahead of the fourth ODI. Even so, Glenn Maxwell pointed out immediately after the last match that they intend to go for a 5-0 whitewash.

There will be no letting up of intensity from the hosts, therefore, and a full-strength squad is expected to be fielded.

David Warner is back from paternity leave, and given the nature of the wicket, Nathan Lyon seems a certain inclusion in the playing eleven.

In that scenario, it will be interesting to see which bowler is left out. Perhaps it could be Scott Boland who has been a touch expensive as compared to John Hastings and Kane Richardson.

It will be interesting to see how the toss pans out and if India captain Dhoni elects to bat if he wins the toss or opt to chase considering that India had batted in the first three games but failed to win.

Australia skipper Steve Smith had elected to bowl in the third ODI and he would be keen to test out his bowlers by electing to bat first.

Teams:

Australia: Steve Smith (captain), Aaron Finch, David Warner, George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, Matthew Wade (wk), James Faulkner, John Hastings, Scott Boland, Kane Richardson, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh.

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, Gurkeerat Mann, Rishi Dhawan, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Barinder Sran.

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