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Ranchi: Midway through the one-day series, Team India’s cupboard of effective bowlers seems as empty as the supposed gold reserve in Unnao. But there is one difference. The Archeological Survey of India (ASI) has decided to dig deeper while the Indian team management seems to have decided there is no need to look beyond the men it has already had a look at.
The fact that India’s fortune in the ongoing series hinges on their bowling is not lost on anybody. But on the eve of the fourth ODI at the JSCA International Stadium Complex, there was nothing to suggest that a change of personnel was being mulled.
Shami Ahmed’s name has come up in many discussions since Ishant Sharma’s disastrous Saturday, and the Bengal pacer did look sharp in the nets. But there is no dearth of support for Sharma.
Captain MS Dhoni said one bad match was no reason to drop anybody. Sharma’s teammate Suresh Raina said what happened to him can happen to anyone, and that the bowler has done a lot of hard work at the nets over the last two days.
On the field, the lanky pacer bowled his usual line, and more importantly, length. Even though the captain, coach Duncan Fletcher and bowling coach Joe Dawes stood in line behind the batsman to take a look, none of them came up and talked to Sharma.
The plan is hard to understand. However, the pacers seem to have realized the need to bowl yorkers. All the pacers tried it except for Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has anyway been the most economical among Indian pacers, with the new ball at least.
But pace bowling is not India’s only problem. Nobody expects only the pacers to win one-dayers when you play on sub-continental pitches. What has hurt Dhoni’s team is the failure of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to pick up wickets in the middle overs. They are averaging 54.33 and 69 at the moment.
They bowled at the nets on Tuesday but the offie looked equally interested in going for the big shots. One can hardly blame him. The way 300-plus totals have been chased down in this series, it’s not criminal for a bowler to feel all wrong can be made right if you can score a few with the bat.
Two men who spent extra time at the nets were the two whose bats have been quiet so far – Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh. Dhoni’s decision of making Raina bat at No. 4 is yet to be proved right. His discomfort with the short ball is well-known.
Yuvraj has hardly spent enough time in the middle to make a significant contribution. When the top-order fails the team could be under immense pressure if Raina and Yuvraj don’t click. Dhoni cannot be expected to play the kind of innings he played in Mohali every time.
It’s not that the hosts have so many headaches and the visitors have none. Australia’s bowlers have been no better, with the exception of Mitchell Johnson. The Aussies will still feel confident because of the form their batsmen are in. After all, their No. 8 won them a match they were losing till the 48th over.
During the Champions League T20 matches held in Ranchi recently, gripping the ball in the evenings proved difficult. If anything, the weather is cooler now. With his bowlers out of form and forecast of scattered thunderstorms, no prizes for guessing what Dhoni will do after winning the toss. In fact, both captains will feel confident chasing.