HYDERABAD: After crashing out of the Asia Cup and with just under a month remaining before they lock horns with arch-rivals Pakistan in their opening game of the T20 World Cup Down Under, the Indian team wanted to iron out some of their ‘deficiencies’ in the three-match series against Australia.
But the ‘depleted’ Aussies outplayed their experienced rivals in the opening match at Mohali earlier this week to jolt the hosts. However, a 6-wicket win in the rain-hit 8-overs-a-side game at Nagpur kept the hosts alive in the series. The action now moves to the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium where the teams will lock horns in the third and final game of the series on Sunday.
“It is nice to win the match and level the series, but we were keen to play this match just for the fans. It was so heartening to see the fans throng the stadium and after Covid this was a big one for them. Hence, we wanted to play this game for the people of Nagpur,” Dinesh Karthik, who sealed the Indian win with a six and a four off the two balls he faced, said after the Nagpur game.
Coming to the Indian team, none of the pacers made an impression at Mohali. The death bowling has been a cause of worry. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Umesh Yadav and Hardik Pandya were taken to the cleaners by the Aussies. The saving grace has been Axar Patel. The left-arm spinner has been spot on, and has made the rival batters struggle. His four for 17 at Mohali when the team conceded 211 runs is worth its weight in gold. He produced another superb spell of two for 13 in his two overs to stall the Australian progress at Nagpur.
With Jasprit Bumrah back in the side and Axar in top form, the Indians will look to get their bowling act together on the morrow. It is likely that Bhuvneshwar could get a look in as he is familiar with the conditions here. It would mean that Rishabh Pant could be again rested. Also the off-colour Yuzvendra Chahal could make way for offie R Ashwin.
There have been few worries on the batting front as the Indians have a problem of abundance. Skipper Rohit Sharma‘s scintillating unbeaten 46 at Nagpur will lift the Indian spirits. “Rohit Sharma batted exceptionally well on this wicket against a world-class attack. Playing those strokes on this kind of a wicket is not an easy thing. His ability to play fast bowlers is second to none in the world and that’s what makes him a special batsman,” Karthik was all praise for his skipper.
Allrounder Hardik Pandya gives the side immense flexibility and room to experiment. “Hardik gives the team the option to go in for an extra batsman or bowler depending on the situation. He gives a good balance to the side. There are very few such players in world cricket and that’s why he is an exceptional talent,” Karthik said.
However, is Karthik good only at death-overs? “There are times when they feel that in a couple of overs Axar Patel can target the spinners and take them on. That was the kind of logic at that time and having a left-hander with the leg spinner operating is a good match up. It is a good option and we are using that option sometimes depending on how the game is unravelling at that point of time,” he said.
The visitors have done better than expected but they too have a problem with their bowling attack. The pacers, especially Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, have looked off-colour. Barring Adam Zampa and to an extent Nathan Ellis, the others have suffered at the hands of the Indian batters.
Matthew Wade has been outstanding in the series thus far and has done the most damage with the willow. Cameroon Green, skipper Aaron Finch and Steve Smith too have done well. However, the Aussies would like to see Glenn Maxwell roar back to form.
With the series at stake, a good contest, on what is likely to be another flat deck, is on the cards. “I am sure that the fans will enjoy a good game of cricket as we will get to see some outstanding players from both sides. India, though, have an edge over their rivals as the Australians are a slightly depleted side,” former Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin remarked.