We enter game five of the series with the honours shared two-all. India are doubtlessly a better team on paper but Australia, with all their injury nuisance have still managed to keep the series amazingly well balanced. the Hyderabad contest is perhaps, the most crucial match of the series.
The team that wins here, will take a lot of burden off its head going into the last two ties of the series. The other team will be under the pressure to win two games back to back, which is difficult in a series so hard fought and with both teams desperate to rule the one-day international roost.
Unlike their oppositions, Team India is not plagued by any uncontrollables. The only excuse they can give for not being 3-1 up in the series at this point of time is their lack of application with the bat.
Both games that they have lost in the series, its due to their batsmen’s inability to handle the situation while chasing runs. They won in Delhi, mainly due to the Yuvraj-Dhoni 148-run stand.
In order to overcome this trouble, their most successful opening pair needs to provide them with a solid start, so that the batsmen to follow have their job cut down. Sehwag and Tendulkar have managed opening stands of 25, 21, 37 and 40 so far and none of them has scored a half century. But there’s no doubting the fact that both of them are just one good knock away from getting back in their elements.
The return of Gambhir, who missed the fourth ODI due to a neck injury, will bring back the solidity in the top order, while Yuvraj, Dhoni and Raina would look to continue their good form.
While India’s overall bowling attack looked an improved one in the fourth ODI, Ishant Sharma’s 42-0 in five overs has become a cause of worry for the Indian captain. Nehra will- as he has done in the series so far- lift the onus of carrying the fast bowling on his rejuvenated shoulders.
Taking MS Dhoni’s immense liking for his spinners into consideration, Harbhajan’s encounter with good form at Mohali would be a huge relief for the skipper.
One thing that India will want to take with them from Mohali’s defeat is their alacrity and commitment to fielding.
This section of the preview has become the biggest cliché of the series. We are short of words to describe the plight of the visitors, who seems to be losing their players as an army loses its warriors in a war. The injury pandemic has engulfed the Australian team to an extent that they now have only 13 men standing to choose their playing eleven from.
Their victory in Mohali came at the cost of their best fast bowler and the all-rounder who himself was called in as a replacement to James Hopes.
With Peter Siddle flown back home and Moises Henriques ruled out of the Hyderabad match, Ponting is an extremely worried man.
Another concern is Mitchell Johnson. He has been pushing himself and playing despite the pain in his ankle but the results are not very heroic. Australia desperately need Mitch to perform like the ‘ICC Cricketer of the Year’. The brilliant form of Bollinger and Nathan Hauritz is something Ponting will take heart from.
While the Aussie batting mainly revolves around Ponting and Hussey, the will need one more batsman to stick his head out of inexperience and play a substantial innings. Watson has shown promise and now is the right time for him to convert those starts into something big.
The Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Hyderabad is expected to witness a run-feast. The track, according to the curator, will yield a lot of runs but will also assist the fast bowlers, owing to its bouncy nature.
One might not see any changes in the Indian side, except the likely return of Gautam Gambhir in place of Virat Kohli. But if MS Dhoni wants to give struggling Ishant a break, we might just see Munaf Patel getting his first game of the series.
Australia too, shouldn’t face any difficulty to choose their playing eleven as their job is already cut down by a deluge of injuries. They just have to pick two players out of 13 to sit out. While Ben Hilfenhaus will most probably replace Siddle, Jon Holland too can hope to make his international debut.
India: Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Ishant Sharma/Munaf Patel
Australia: Shaun Marsh, Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting, Cameron White, Michael Hussey, Jon Holland, Mitchell Johnson, Graham Manou, Nathan Hauritz, Ben Hilfenhaus, Doug Bollinger