The Aussie summer has finally come to an end for India as the team secured a seven-wicket win to wrap up their first bilateral ODI series victory in Australia. The series was a huge opportunity for both the teams to sharpen their weapons for the World Cup and they did it quite brilliantly.
In the last two years - 2018 and 2019 - there had been enough instances to show that MS Dhoni was simply not playing to his usual lofty standards - with the same unerring consistency. It was a frightening illustration of just how much his game has dwindled. In his heyday, Dhoni’s greatest strength was always finding the boundary at the perfect time, but in the year gone by, his repertoire of shots ended up being harmless singles on either side of long-on and long-off. The much-fabled short-arm jab to the cow-corner also completely disappeared, giving the Dhoni story a completely different edge and made a lot of Indian cricket fans cry in isolation. Some even went as far as asking for his head going into the World Cup. But this series put many doubts to rest.
For Indian fans, the cult of MS Dhoni goes beyond numbers and bare statistics. Dhoni counts for
Shaun Marsh is a stunning paradox in the Australian cricket. They would probably have to appoint a separate statistician to count how many recalls Marsh has had ever since making his ODI debut in 2008. However, it seems like the elder of the Marsh brothers is finally settling his place down in the team. After the Cardiff century against England, Marsh scored one more at Chester-le-Street before smashing another against South Africa in Hobart in November. And in the India series, he scored a total of 224 runs to bring an end to Australia’s middle-order chaos.
Most impressive of Marsh’s batting was the way he countered the Indian spinners. While much has been written about Australia’s struggles against spin, Marsh was more than comfortable against Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav. It was sharply different from the team’s approach in the last four years. Many Australian batsmen tried to go after the spinners, without an understanding of the craft which means they were dismissed more often while playing attacking shots. But Marsh’s innings was more gritty than flashy. Instead of trying to outplay the duo of Jadeja and Kuldeep, he chose the front square as his scoring area in the first two innings. That maturity in his batting will keep Justin Langer in peace.
Despite having a top-three which is as good as anyone in the world, India’s middle order has been a problem area since the end of the 2015 World Cup. However, the last series provided a sneak-peak for India’s preparedness for the World Cup as MS Dhoni showed signs of returning back to form, Kedar Jadhav played a mature innings, and Dinesh Karthik stepped up to the plate to make sure that they have it in them to take the team down the line in case the top three fails. Amidst all this, Ambati Rayudu failed to make the No. 4 spot his own with twin failures in Sydney and Adelaide before being jettisoned for the last game.
More than the runs that had deserted him in the series, it was the manner of the dismissal that was the major talking point. The rustiness showed and he seemed like he wasn’t in the right frame of mind to play the game. To his solace, Kohli revealed that the last ODI team was not the team for the World Cup and certainly said that the Adelaide ODI team would be the ideal one for it. It would give the Hyderabad batsman some sort of redemption in the series that comes and he needs to grab those opportunities with open arms.
It has been a forgettable summer for Aaron Finch as he has gone 23 innings scoring only one half-century. His ODI record in the summer ended with a total of 83 runs in six innings against South Africa and India. While the runs have been elusive for the man from Victoria, the manner of the dismissal must haunt him the most. He has been dismissed by Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s inswingers all three times in the series.
Check the pattern. In the first game, Kumar nipped the ball from a length, leaving Finch unsure about his footwork. As a result, he got half-forward and the gap between the bat and the pad resulted in the ball sneaking in to hit the off stump. In the second game, the Indian pacer bowled a full ball and that swung back in late to take his off-stump away. Yesterday, another in-ducker found Finch dead in his tracks as he was caught plumb. A similar kind of problem that had deserted KL Rahul in the last English summer and the Windies series.
For a fast bowler, the toughest thing while bowling to Finch is the right length as his tall stature makes it easy for him to go on the front foot quickly and, consequently, his back-foot play becomes minimal. However, the Aussie skipper is comfortable opening the face of the bat to get singles, and so Bhuvneshwar focused on luring him into a drive. And when he eventually got one to move in, the batsman had already been out of his position and was caught plumb in the MCG ODI. This is a very negative intuition and something that nobody expects from a batsman of the calibre of Finch. Even though the Aussie skipper admits that he needs a break and his bad form is the result of continuous intense cricket, his technique has deserted him big-time, and he needs to sort that out.
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