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Game Plan | How India can turn tables in the third ODI against Australia 

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Kohli having a word with Shami


Game Plan | How India can turn tables in the third ODI against Australia 

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Harshit Anand


If India ever thought changing venues will change their fortunes, they might be mistaken because things are only going to get worse if they don't start rectifying their wrongs. The last four first innings ODI scores at Manuka Oval read 372 for 2, 411 for 4, 348 for 8, and 378 for 5.

Life never gets easy - either you get stronger or bite the dust. Sport is no different, if you don't bounce back stronger and better, there's only one way you go - downhill. After losing the ODI series, the caravan moves to Australia's capital- Canberra. With an average ODI run-rate of 6.36, Manuka Oval is a heavenly venue for batsmen as it holds the distinction of being the fastest scoring ground this century to have hosted a minimum of five ODIs. Canberra welcomes bowlers to hell. 

Now, if India have to win, they better choose the right personnel for the job as that's the only way they execute their plans to perfection and avoid the embarrassment of a whitewash like New Zealand, earlier, this year.  

Selection calls- Change the bowling attack 

There needs to be no change to India's top seven. Yes, Mayank has failed to get a big score on the board but it's too early to drop him. Also, in comparison to Gill, he is far more suited to get India off to quick starts in high-scoring games like he did in the first two games. Shreyas Iyer has been vulnerable against short-stuff but given how much he has promised, he deserves a good run. 

Now, India need to change their bowling line-up certainly. As difficult it is to crack your first Aussie tour, no one can deny Navdeep Saini has been guilty of spraying the ball all over, at times too short, sometimes too full, with no variations at all. He has given 153 runs in 17 overs in the first two games at an eco. of 9 with just a wicket. Shardul Thakur should replace him as he can move the new ball, bowl cross-seamers and his cutters in middle-overs besides being a handy batting option lower down the order. 

Either Bumrah or Shami have to be rested as they will be playing a major role in the Test series and India shouldn’t risk them with Ishant Sharma already out. Given Shami has been India's best bowler so far, with four wickets, Bumrah should be rested with Thangarasu Natarajan making his debut. Not only does he bring a left-arm option, but he can also be a decent option in death in absence of Bumrah as he can nail the yorkers well. 

There hasn't been any ODI played at the venue since 2016, so taking recent T20s into account, we see that chinaman spinners have taken wickets every 12 balls, which is the best for any bowling type with leg-spinners the worst at 28 balls for every wicket. Yuzvendra Chahal, who has given runs at economy of 8.42 in the series, should be swapped with Kuldeep Yadav. Jadeja stays as he can hold up one end and can be useful at seven.

Bowling - Need for street-smartness and penetration

Let's get the elephant out of the room first, so we start with the dreadful Indian bowling. First things first, this is an ODI series rather than a T20I, which Virat thought perhaps in the last game when he gave just two overs to Bumrah upfront despite him starting with a maiden over. The likely opening bowlers Shardul and Shami should bowl at least four overs each in the powerplay. Hazlewood delivered a six and a five over spell with the new ball in the first two ODIs and was able to jolt India early. So, India can take a clue from Australia in that regard. 

Thakur can move the brand new cherry so he may well trouble Finch like Bhuvneshwar but for that he needs to have impeccable precision, as the Kookaburra ball doesn't swing for long. If India attack Finch early and bowl tight lines and lengths unlike the first two games, where they were guilty of giving boundary balls often, the Men in Blue can strike in the powerplay. And with Warner missing, things can turn India's way.

Similarly for spinners, in Kuldeep and Jadeja, there is one attacking and one defensive option. Kohli can bowl them in tandem for a few overs as from one end Jadeja can tighten the screws and then Kuldeep, who has 22 wickets against Australia in 15 games and a hat-trick to his credit, can try to go for the kill with longer boundaries at his disposal. 

There must be more plans to tackle Australian batsmen in the middle-overs, Indian pacers can try cross-seamers like the Aussies often do and who better than Shardul to do that. Even other pacers can show more astuteness and a knack for street-smart options like cutters, which a medium-pacer like Henriques did to perfection, giving just 34 in seven overs to emerge as the most miserly of all bowlers last game. In death overs, India haven't bowled yorkers much and that is where Natarajan has to be at his best alongside Shami. Lesser overs from spinners the better.

Batting- Lesser dot-balls and bigger partnerships 

One of the hallmarks of Indian batting in ODIs has been how easily they milk the bowlers for ones and twos without breaking a sweat. However, that has not been the case this series as the pressure of big chases has got to them, with the team trying only big shots, rather than making alterations to their strengths to take their game to the next level. In the second ODI, India had already crossed Australia's total number of dot balls with 10 overs remaining. India have played 278 dots in comparison to Australia's 235 in the series. Even if you are hitting sixes, which both teams have hit equally, playing dots throws away the advantage gained.

Moreover, Indians have lost a wicket just when it looks like that now they will be onto something special. Case in point, in the first ODI, Mayank and Dhawan had brought up the fifty in just 4.1 overs - an all-time Indian fastest opening stand record - yet Mayank threw it away when even a run-a-ball next six overs would have got India 85 on board. Instead, they ended up with 80/3. It was  Deja-vu in the second game as after a quickfire fifty stand, openers threw it away again. On the other hand, Aussie openers added 156 and 142 for first-wicket in the two games. In the second game, Iyer and Kohli got out similarly at crucial junctures just when their partnership was about to tilt the momentum in India's favor.

Mayank and Dhawan are the two most naturally aggressive players in the top five and after a quick start, they can take their time. Mayank, who has a great power game against spinners and can take Zampa and Maxwell to the cleaners, hasn't even faced them yet.  If they extend their partnership, it also means someone like Shreyas Iyer won't be exposed against faster men early on. If he starts against spinners, and grows in confidence, he can counter a barrage of bouncers with more belief. With Australia missing Cummins, and Starc out of form, if India bat well, things can go pretty bad for Australia in the last 15 overs only if they stay long enough at the crease.

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