Inconsistent India Paying the Price for Little Mistakes

Australia cavorted home to another relatively easy win in the second One Day International against India at Brisbane on Friday. It was virtually identical to their victory in the first game at Perth and the hosts now have a prominent 2-0 lead in the five-match series. India’s failure to capitalise in the final ten overs of their innings, along with sloppy fielding, were what cost them the game.

Comfortably placed at 233-2 at the end of 40 overs, India looked set for a score of about 330+. The ever-evolving game, played at a pace like never before, has seen many aspects of the game have revolutionised. The rate at which runs are being scored in death overs are mind boggling. Gone are the days of seven or eight an over being acceptable at the death. Nowadays ten an over seems to be the minimum, especially in conditions like those at The Gabba.

The pitch was nothing short of a belter and it offered absolutely nothing for the fast bowlers and spinners alike. The ball was coming nicely onto the bat, and the two batsmen, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, who were well settled, had a great opportunity to put their team into a winning position. India failed to get a move on and when they attempted to do so, they lost wickets in a heap and ended on 308, about 30 runs short of par on that wicket.

A disconcertingly similar thing occurred in the previous ODI in Perth as well. India made 309 on that occasion and once again weren’t aggressive enough in the middle and death overs. On pitches where the Australian bowlers themselves are struggling to pick up wickets, the tourists need to take a serious initiative and take more risks whilst batting.

The lack of a designated finisher, someone like a James Faulkner or Glenn Maxwell, is hurting India big time. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is no longer the flawless finisher he was. He can produce the occasional moment of magic, but in the last one or two years, these have been few and far between.

Suresh Raina, who hasn’t had the best of times since the 2015 World Cup, was omitted from the ODI leg of this tour and was playing the finisher’s role to various degrees of success before that. India need to give an opportunity to someone who can play aggressively right from the word go, and a few names that come to mind are Gurkeerat Mann and Hardik Pandya.

Mann is in the ODI squad and it’s high time that he is drafted into the team. Shikhar Dhawan has been in wretched form of late and will be the candidate to make way for Mann with Rahane sent up to open the batting. Hardik Pandya is in the T20 squad following his exploits with the bat and ball in the domestic circuit and the IPL and deserves an opportunity to show his prowess in those T20 games later this month. India have too many touch players like Rahane, Rohit and Kohli and there is a chance that one of those two could prove to be the answer for their finishing woes.
The other aspect where India failed was, perhaps surprisingly, in the field. Over the last few years, India have been one of the best fielding sides around and their errors in these two games sorely cost them. Little things like Dhoni not being quick enough to the stumps when there is a throw coming in or even missing the stumps while attempting to effect a run out could prove to make a huge difference. Moreover, the catching in the second ODI was quite poor. Shaun Marsh lived a charmed life and was dropped on 19, 25 and 67.

Although you can’t blame the bowlers for fielding errors, they are expected to maintain discipline and keep probing the batsmen with consistent lines and lengths. The newcomer, Barinder Sran, has impressed one and all, including the likes of Wasim Akram and Brett Lee, but it’s not right to expect him to do wonders from the start.

Ishant Sharma, who was playing his first ODI in nearly a year, bowled an appalling eight wides and dropped the easiest of catches at long-off to give Marsh his first reprieve. Umesh Yadav, the most impressive bowler in the first ODI, was inconsistent in the second match and gave away too many runs to the batsmen off their pads. Although they weren’t too impressive in the first ODI, the spinners did well to anchor the bowling performance on an unresponsive pitch.

Only if India work on these things can they make a serious effort to make a comeback in this series, and just as importantly in the long-term, put in better performances.  MS Dhoni has got his work cut out ahead of the remaining matches in Australia.