The much-anticipated India-Australia series got off to the most anti-climatic start imaginable, as the visitors blew the Indian bowlers to smithereens to record a 10-wicket win. Both Warner and Finch notched up tons as Australia schooled Virat Kohli & Co enroute to taking a 1-0 series lead.
India digging own grave with Virat Kohli experiment
Today at the Wankhede, there were smiles all over the Aussie camp after Mitchell Starc removed Rohit Sharma - not because they’d sent the Mumbaikar back to the hut, but because it was Rahul who walked in to bat at No.3. The raging debate prior to the series was the opening spot - which one of Rahul or Dhawan would miss the cut. But skipper Kohli pulled a rabbit out of the hat, albeit an unwanted one, by accommodating both of them at the expense of his favoured batting position. Yes, Kohli, who’d scored 9509 runs and 36 centuries at an average well over 63 batting at No.3, decided to sacrifice his batting position for the ‘betterment of the team’.
It is not often - perhaps never - that an individual comes ahead of the team, but in India’s case, that too in ODI cricket, Kohli is, arguably, bigger than the team. By pushing Kohli to No.4, not only are India forcing their best batsman out of his comfort zone but also, in turn, are giving him fewer balls to bat, meaning he has less time to have an impact the game. Kohli walked in to bat on the 28th over today, giving him all but just 22 overs to drive the team to a position of strength. On another day, he’d have had 45 overs to do the same and maybe, we’d have seen anxious stares - and not smiles - on the face of the Aussies.
By batting Kohli at #4, India are trying to fix something that is not broken.
Kane Richardson 2.0 - A more refined, more mature version
As India braced themselves to face the threat of the holy trio of Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood, there were thrown a surprise, a pleasant one they would have thought, ahead of the match, when Finch revealed that it would be Kane Richardson who would take the role of the third seamer. Coming on the back of outstanding opening spells from Starc and Cummins, the pressure was well and truly on the South Australian to keep the noose tight, and when Dhawan whacked him for two boundaries in just his second over, it looked like India had a weak link to the target. Instead, as things panned out, they encountered a never-seen-before, more mature, rugged, calm and consistent version of the pacer.
Unphased by the occasion and the reputation of the batsmen, throughout the course of the innings, Richardson stuck to the mantra that paid rich dividends for him in the BBL this season - hit the deck hard, cramp the batsmen for room and keep them guessing with the scrambled seam delivery. He kept the lines and lengths tight and did a fine job in the first powerplay, middle-overs and the death, complimenting all four of Starc, Cummins, Zampa and Agar.
He only reaped the reward in the 43rd over in the form of Ravindra Jadeja, but more importantly, ensured that he broke the partnership - which was also the last hope for India - that threatened to propel them to a score of 300. A long shot, but should Richardson keep this composure and consistency up, he might just be the perfect foil for Cummins and Starc that the management have been yearning for.
Aaron Finch and David Warner are over-performing? Not anymore
When Aaron Finch and David Warner looked invincible in the World Cup, stringing together three 100-run partnerships to go along with another 96, it did look like, to an extent, they were over-performing. Of course, it’s not every day that your openers end up averaging 66.66 for the first wicket in an ICC tournament, so surely, the law of averages has to catch up sooner than later, right? Well, if their showing at the Wankhede today is any evidence to go by, then one can safely say that in the months to come, we are going to see a 100-run partnership every other match from this duo.
The plan was simple and straightforward, identical to what we witnessed in the World Cup. While Finch went hell for leather in the first powerplay, Warner took his time, settled in and then entered the action. But what caught India by surprise, perhaps, was the utter disdain that was shown to their bowlers by both the batsmen - including Bumrah - who, unlike the Indian openers, went with a pre-fixed mindset of putting the Indian bowlers to the sword from the word go.
The gradual momentum shifts between the two batsmen - Finch dominating the first half and Warner taking over in the second - coupled with the fact that they are a left-hand/right-hand combination made it hell for the Indian bowlers, who, at one point of time, looked more determined in the result being a 10-wicket win than the Aussies themselves.
With their display today at the Wankhede, the Aussie openers have made their move and sent a clear message to the Indian bowlers, and it’s now up to Virat Kohli’s men to respond. But one thing is crystal clear - by no means are Finch and Warner over-performing.