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Down to Delhi tiebreaker 

NEW DELHI, MARCH 12

In a space of just a fortnight, a team that was a formidable unit in limited-overs cricket and one that was struggling to win matches have switched places. Momentum does that to teams.

After scoring two wins — by six wickets in Hyderabad and eight runs in Nagpur — India were on the ascendancy. But the hosts have since lost two on the bounce, and with the series tied at 2-2, Virat Kohli and his team will look to clinch the series here tomorrow.

Squad rotation, uncertainty over the playing XI and loss of confidence have hampered India’s progression. The team that looked like world-beaters all through last year has lost its aura of invincibility and is now looking for answers. 

The manner in which the world’s best bowling combination of Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah struggled to defend 358 in Mohali on Sunday was alarming. Dew made their job tough but the failure of the bowlers to adapt was telling.

Question No. 4

The team management is still undecided on who among Ambati Rayudu, KL Rahul or even skipper Virat Kohli will take guard at No. 4. Though Kohli promoted Rahul ahead of himself in Mohali, Rahul’s place in the team is not yet certain.

The doubt over wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant’s inclusion in the World Cup-bound squad is another talking point that has the team management befuddled. Pant was rested during the Twenty20 Internationals in Australia when he should have been playing, and now he has been given only two ODIs to win a place in the team for the World Cup. Add to that the rotation of the bowlers in the series and the team is looking ragged.

Dip in form

Despite the dip in form, India’s bowling coach Bharat Arun said there was no need to panic. “These are the same bowlers… If you look at the success rate it is more than 75 per cent and it is huge for any team,” he said. “These things do happen, I am happy it has happened now… It shows us areas where we can improve before the World Cup.”

Arun added that the team combination was all but decided but hinted they would not hesitate to try options. “More or less the team is quite sure of what combination is but we would like to try out all our options before the World Cup,” he said. “But definitely there are certain areas we need to address both in bowling and batting.”

Aussie upswing

The Australians have started to believe in themselves after winning back-to-back ODIs. The reigning world champions were on the rocks after losing nine out of their previous 11 ODIs before coming to India. The team was also derailed due to the suspensions of inspirational captain Steven Smith and his deputy David Warner for their role in ball-tampering in a Test last year. But now Australia are shaping into a formidable outfit. Usman Khawaja and Peter Handscomb have done the bulk of the scoring. Even Aaron Finch found form with a 99-ball 93 in Ranchi. Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell provide the team solidity in the middle.

Ashton Turner, playing only his second ODI in Mohali, held his own against Bumrah and Kumar in his 43-ball 84. The team will be much stronger when Smith, Warner and Mitchell Starc return to the playing XI.

Vice-captain Alex Carey said it was good to see competition for places in the Australian team. “Those are big names waiting to come back. This is very healthy for Australian cricket,” he said. “If you look across the board, everyone has done well… It is really good to see the players doing well in really high-pressure games.”

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