Series lost, India play for pride in Mumbai

The series already out of their grasp, India will have just pride to play for against Australia in the final ODI at the D Y Patil Stadium on Wednesday.

updated: November 10, 2009 13:43 IST
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The series already out of their grasp, India will have just pride to play for against the depleted but confidennt Australia in the seventh and final cricket one-dayer at the D Y Patil Stadium here on Wednesday.

The Indian morale has hit a low following successive losses at Mohali, Hyderabad and Guwahati against what is essentially a very inexperienced Australian bowling line-up.

With the full series of Tests, ODIs and Twenty20s coming up against Sri Lanka only four days after the conclusion of the rubber against the world champions, it is imperative for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men to pull out all stops and reduce the margin of defeat.

A 3-4 score, that would happen if they can win tomorrow's clash in the swanky Navi Mumbai stadium hosting its first ODI, would be a massive boost for the beleaguered home side as it prepares for the battle against a determined Sri Lanka eager to set right a winless past record in Tests on Indian soil.

A victory on Wednesday would be the ideal tonic for India before they lock horns with a new set of rivals in the longest format of the game from November 16 at Ahmedabad.

The main reason for India's slump against an injury-ravaged Australia is lack of consistency in both batting and bowling.

While the Indian top order has fired only in fits and starts, with the blazing hundreds from skipper Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar, who also completed 17,000 ODI runs in the process, being the shining beacons, the bowling too has not performed in total.

Virender Sehwag, in particular at the top of the batting order, has come up with a few cameos and then thrown away his wicket when seemingly on top of the rival bowlers. He needs to stay longer at the crease to make a meaningful impact on the contest.

Fellow opener Gautam Gambhir started the series in impressive style by slamming vital half-centuries and playing a sheet-anchor role in the first two matches at Vadodara and Nagpur before going off the boil, a neck injury sustained in Delhi also not helping his cause.

Tendulkar was slow to get off before playing the incandescent knock of 175, his second-highest score, in Hyderabad. Had India won that match chasing an imposing 351 for victory, the series would have been alive notwithstanding the rout at the next tie in Guwahati.

The master batsman, on the doorsteps of entering his 21st year in international cricket, would be eager to sign off from the series with another biggie against his favourite opponents.

Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh too have contributed in a few ties, but overall the batting has been a big letdown in three out of the six matches.

There has been none from the Indian squad to show the sort of consistent form, which has been the hallmark of Australian vice-captain Michael Hussey, who has tallied 313 runs averaging over 100 in the series so far.

The left-hander, with his risk-free approach and hard running between the wickets, has been unstoppable in this rubber.

All the Indian bowlers, including spin spearhead Harbhajan Singh, have been clueless on how to stop Hussey who came to India under severe pressure to retain his place in the Test team in the upcoming home series against the West Indies.

Hussey's approach is a lesson in what India lacked on a consistent basis after Gambhir's first two knocks. If an Indian can replicate it in the middle tomorrow, the home team would benefit immensely.

Another star performer for Australia has been Shane Watson (256 runs at over 40 and 10 wickets). The all-rounder has contributed both with the bat and the ball, bowling at medium pace to take crucial wickets.

Skipper Ricky Ponting has also led from the front without a very big score to show for and the Indians would be hoping he has not reserved his best for last.

Ponting is most vulnerable at the beginning of his knocks and the Indian new ball bowlers, in which Ashish Nehra has been the pick despite his poor display in the last couple of matches, need to take this chance and send him back before he gets settled.

Leg spinner Amit Mishra has not been given a game thus far and the match offers the right platform to ease him back into the playing eleven ahead of the series against Lanka where he is expected to play second fiddle to Harbhajan.

The visitors, having lost Brett Lee and James Hopes after the opener at Vadodara and the impressive Peter Siddle later, have found their Man Friday in Doug Bollinger who has filled up the breach in admirable fashion.

With fellow-left-arm bowler and senior Mitchell Johnson too re-discovering the right length to bowl in India, the Australian attack looks healthier.

Another unsung hero for the Australians has been off spinner Nathan Hauritz who has been very consistent but for the caning he received from Tendulkar at Hyderabad.

And in fielding, Australia have outmatched India easily and the hosts need to perk up in this department.

The track prepared for the tie is a good one, according to D Y Patil Academy in-charge and former India pacer Abey Kuruvilla.

A full house of over 50,000 spectators would be rooting for the home team who need to take advantage of every little morsel thrown at them and stop Australia from flying home with another win under their belt.

Australia: Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Hussey (vice captain), Shane Watson, Cameron White, Shaun Marsh, Doug Bollinger, Nathan Hauritz, Jon Holland, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Johnson, Graham Manou, Adam Voges, Clint McKay, Andrew McDonald, Burt Cockley.

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Ashish Nehra, Praveen Kumar, Amit Mishra, Sudeep Tyagi, Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja.

Umpires: Ashoka de Silva and Amiesh Saheba

Third Umpire: Sanjay Hazare

Match Referee: Chris Broad

Hours of Play: 2.30 pm to 6 p m; 6.40 pm to close.