On Sept 24, 2007, India won the inaugural World T20 and the legend of MS Dhoni was born. A 26-year-old young man changed the face of Indian cricket. Over the years, the Indian team learnt the art of finishing tight games under Dhoni, who became renowned for his calmness.
That young man is now a 36-year-old veteran and seemingly, has achieved everything he could as a leader. India became No.1 Test team in the World in 2009 for the first time under him. India won the 50-over World Cup in 2011 after 28 long years. Two years later, Dhoni completed his silverware with the Champions Trophy in England. He also handled the transition period quite well when a few veterans retired.
Dhoni then quietly handed over the reigns to Virat Kohli earlier this year. India are playing a different brand of cricket under a more aggressive and expressive Kohli. They have beaten an all-round England at home, reached the final of the ICC Champions Trophy and mauled West Indies and Sri Lanka in their own backyard this year. Now, India are on a verge of winning yet another series when they take on Australia in their third one-day International here at Holkar Stadium in Indore on Sunday. India have a 2-0 lead in the five-match series.
Barring the presence of Dhoni, India have a young team. They are trying to plug a few loopholes but still look way ahead of their Aussies counterparts. Australia had an opportunity to ground the hosts twice in the previous two matches but failed, while India showed they have the men to bail them out of difficult situations.
The likes of Hardik Pandya, Yazuvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav are justifying their selections with some breathtaking performances. Pandya has been nothing short of a revelation, while Chahal and Kuldeep have given a pleasant headache to the team management and the selectors. The wrist spin duo has been successful so far in keeping the Australian batsmen quiet, though it will be a challenge for them to be as effective on the batting-friendly Indore track.
The batsmen, though, can look to have a good time. While Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane looked in good form in Kolkata, Rohit Sharma is yet to make his presence felt in the series, though he looks in good touch in the nets. The only problem India are facing is the No.4 slot. Manish Pandey has the backing of the team management and he is certain to get a longer rope after missing out on in the first two one-dayers.
Australia, on the other hand, have plenty of issues. Their top order hasn’t clicked so far. Aaron Finch batted in the nets and his return is a big boost to the Australian batting lineup, which is too dependent on captain Steve Smith and David Warner. Warner is yet to make a mark in this series.
The Australian middle order has crumbled under pressure twice, while the spinners haven’t left any impression on the Indian batsmen. The performance of the pacers – Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins and Kane Richardson – is the only positive for them so far. Australia need to put up a collective performance to turn things around.