Pakistan seek whitewash as India play for pride
NEW DELHI, Jan 5: 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 One-day International against Pakistan here on Sunday with the future of some of the under-performing stars at stake.
The collective failure of the top order 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 while the limited and inexperienced bowling resources have compounded the misery for the hosts who have now sunk to a new low with the recent debacles.
With the series already out of their grasp, the Indians may experiment by giving a chance to some of their bench players but whether they can change the team’s sliding fortunes remains to be seen in a day/night game which will start at noon to neutralise the dew factor.
Indian skipper 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.
India lost the first game in Chennai by six wickets and the second in Kolkata by 85 runs to give Pakistan their first series win on Indian soil since 2004-05.
Unless the Indians put up a far better display, the Feroze Shah Kotla Stadium could be a witness another drubbing for Dhoni and his struggling men.
Ajinkya Rahane, who has surprisingly not played a single match despite his decent showing in the two Twenty20 Internationals prior to the ODI series, is almost certain to feature in the playing XI on Sunday.
Experienced openers — Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir — have invariably failed to give a good start and that has hurt the 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.
In the absence of retired greats Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, the experienced players in the team have not shown the willingness to take the batting load.
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”,
India’s bowling also does not have the bite to pose much problems for the strong Pakistan batting line-up which has been well-served by young left-handed opener Nasir Jamshed who has cracked back-to-back centuries.
The trio of Ishant Sharma, Ashok Dinda and Bhuvneshwar Kumar neither have the pace nor the consistency to evoke any confidence while spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have also not been in the of best form.
The absence of a genuine all-rounder in the team has hurt the Indians, particularly with the new rules coming into play.
The new fielding rules, which allow only four fielders outside the 30-yard circle, have made it difficult for Dhoni to use his part-timers like Yuvraj and Raina for their full quota of 10 overs.
That has really handicapped the Indians who have always preferred an additional batsman with the part-timers filling up the fifth bowler’s slot.
The home team may toy with the idea of giving a chance to rookie paceman Shami Ahmed and leg-spinner Amit Mishra, both of whom have warmed the benches in the first two games.
While India’s cup of woes has been brimming, it is a totally different story for Pakistan who have found everything going in their favour.
The batting has clicked with Nasir in stunning form while Mohammad Hafeez and Younis Khan have also chipped in with useful contributions.
And according to Misbah, it was not just the combined effort of bowlers but also the preparatory training camp under former skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq back home which helped Pakistan overpower the Indians on their own backyard.
“We prepared well for the series under our batting consultant Inzamam-ul-Haq. The training camp back home really helped the team to perform well,” he stated.
But it is tourists’ bowling which has really made the difference, particularly the potent pace trio of Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan and Umar Gul.
In the spin department, Saeed Ajmal has been a wily customer while Hafeez and Shoaib Malik are good at doing the containing job.
Misbah could not have asked for a better show from his team-mates who have outplayed the Indians in every department of the game.
“The 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.
Misbah thinks the pitch looks more batting-friendly.
“Overall, the pitch seems good. What I have seen today, it will assist batsmen. The toss won’t be of much significance. In the first game, the toss played a crucial role. In the second, it wasn’t that important factor. So, I am not thinking on that line.”
INDIA: Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Ashok Dinda, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Shami Ahmed, Dinesh Karthik.
PAKISTAN: Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal, Umar Gul, Junaid Khan, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Irfan, Anwar Ali, Haris Sohail, Imran Farhat, Umar Akmal, Wahab Riaz, Zulfiqar Babar.
Umpires: Sudhir Asnani (India) and Billy Bowden (New Zealand).
TV umpire: Vineet Kulkarni (India).
Match referee: Roshan Mahanama (Sri Lanka).—Agencies