Some questions after India’s 2-3 loss to Australia in ODI series at home
There is a silver lining in this loss to the defending world champions and the faster the Indian team management addresses the issues exposed, the better.
Updated - Mar 15, 2019 12:28 pm
India eventually found that one victory to pocket the series against Australia elusive. They lost the final game of the series in Delhi by 37 runs to concede the series 2-3. It was the Men in Blue’s final international series before the World Cup kicking off in May and losing it from a 2-0 advantage is not something that either captain Virat Kohli, his players and the fans would like to remember for long.
However, just two-and-half months ahead of the WC (though India are playing their first game on June 5), this loss should serve as a key lesson to the Indian cricketers. The Men in Blue have been playing some fantastic cricket over the last several months, winning a number of overseas ODI and T20I series and also a historic Test series Down Under. But things did not turn out to their liking since the last week of February as they lost the T20I series 0-2 before squandering the 50-overs series – something they haven’t done against Australia at home for a decade till Delhi happened.
But there is a silver lining in this loss to the defending world champions and the faster the Indian team management addresses the issues exposed, the better.
Too much experimentation?
Issue No.1 is the experimentation with the team. Though India can’t undo this now since they have no more international games left before the WC, they can certainly put an end to their indecision over the final players they will pick for the showpiece event. India have a far broader talent base now compared to what it was say two decades back but one also gets the feeling that the management is not being able to handle the talent crowd.
The best example to illustrate this is the experimentation with the wicket-keepers. India virtually played a musical chair with its glovesmen for too long and it was a piece of clear evidence that they could not arrive at a decision.
Why Pant was picked to keep wickets for the last two games?
Picking Rishabh Pant for the last two ODIs was beyond comprehension because the player had never kept in an ODI game before Mohali. He played in the limited-over matches recently as a specialist batsman with Mahendra Singh Dhoni donning the gloves. Were the Indian selectors thinking of lifting Pant straight to the tier of WC-playing players based on his performance in the last two games?
If that was the plan, Pant’s failure with the gloves in Mohali and bat in Delhi did him a great service. Had he found a momentary success in these two games, he would have been picked for the WC squad (he can still be) and with just five ODIs under his belt, exposing Pant to a massive platform like the WC would have been a gamble – a huge one. And if the selectors are still thinking of playing him as a specialist batsman in the WC, why burden him with the gloves just two games ahead of the big tournament?
At 21, Pant still has all the time to play in more than one WC but forcing him to become a WC player prematurely just because he has done great with the bat in Tests is something foolhardy. Dhoni could have still kept the wickets in the entire series and if he couldn’t, the job could have been assigned to a more experienced Dinesh Karthik, unless of course, the selectors are still unhappy with him not taking that crucial run in Hamilton.