Kohli’s men primed to reprise domination

Bengaluru, Sep 28: It is a year to the day Australia last won a one-day international away from home, when Steve Smith’s men barely broke sweat in a nine-wicket rout of Ireland in Benoni.

Thirteen games have since come and gone, a barren streak that has only grown with a hat-trick of defeats on this latest tour of India. The teams arrive in Bengaluru, for the fourth ODI of this series, with Virat Kohli’s lot on a streak of its own: victory here on Thursday will be the tenth in a row in the 50-over format, an Indian record.

This series has in a way been a mirror image of India’s trip down under last year, when it lurched from one defeat to another in the one-dayers, going 0-4 down before salvaging some pride in the final fixture in Sydney. It is Australia scrabbling for ideas now, desperate for the T20s to come around.

To be fair to the visitor, though, it has found itself in positions of strength in all three matches this tour, but surrendered the advantage on each occasion. That is perhaps down to a lack of depth in quality, when everything depends on a few excellent performers.

Except for Nathan Coulter-Nile and Patrick Cummins with ball and Steve Smith and Aaron Finch with bat, Australia has been largely poor. Marcus Stoinis, who scored a sensational hundred against New Zealand in January, should be batting two places higher than he is; both in Indore and Kolkata, he ran out of partners, which in a side struggling for batting depth is a criminal waste of resources.

It says a lot about Australia’s confidence in him that Adam Zampa was dropped after one beating. An inexperienced leg- spinner still perfecting his trade is certain to be biffed around; leaving him out does not exactly enhance his morale. With Ashton Agar injured, Zampa could well be forced back into the side, aware that he’s not first-choice. He is unlikely to come bouncing down the pavilion stairs on Thursday.

India, on the other hand, has few concerns.

Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have been outstanding, while Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal have given the team a new dimension.

And then there is Hardik Pandya, who has left Australia gasping for breath. There is now an unmistakable buzz in the stands when Pandya is at the crease: a crackling, electric anticipation, a sense that a great spectacle is about to unfold. It is the sort of six-hitting superstar thrill Chris Gayle generates at this venue in the IPL, and M.S. Dhoni does at every ground in the world.

In stature, Pandya is a long way away from these two giants of limited-overs cricket; but over the last two weeks, he has been jaw-droppingly brilliant.

With the series won, it remains to be seen if Kohli will use the final two games to give everyone in the squad a chance; K.L. Rahul, Axar Patel (who appeared to have been hurt while batting in the nets on Wednesday), Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav have played no part yet.

The M. Chinnaswamy Stadium’s curators do not expect a high-scoring encounter but instead a ‘good contest’ between bat and ball. The only things in the way of such a contest could be rain or an Australian collapse. India has seen plenty of both this last fortnight.

Source The Hindu