NEW DELHI: Battered and bruised by yet another series defeat, India’s struggling cricketers will seek to restore some pride when they go into the third and final ODI against Pakistan on January 6.
The collective failure of the top order batsmen even in home conditions has hurt the team badly in recent times and the hosts will need a huge spark of inspiration to prevent the spirited Pakistanis from achieving a 3-0 clean sweep.
Clearly, the pressure will be on the Indians who have been plagued by an inexplicable form slump of their star batsmen.
Indian Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, in good form with the bat, has been at a loss to explain the repeated failures and there have been suggestions that he should promote himself up the order considering the poor form of the top half.
The hosts lost the first game in Chennai by six wickets and the second in Kolkata by 85 runs to give their arch foes their first series win on Indian soil since 2004-05.
The two Indian openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir — have invariably failed to give a good start and that has hurt their team badly. The Indians may contemplate benching either Sehwag or Gambhir and let Rahane open the innings.
The form of Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina has been patchy and none of them have shown consistency nor have they shouldered the responsibility.
Dhoni has acknowledged time and again that the batting has let the team down.
“Everybody knows it’s disappointing. When you are going through transition, you want your senior players to perform and groom the juniors. Once two-three wickets start falling, you need someone to soak up the pressure and consolidate the innings”, Dhoni said.
India’s bowling also does not have the bite to pose much problems for the strong Pakistani batting line-up which has been well-served by left-handed opener Nasir Jamshed who has cracked back-to-back centuries.
The batting has clicked with Jamshed in stunning form while the experienced Mohammad Hafeez and Younis Khan have also chipped in with useful contributions.
But Pakistan’s bowling has really made the difference, particularly the potent pace trio of Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan and Umar Gul.
Junaid has shown an exceptional ability to swing the ball and used the damp conditions in Chennai to devastating effect by ripping through India’s top order.
Irfan, the towering 7 feet one inch speedster, has also proved to be quite a handful for the Indians, getting the ball to bounce disconcertingly while Gul has also been impressive.
In the spin department, Saeed Ajmal can prove to be a wily customer while Hafeez and Shoaib Malik are good at doing the containing job.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul Haq could not have asked for a better show from his teammates who have outplayed the Indians in every department of the game.
“Indian batsmen are struggling for quite a long time. But I think our bowlers exploited the conditions better. Normally we get flat pitches here in India. But both the pitches – in Chennai and Kolkata — were challenging for batsmen,” he said.
Misbah is now looking for a clean sweep and it should not be difficult.
The toss may play a big role given the dew factor and the chilly winter conditions. The team which wins the toss, may opt to bowl first as dew may hamper spinners later.
A full house is expected at the Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium tomorrow.
Story first published: 5th January 2013