India look to break shackles against Australia
India have a selection issue on hand as there is a dilemma on whether to go with two spinners or two medium pacers in tomorrow`s match. Leg-spinner Rahul Sharma, who pulled out of Perth`s game last Friday because of a split webbing, turned his arm over in the nets today and if he is fit, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni would be loathe to leave him out.
The tall youngster gains exceptional bounce on his leg-spinners and is very difficult to get away. While Sharma cooled his heels in Perth, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin grabbed his chances with both hands and was man of the match for his 3 for 32 and unbeaten 30 runs with the bat. Ashwin can`t be dropped now and if Sharma also is brought in, then either Zaheer Khan or Vinay Kumar would miss out in the playing eleven.
India`s batting line-up will once again have rotation at the top to allow youngsters in the middle order to have a hit in the centre. The rotation policy, by logic, should now call for Sachin Tendulkar to be put on bench but indications are the little master would be a part of the playing eleven, implying either Virender Sehwag or Gautam Gambhir would sit out. Australia, on the other hand, will blood a youngster in tomorrow`s match. Queenslander Peter Forrest or Western Australia`s Mitchell Marsh could get a call up to fill in the place left vacant by Mike Hussey.
Australia have pulled out Hussey and paceman Ben Hilfenhaus from the squad which gives an opportunity to either Forrest or Marsh to come into the picture. Marsh has already played a one-day international, a game against South Africa at Centurion last year, but is in serious reckoning this year with some powerful knocks in the Big Bash league this year. The 20-year-old youngster from a sporting family — his father Geoff Marsh and elder brother Shaun Marsh have both represented Australia — Mitchell also bowls his medium-pacers in high 130s and is an excellent all-round fieldsman.
Forrest, who originally hails from New South Wales, has had a windfall since he moved to Queensland last year. In six Shield matches, the 26-year-old middle order bat struck three centuries. Skipper Michael Clarke has already spoken in glowing terms about the youngster. Australia can afford to tinker with the squad as they presently lead the table in the triangular series with nine points from two matches. India are second with four points while Sri Lanka it yet to open account from as many matches.
India have always found it difficult to pin down Australia in the latter`s backyard and given how the summer has panned out, it would be doubly so difficult for the visitors. However, a leaf out of Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene`s book is recommended for the Indians. Jayawardene attacked Australian batters throughout in last night`s game at Perth. Even when the powerplay was not on, most players were inside the ring, breathing down the neck of the home batsmen.
The tactic was worth its weight in gold as Australia lost wickets regularly and eventually folded up for 231 runs. Sri Lanka ought to have overcome the target but fell short by five runs. India`s batsmen don`t seem to have learnt from their follies of Test matches. There are far too many irresponsible shots being played. There is no thrust in putting on partnerships and even when there is no pressure, batsmen look to clear the big grounds in Australia and perish in the deep.
Importantly, India need a good start. Throughout this summer, be it in Tests or in shorter formats of the game, Indian openers have not yet put on a half century stand for the first wicket. It transfers the pressure directly on the middle-order batsmen who are talented but largely unused to these conditions. Australia are not without their own worry. They still are searching for a stable start at the top. Veteran Ricky Ponting has been a failure in both the matches thus far.
Opener David Warner has thumped a stroke or two and then left the scene. Fortunately for them, the work in the field has usually been overwhelming for the opponents. The last two days in the city have seen intermittent rains and it`s generally been cool, unlike in the Test last month when the temperature hovered in the mid-30s all through. The match day tomorrow though is likely to be sunny throughout.