Australia have registered convincing wins in the first two ODIs despite lacking the experience. India and Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be worried that his bowlers have failed to defend a 300-plus total in two consecutive games. Will the Indian team bounce back and gain some kind of momentum in the series? Get live scores and updates here. (LIVE SCORECARD | SCHEDULE | NEWS | VIDEOS | PHOTOS)
In Perth and Brisbane, India won the toss and chose to bat first. They posted a total of 300-plus and all seemed fine in the world. However, when it was their turn to bowl, it became a nightmare as they failed to defend 309 and 308 respectively. Heading into the third ODI in Melbourne, Mahendra Singh Dhoni might opt to bowl considering the fact that their batsmen look to be in decent from. (India Look to Arrest Bowling Slump, Aim to Stay Alive Ahead of Third ODI in Melbourne)
The Indian skipper has lamented the “freebies” his bowlers have offered to the hosts in Perth as well as in Brisbane and urged his bowlers to stop giving easy runs. “In both the games we have given fair amount of extras, and that takes that number of runs off the total score. The breeze was also circulating around and that made it slightly difficult for Ishant Sharma. I feel even if we don’t cut down the extras, we’ll have to score a few more runs,” Dhoni had said at the end of the second ODI game. (Mahendra Singh Dhoni Struggling But Give Him Time, Says Sunil Gavaskar)
The skipper’s form is also a source of concern. In his last five innings, Dhoni scores are 47, 15, 27, 18 and 11 and he is certainly going through a lean patch. Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar feels that not playing competitive cricket regularly is affecting Dhoni’s form. (India vs Australia: Mahendra Singh Dhoni Wants Batsmen to Take Extra Pressure After Bowlers’ Poor Show)
“Dhoni used to be a finisher who was India’s pride and the world’s envy. But he is struggling now. May be he is being affected for not playing competitive cricket regularly,” Gavaskar told NDTV.
Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who hogged all the headlines prior to the series, have been pretty mediocre. Both are finding it hard to adjust to pitches in Australia and they are not getting any kind of spin, which is allowing Steven Smith and George Bailey to take full advantage. India might be tempted in experimenting with Gurkeerat Singh Maan and bringing back Bhuvneshwar Kumar in place of Umesh Yadav, to give some control in their bowling.
Australia, on the other hand, are on a roll. They may be missing the services of David Warner and Josh Hazlewood, but Shaun Marsh and John Hastings have stepped in nicely for the hosts. Hastings bowled a crucial spell during the Brisbane ODI where he restricted the flow of runs when Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma were building a big partnership. Aaron Finch has praised the way how Australia’s young bowlers have played a part in restricting India’s batting in the death.
Hastings has said that Australia might mull playing three seam-bowling allrounders for the Melbourne ODI. This will mean a straight shoot-out between Hastings and Mitchell Marsh. The rest of the batting has an assured look and they will be the key yet again on a pitch that is expected to give plenty of runs.
Australia will be aware of the dangers Rohit Sharma presents. In their previous encounter in Melbourne, he smashed a magnificent 138 and it took a magnificent effort from Mitchell Starc to restrict India. In this series, with scores of 171* and 124, Rohit is in ominous form. If Australia get rid of Rohit cheaply, then it will be an added bonus for the Australian bowlers who have had little success.
The hosts will be determined to seal the series at the MCG but India will be hoping to stay alive. Dhoni will be hoping that the right team is selected and that the bowlers pull up their socks.