CHENNAI: L, L, L, L, L. This is India’s record in the last five ODIs. If one goes back to the end of last year’s World Cup and now, India have won only six matches, four of them against West Indies, who had to play the qualifiers to make it to the showpiece event. India beat Australia in January, but since then, it has been downhill.
Sunday’s win helped Australia clinch the ODI series. It is another bilateral affair, which not many will remember, but in terms of the tour which still has a T20 and Test series coming up, it has handed Australia early momentum. The outcome was almost a certainty in both games around the half-way mark and that tells a story or two.
There is a pattern emerging from these defeats. This is the fourth time in five matches that India conceded 300 and this has not happened because of lack of bowling options. This year in eight ODIs, the average opening partnership against India has been 125.42 runs. It is the worst for any side in any era. And it is happening with two of India’s strike bowlers — Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami — playing six of those eight matches. And incidently, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has missed all these matches.
“In white-ball cricket, it’s important to get wickets at regular intervals. It keeps the run rate in check and if you look at our batting in these matches, after 30-40 runs we were losing wickets. That is where the difference has been between the teams, those 66 or 51 runs (margins of defeat). The bowling unit needs to get breakthroughs and the batting group has to work on how to make these partnerships big,” said KL Rahul, who scored 76 off 66.
After the 2017 Champions Trophy, India identified middle overs as the area which was losing them matches. So they benched two experienced spinners in favour of wrist spinners. With Bumrah, Shami and Kumar giving wickets up front, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav troubled opponents in the middle. But in the lead-up to the 2019 World Cup, with a brittle middle-order to take care of, they thought Kuldeep, Chahal, Shami, Bumrah made the tail too long. In came Ravindra Jadeja.
With Bumrah and Shami not taking wickets in the powerplay, India have not been able to attack. This is working for the opposition. On Sunday, David Warner and Aaron Finch were content playing out the two, but the moment Navdeep Saini and Chahal came on, they didn’t hold back. In both games, the floodgates remained open from overs 15 to 40. In the two ODIs, India have conceded 213 and 216 runs in the second powerplay (11-40 overs), taking two wickets in each. Chasing 375 and 390, India succumbed to scoreboard pressure. There were dot balls and other problems while batting, but the matches were half lost after conceding those giants totals.