The Decider: 5th ODI will tell as to where India stand ahead of the World Cup
Besides a decision on the ongoing series, the 5th ODI will provide significant pointers as to where India stand ahead of the World Cup.
Two wins, three losses, including a 214-run thumping in the series decider at Wankhede in Mumbai.
Now, when was the last time Australia won an ODI series anywhere? It was in January 2017 — 4-1 against Pakistan at home. Their last away series win was further back in August 2016.
On Wednesday, as India and Australia meet at the Ferozeshah Kotla stadium in New Delhi for the series-deciding fifth ODI, the two teams are likely to refresh the statistics and add a series win/loss to their tally. India may extend their unbeaten reign and delay Australia’s wait for a series win, or Australia may end their losing spree and India’s victory run.
Stats, however, are just a byproduct of a team’s performance but have no real influence on the team’s display. Hence, the above mentioned stats won’t matter on Wednesday. What will matter though is how the two teams prepare and execute their strategies, how the players handle the pressure of a decider and, more importantly, how they deal with the dew factor.
The last one has literally boggled India in the previous two matches. In Ranchi, expecting dew to come into play, Virat Kohli decided to field first but it made no appearance and Australia defended their score with ease.
In Mohali, Kohli seemed ready to tackle the dew factor head on and chose to bat first. In the end it proved to be another wrong call as Indian bowlers couldn’t control the slippery ball and failed to defend 359 — a good total on any ground.
As a result, India’s strong grip on the series has weakened and Australia, who looked like sleep-walking into another series defeat, have covered a lot of ground and gained confidence in their abilities. Especially after the Mohali performance. It’s one thing to beat this Indian team on an off day but to do that in two consecutive matches at their home (hasn’t happened in last six years) and draw level from 0-2 down must be considered special.
“We were put under pressure early in the series.
It is obviously really exciting going into tomorrow with the series on the line,” Australia vice-captain Alex Carey told reporters on the eve of the match.
“Obviously (we are taking) some momentum from the last game. The boys are feeling confident,” he added.
For India, it’s not all boom and bust. In fact, the current situation in the series presents a good opportunity for India to re-group and re-calibrate, given it’s their last 50-over game before the World Cup (they will play a couple of warm-up matches though). And Kohli has already said that Indian Premier League performances will not have any bearing on the selection for the World Cup.
In this series, they have tried to play with different combinations and give some World Cup probables a chance to gain valuable experience and impress the team management before the final boarding call for the England-bound flight is made.
“If you look at our success rate, it is more than 75 per cent and it is huge for a team. These things do happen. I am happy it has happened now because it throws open a lot of factors where we can improve before the World Cup,” India’s bowling coach Bharat Arun said.
“Definitely there are certain areas we need to address both in bowling and batting. We have to stay positive irrespective of whatever has happened. It’s a great learning experience from the way series has gone,” he added.
While the series has thrown up a few nagging questions — sloppy fielding, who’s No. 4, best bowling combination, back-up keeper, spin allrounder vs pace all-rounder and a new one in reading pitch and ground conditions — at India, Australia seem to have suddenly vaulted into genuine World Cup contenders.
A team who had the lowest percentage of wins in 2018 and haven’t won an ODI series in two years, are now on the brink of a series win. That too against India, the toughest team to beat at home. Not to forget that India also lost both the T20Is played before the ODI series.
In this light, the decider in Delhi becomes much more significant to deduce where India stand at this important juncture.