India aim to avoid whitewash against buoyant Australia
Sydney: After suffering humiliating defeats in the four matches, India will be desperate to avoid a whitewash when they take on a domineering Australia in the fifth and final One-Day International (ODI) at the Sydney Cricket Ground here on Saturday.
Despite centuries from opener Rohit Sharma and vice-captain Virat Kohli, the visitors could not avoid a defeat as consistent poor bowling and a stunning batting collapse accounted for four consecutive losses for the visitors.
India posted formidable scores in the first three matches but squandered the runs due to some toothless bowling and failure to take wickets at regular intervals.
In the fourth and penultimate match in Canberra, India’s batting soared, aided by centuries from opener Shikhar Dhawan, and No.3 batsman Virat Kohli, but suffered a dramatic collapse, losing nine wickets for 46 runs to nosedive to a 25-run defeat.
India won the toss and elected to bat in the first two ODIs. Opener Rohit Sharma slammed centuries in both the matches to set a strong target for the hosts.
But neither its pacers nor spinners were able to pick up wickets with skipper Dhoni bemoaning the failure of spinners to land blows in the mid innings of Australia’s batting.
The third match in Melbourne followed a similar pattern, only Australia wining the toss and electing to chase a target. But here too India gave away cheap runs, neither unable to contain nor take wickets, as a Steve Smith-led hosts romped to victory.
But what became puzzling for skippeer M.S. Dhoni was how India contrived to lose a match from a position of strength in the fourth game.
Set an imposing target of 349 runs after another bowling failure, India’s response was magnificent.
Dhawan-Rohit began aggressively and their cue was taken up by Kohli, who stitched a 200 plus-run partnership with Dhawan to take India to the doorstep of victory.
But an ill-timed double dismissal of Dhawan and Kohli, in the 38th over, turned the tide.
From there panicked Indian batsmen committed hara-kiri falling in heap to help AUstralia post an unlikely victory.
Dhoni, who himself was out without scoring, took the blame on himself in an attempt to shield the failure of his team in both batting and bowling.
He would hope that his team-mates would show similar responsibility and put pride in their performance to avoid a humiliating 5-0 whitewash, which would demoralise the team further ahead of a three-match Twenty20 International (T20I) series starting January 26 in Adelaide.
The visitors could not have a practice session on Friday due of wet conditions. Rain may fall on Saturday with forecast predicting more showers on the match day.
While Indians have plenty of homework to do before taking the field on Saturday specially in terms of bowling, Australia have only once concern, with hard-hitting batsman Glenn Maxwell doubtful with a knock.
The middle-order batsman’s condition would be monitored and assessed before the match after he was hit on his right knee at Canberra.
But the home side have plenty of names to fill in the gap if Maxwell misses out.
India are low in confidence and a win is much needed considering these matches are part of preparations for the World T20 at home in March.
For that, skipper Dhoni will aim to get his squad right for the final game before going into the very important T20 series.