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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Could Sydney ODI be Dhoni's final 50-overs match?

Could Sydney ODI be Dhoni's final 50-overs match?

Last updated on: January 22, 2016 14:33 IST

This is the first bilateral ODI series between the India and Australia on Australian soil, and India will be keen to avoid a series clean sweep in what could turn out to be captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's final match in the ODI format.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni

IMAGE: India ODI captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Battered and bruised after four successive defeats, India will make a last-gasp effort to avoid the embarrassment of being whitewashed by an unrelenting Australia when the two sides clash in the fifth and final One-Day International in Sydney, on Saturday.

The Indians came a cropper while defending three big totals (309, 308 and 295) and in the fourth match in Canberra they bungled inexplicably from a position of strength to fail in chasing as well.

They will need special resolve to recover from the demoralising defeats to manage at least one positive result before the three-match Twenty20 series starts in Adelaide on January 26.

This is the first bilateral ODI series between the two sides on Australian soil, and the Men in Blue will want to avoid entering the record books in what could turn out to be captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's final match in the ODI format.

While the visitors are searching for answers after the poor show, the hosts took the day off on Friday after travelling from Canberra to Sydney by road.

The Indians could not have a practice session on Friday because of wet conditions and there is a possibility of the weather playing spoilsport with the forecast of more showers on Saturday.

Australia's only concern is Glenn Maxwell, who went off the field in Canberra after a blow on his right knee. But, as seen previously in the series, they have ample names to fill any void in their playing eleven.

With Nathan Lyon covering the spin angle now, Scott Boland could come in as an extra pace option, or even Shaun Marsh, should they feel the need to provide more batting cover, in case Maxwell doesn't play at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Glenn Maxwell

IMAGE: Glenn Maxwell plays the reverse sweep during the fourth ODI against Australia in Canberra. Photograph:Mark Nolan/Getty Images

For India, the concerns are more realistic, simply because they do not have the luxurious cushion of a series lead.

The very purpose of the current international schedule is to get into the limited-overs' set-up, particularly T20 cricket, with the World T20 on the horizon.

Thus, the ensuing T20I series assumes more significance on this tour, yet the visitors will not want to entirely waste the first leg of this trip.

Ajinkya Rahane could be a doubtful starter for this game following the injury to his right hand while fielding in the fourth match. He did bat in the run-chase at Canberra, but only because the Indian lower-order was in free-fall.

Since he is a vital member of the T20 line-up, the team management will want him to regain full fitness ahead of next week's clashes than risk further injury in the dead-rubber.

Manish Pandey is expected to be slotted into the middle order, perhaps even bat at number four should the situation arise, as India will want optimal cover in their line-up to make up for Rahane's absence.

There is also a case for Ravichandran Ashwin to return in place of Gurkeerat Mann, who hasn't impressed with either bat or ball in his two outings thus far.

Ashwin, who sat out in both Melbourne and Canberra, holds the key to the bowling attack in the T20 format. Skipper Dhoni will want to give him some match practice ahead of the upcoming series, even if it doesn't help sort out India's regular problems regarding team balance.

However, if there is one ground that the skipper will get away with fielding two spinners Down Under, then it is the SCG, irrespective of the rain forecast for Saturday.

Barinder Sran is the other bowler who was afforded rest in the previous game. It will be interesting to see if he returns to the playing eleven in light of Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar playing key roles in leaking 348 runs at the Manuka Oval.

Ishant Sharma

IMAGE: India fast bowler Ishant Sharma. Photograph:Mark Nolan/Getty Images

Both Ishant and Umesh have played a majority of the matches in this series and, with high workload a factor, the team management might want to afford at least one of them some rest.

With rain washing out the training session, the visitors got a welcome break following the hectic schedule, including playing four ODIs in 10 days.

It remains to be seen if some time away from the field will allow renewed vigour in the visitors' camp for a final spirited push to avoid a series whitewash.

For Dhoni, particularly, after he blamed his cheap dismissal as the reason for defeat in the fourth match. He is appointed captain until the end of the World T20, but with the lead-up to that tournament filled up with T20s against Sri Lanka (at home) and the Asia Cup (T20 format in Bangladesh), India does not play any more ODIs until after the IPL season.

The last three ODI series under Dhoni's leadership did not go as per plan, with India losing in Bangladesh and against South Africa at home before the debacle in Australia.

Given the schedule for the next few months, comprising only T20 cricket and rumours of Dhoni's retirement floating around, this could well turn out to be the 2011 World Cup-winning captain's final match in the 50-overs' format.

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), 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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