The performance of the Indian batting line-up so far in the ODI series against Australia has been in stark contrast to their lofty reputation. Or should we say in ‘Starc’ contrast?
The big names’ jittery response to Mitchell Starc’s left-arm pace has raised questions about the Indian batters’ ability to negotiate quality fast bowling, even if conditions aren’t overtly swing or seam-friendly. Watching the batters shiver in front of the moving ball on home turf in a World Cup year is not a pleasant sight.
But with the series at stake, Rohit Sharma and his men have to find a way out to tackle Starc when the two teams face off in the deciding ODI at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Wednesday.
In the first two ODIs, the conditions in Mumbai as well as in Visakhapatnam did offer a little bit of help for the quicks. And Starc made fine use of them.
In the series opener, not having enough support from the other end didn’t help the left-arm speedster much even after he ran through India’s top order. Starc was sharper in the second game and, aided by poor shot selection from some of India’s established batsman, Australia and he had their way to level the series.
The momentum is with Starc and his team after they drubbed India by 10 wickets in Visakhapatnam to keep the series alive. However, the conditions at the Chinnaswamy are expected to be a little more batsmen and spin-friendly, which should make the Indians feel a tad better.
There has been some rain in Chennai recently, though the skies are expected to be clear on Wednesday making it hot and humid. But given Starc’s ability and his rhythm at present, he would certainly fancy himself to get vicious swing irrespective of the conditions.
As for the Indian batting group, what it must look to ensure is not gift wickets to Starc or any other Australian bowler with loose, extravagant strokes. If skipper Rohit, his opening partner Shubman Gill and the talismanic Virat Kohli strengthen up their defence even a little bit, that could be good enough to put the Australian bowling attack under some pressure. The same applies to the likes of KL Rahul and all-rounder Hardik Pandya.
But what about the No.4 slot? As Rohit said, the out-of-sorts Suryakumar Yadav is likely to remain in the XI and get a longer run in ODIs. But will he be persisted with at No.4? Or, will there be a change in the batting order?
What also remains to be seen is whether India go in with the same bowling combination or effect a change or two. It’s certainly a tricky call to make.
On the Australian front, one has to wait and see if David Warner and Glenn Maxwell makes a return to the playing XI. Given the conditions, all-rounder Maxwell certainly has a better chance. Pacer Sean Abbott may lose out in that case.
■ India vs Australia, 3rd ODI, 1.30pm, live on Star Sports Network
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