A familiar do-or-die match for India

Published: Sunday, October 7, 2007, 3:35 [IST]
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Chandigarh: With their backs to the wall, the Indians find themselves in a 'must-win' situation, a familiar scenario for Team India in the recent past.

Battered and bruised by the rampaging Kangaroos, India need to get their act together as they take on Australia here on Monday for the fourth ODI to to keep their series hopes alive.

The hosts, having already been brought down to earth after the heady Twenty20 World Cup triumph festivities, will have to come up with some extraordinary display to keep the series alive at a venue on which international cricket fixture is returning after a gap of 14 years.

The 84-run thrashing at Kochi and the 47-run defeat at Hyderabad have rattled the Indians and Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his teammates will have to raise their game to a much higher level if they are to avoid further humilation at the hands of ODI world champions in this 50-over-a-side format.

The Indians seem to be clueless against the Aussies.

They have been outplayed by the visitors in all departments of the game on the field.

Intriguingly, India, having one of the best opening pairs in the ODI history in Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, have not opened with them in the last two matches.

Indians, barring few exceptions, have failed to live up to their reputations. Their bowlers have conceded over 900 runs in 150 overs and batsmen hardly looked in control of the situation to create any problem for the rivals.

The visitors have clearly demonstrated that their batting line-up has enough depth and the middle-order is capable of surviving any top order collapse.

Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds are in awesome form and with the return of Ricky Ponting they are brimming with confidence.

Their bowling is incisive backed up by agile fielding and having won the two matches rather easily, they are unlikely to give the hosts any quarter.

The visitors have been served well by their bowling combination too. Left-arm pacer Mitchell Johnson's lively pace has created problems for the hosts while Brett Lee gave no leeway. Stuart Clark and James Hopes have added more firepower to their side's armoury. Left-arm chinaman bowler Brad Hogg and Michael Clarke's part-time off-spin make the Australian bowling awsome.

Meanwhile, the Indians have made one change in their squad. Though Murli Kartik has ben included in place of Romesh Power it remains to be seen whether Dhoni will go ino the match with two spinners. In the three innings which hey got to bowl against Australia, the Indian pacers managed to get breakthrough at early stages but the visitors somehow riggled out of the stranglehold to notch up over and around 300.

''We have to improve from here. We need to bat better, we need good starts. It is important to deny their (Australian) new-ball bowlers wickets,'' said Dhoni after the Hyderabad debacle.

Skipper Dhoni is still to taste victory in the one-dayers and he knows that it is going to be a tough task ahead with his team trailing 0-2 in the series.

The hosts' bowlers bowled well to some extent in Hyderabad with Harbhajan Singh doing a fine job by conceding only 38 runs in ten overs though without getting a wicket while Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan scalping two wickets each but could not contain the run flow of the rivals.

Indian fielding also has been upto the mark.

''We are not a great fielding side anyway and in the match at Hyderabad, Australia saved about 25 runs on the field. If we had fielded that way, the match would have been much closer,'' rued selection commitee chairman Dilip Vengsarkar.

The two crushing defeats have left Vengsarkar fuming. He has warned the Big Three - Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid - to perform or perish.

''Definitely, the threshold has reduced. No question about it, there are many players like S Badrinath and Suresh Raina who are waiting for their chances and you can not ignore them,'' he was quoted as saying.

Is it a warning for the trio? Only time will tell, but time has definitely come for them to perform and be counted. They have not only their reputation at stake but also that of the team.


India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt, wk ), Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Gautam Gambhir, Sourav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh, Dinesh Karthik, Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, Rohit Sharma, Murli Kartik, Rudra Pratap Singh, S Sreesanth, Robin Uthappa and Yuvraj Singh.

Australia: Ricky Ponting (capt), Adam Gilchrist (wk), Nathan Bracken, Stuart Clark, Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, Matthew Hayden, Ben Hilfenhaus, Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, James Hopes, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Andrew Symonds, Adam Voges and Michael Hussey.


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