Virat Kohli, Indian cricket team captain, on Sunday said head coach Ravi Shastri was the brain behind promoting all-rounder Hardik Pandya up the order, which eventually paid rich dividends for the home side in the series-clinching five-wicket win over Australia in the third ODI here. (India vs Australia 3rd ODI: HIGHLIGHTS)
Coming to bat at the no. 4 position, Pandya played a delightful 78-run knock off 72 balls to steer India home while chasing a competitive 294 for a win. (India vs Australia 3rd ODI: SCORECARD)
Kohli also heaped special praise on Pandya and termed the “explosive” all-rounder as a “great asset” for the team.
“I’m really, really satisfied with the win. He (Pandya) is a star, has the ability with the ball, bat and the field. We need a guy like that, we’ve been missing an explosive all- rounder. He is a great asset for Indian cricket,” Kohli said after the match.
“The idea behind his promotion was Ravi (Shastri) bhai, to attack the spinner,” he added.
Pandya rose to the occasion yet again with a fluent knock as India registered a comfortable five-wicket win over Australia in the third ODI to grab the number one ranking.
Chasing 294 for a win, India overhauled the target with 13 balls to spare in front of a packed Holkar stadium to take a series-clinching 3-0 lead.
Openers Rohit Sharma (71) and Ajikya Rahane (70) set the platform for the win with their 131-run partnership while Pandya steered the side to victory with his crucial knock, which came off 72 balls.
‘Wrist spinners need to be backed’
Kohli also backed his new-found two wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and and Yuzvendra Chahal.
“Wrist spinners need to be backed, they won’t always get grip from the wicket, but they possess the ability to get wickets,” he said.
The India skipper said he backed his bowling unit to make a strong comeback, especially after Australia were off to a flying start.
“Steve (Smith) mentioned the first 35 overs was good from their end, we knew when we get 2-3 wickets with their lower middle order, we could pull things back. It was a 330-340 wicket,” Kohli said.
“Coming back from difficult situations has been a feature of this team. They were 35-40 runs short.”
Reserves may be tried
Kohli also hinted that with the series in their pocket, India might try out a few reserve players in the remaining two games of the five-match series.
“We might try few players now, but mindset remains the same. Journey stops only after the fifth game,” he said.
Pandya’s full use of opportunity
Man-of-the-match Pandya said he saw the promotion as a good opportunity to unleash his potential.
“It feels pretty good but I would like to finish the game next time. I don’t need to be surprised. It is important to back myself and saw it as an opportunity,” he said.
“I wanted to target the left-arm spinner (Ashton Agar). When I got a few sixes, I knew I could take some time.”
Losing skipper Steve Smith said the visitors were themselves to blame for losing the tempo after putting themselves in a strong position.
“We set it up beautifully in the first 37-38 overs. We put ourselves in a good position. But Indian bowlers executed well, we executed poorly,” he said.
“We needed 330 plus. Hardik (Pandya) was magnificent in end there. Finchy played magnificently, the wicket slowed up a little bit for both teams. The ball came on for the first 35 overs in both innings.”
Australia have lost 10 of their last 12 ODIs played away from home and the Eden Gardens defeat against the Indian cricket team is a continuation of several factors that have contributed to their woeful performance.
Australia’s nightmare in India continues. Their 50-run loss in the second ODI at Eden Gardens was their 10th in the last 12 overseas matches since beating Ireland in Benoni in September 2016.
These losses have underlined how far the reigning World Cup winners have fallen since claiming victory under Michael Clarke at home in 2015.Speaking after the Kolkata ODI, captain Steve Smith pointed to frequent batting collapses as the major reason behind Australia’s current poor run. “It’s happening a bit too often for my liking. We’ve had a lot of collapses that we need to stop,” Smith said.
Smith is right that Australian batting collapses are getting frequent. However, there are some key factors that have led to the situation the team finds itself in.
Chronicles of a collapse
During the five-game series against South Africa in 2016, Australia suffered batting collapses in three ODIs. In the second match in Johannesburg, Australia lost five wickets for 36 runs to lose by 142 runs in pursuit of 362.
In the fourth ODI at Port Elizabeth, the innings was reduced to 49/5. In the final game, chasing 328, Australia were 229/4 but lost four wickets for 32 runs.
The trend continued in the Chappell-Hadlee series in New Zealand this year. In the first ODI at Auckland, Australia were reduced to 67/6. In the third game at Napier, Australia lost three quick wickets for 25 runs to lose the game and series.
Batting collapses have continued in the Champions Trophy and in the India series. In the England game at Edgbaston, Australia lost five wickets for 15 runs in the death overs. In the Kolkata ODI, they lost four wickets for 10 runs as Kuldeep Yadav claimed a hattrick. The worrying aspect in this whole period is that the collapse is all over the line-up, be it the top, middle or the tail.
Australia’s horrendous run in Tests in the sub-continent has been their inability to play left-arm spin. Against Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh, Zulfiqar Babar, Rangana Herath, Ravindra Jadeja and Shakib Al Hasan have ensured Australia collapse like a pack of cards.
In ODIs, the left-arm bogey has extended in the form of Kuldeep Yadav, a Chinaman bowler. The variations employed by the 22-year-old have exposed Australia’s technical deficiencies against spin.
Resting Mitchell Starc
For a certain period now, Australia have rested key players to manage their workload. Pace spearhead Mitchell Starc is an example. Back from injury, he was rested for the ODI series against South Africa as Cricket Australia wanted him to be fresh for the home summer. Starc was left out of the current series against India to be ready for the Ashes series starting on November 23.
This is not the first time a strike bowler has been rested for a series. Mitchell Johnson returned home from India in 2013 with the ODI score-line 2-2 to prepare for the Ashes series.
Indian cricket team dismissed Glenn Maxwell in the 23rd over, got Australia cricket team skipper Steve Smith in the 30th and then Kuldeep Yadav dealt the killer blow with his hat-trick in the 33rd to take control of the ODI in Kolkata
It was wickets in the middle overs that did the trick for Indian cricket team and helped them take a 2-0 lead in this five-match series of One-day Internationals against Australia cricket team, said Bhuvneshwar Kumar at Eden Gardens following Thursday’s 50-run win. (IND vs AUS Kolkata ODI Highlights)
“In today’s cricket, 252 is not a big total to defend and we knew we had to keep taking wickets if we had to win. It wasn’t like there was a lot of disappointment when we finished on 252 but the captain and the management felt that we needed to believe in each other. In the beginning and in the death overs, bowlers get opportunities but it is taking wickets in the middle overs that makes the difference,” said Bhuvneshwar. (IND vs AUS Kolkata ODI Scorecard)
India dismissed Glenn Maxwell in the 23rd over, got Steve Smith in the 30th and then Kuldeep Yadav dealt the killer blow with his hat-trick in the 33rd. So in 10 overs, India had taken five wickets and that, according to Bhuvneshwar, proved decisive.
About his own bowling --- 6.1-2-9-3 --- Bhuvneshwar said he realised after bowling the first ball that he would get swing. “To Warner, my plan was to bowl outswingers because I generally do that to him. To (Hilton) Cartwright, the idea was to bowl at the top of the stumps,” he said.
“The IPL has ensured that there are no secrets anymore. Just as I know where to bowl to Warner, he too knows what my strengths and weaknesses are (they are teammates at Sunrisers Hyderabad). So, it is all about execution; whoever executes better wins the day. Today, I did it. Maybe he will tomorrow.”
Bhuvneshwar referred to that again while trying to explain why the Australians are struggling against India’s spin bowlers. “It is not that they can’t play spin. But maybe our bowlers are bowling better and making it difficult for them to pick,” he said.
From his first ODI nearly five years ago, Bhuvneshwar has come a long way. “At the start of my career, I relied on the conditions. Slowly, as you play more international cricket, you know the areas where you must improve. I knew I had to increase my pace but had no clue how. So, I did what people told me and that is train and improve fitness.
“Then, our new trainer came up with a different module and, knowingly or unknowingly, my pace increased. Then, I didn’t try too many things beyond focusing on my swing. As my pace improved, so did my bowling at the death. Playing the IPL too helped,” said the man who is India’s pace spearhead.
Add to that increased focus on diet and fitness, which is part of the culture now in the team, said Bhuvneshwar and you have the transformation of the man from Meerut to something more than just a swing bowler.
Australia cricket team captain Steve Smith admitted that many mistakes under pressure led to his side losing wickets in clumps against Indian cricket team in the second ODI in Kolkata
That India have got Australia cricket team to make mistakes under pressure tells you a lot about what Virat Kohli’s team is capable of, at least in familiar conditions. (IND vs AUS 2nd ODI Highlights)
Aussie Skipper Steve Smith’s 100th ODI was marred by a loss after Australia cricket team’s bowlers had done well to restrict Indian cricket team at Eden Gardens. Smith said making mistakes under pressure caused them the match. The visitors trail 0-2 in the five-match series. (IND vs AUS 2nd ODI Scorecard)
“Our bowlers did a terrific job to reduce India to 252. I think we took 7/16 at the back-end and the guys executed their skills really well,” said Smith after the match. “We should be getting that target on such a wicket. But we made too many poor decisions under pressure and lost wickets in clumps which we can’t afford to do.”
Smith praised Marcus Stonis for his positive intent.
“I thought (Marcus) Stoinis played well at the back-end showing nice, positive intent but it needed for one among myself and Heady (Travis Head) to go on,” added the Australian skipper. “So, a lot of the blame falls on us because one among the top four needed to go on and close the game. We got 70-odd and if you turn 70 into 140, the game’s closed. We couldn’t do it.”
Smith was clearly upset with the “silly errors” his team committed.
“We didn’t get partnerships and made silly errors and you can’t afford that against a quality line-up like India,” he said. “We panicked a bit in the last game but it is easy to sit here and say you need to change what you are doing because it is not working, I think it is about making better decisions under pressure. It is not good to see so many collapses. Maybe we are watching the ball too closely and not playing our normal game. ”
And though Steve Smith said he thought the ball spun more as the match went on, he felt they had played India’s wrist spinners quite well, Kuldeep Yadav’s hat-trick notwithstanding.
“Our tailenders couldn’t play him (Yadav) as well as our batters, we actually felt comfortable against him today but we couldn’t go on to close the game,” said the Australia skipper.
It was the way Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah bowled at the start that really challenged Australia, admitted Smith.
“They got the ball to swing both ways and challenged our defence which is what frontline bowlers should do,” he added. I think the wicket spun a bit more in the evening and both (Yuzvendra) Chahal and Kuldeep bowled slower and got it to turn sharply but in terms of pace,it remained pretty much the same through the day.”
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