The morning after India’s spectacular batting implosion, people one bumped into were still trying to come to terms with the manner in which they threw it away in the fourth ODI at Canberra.
Even local Australians were aghast at the poor show at the end of a sensational run chase. “I pay for the game to see a thrilling contest, which goes down to the wire. I don’t want to see it fizzle out in the end. It felt like I wasted my money,” said a cricket aficionado in Canberra.
“Losing nine wickets for 46 runs is not realistically possible at the Manuka Oval, the wicket is so flat. Dhoni is the best player in one-day cricket, how can he not get those handful of runs?” said another, as people attributed all kinds of reasons as they dissected Wednesday night’s game.
The disbelief was due to the expectations raised by Virat Kohli & Co. The breathtaking top-order batting had spectators licking their lips in anticipation of a thrilling finish. Despite the successful chases by Australia in the first three games and the huge score put up by them in Canberra, it’s the Indian batsmen who have turned on the style. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli batting together reminded one of the flamboyance in the Sachin Tendulkar-VVS Laxman partnerships of the past. And the pair has put on a show at every stage around this continent.
Sharma and Kohli have been on fire in the last two weeks, Ajinkya Rahane has been solid while Shikhar Dhawan has joined the run feast in the last two games. It has made it one of the finest displays of one-day batting by any India team to tour Australia.
It was amazing that despite India chasing 349, the batting was so authoritative that people talked about it as though it would be a cakewalk. It was some display of batsmanship by the top order and it was a pity the other batsmen committed hara-kiri.
A flat-batted six by Dhawan --- both feet off the ground to get on top of bounce and free his arms --- was as spectacular as Kohli stepping out and driving through covers against the pacers. A Rohit flick to send the ball soaring into the stands over square leg too had everyone riveted to the action.
Though the wickets are flat, facing Australia bowlers still poses a challenge. They know the lines and lengths to bowl, and never err; add the backing they get from their fielders. Yet, the home team has acknowledged the skill of India’s top three.
Australia opener David Warner observed: “The Indian top-order is playing great cricket, they’re playing fantastic. Rohit is probably in the form of his career. He’s a very good white-ball player. Virat’s obviously Virat Kohli, he’s a very good player. He sort of is the rock in the middle. That’s fantastic from the Indian point of view.”
Skipper MS Dhoni was all praise for the way in which his top-order batsmen responded in the face of the mammoth target. “There were lots of positives in the game (4th ODI), especially in the batting department. Rohit’s opening push and the next partnership between Virat and Shikhar was fantastic. It gave a glimpse as to what may happen in the coming T20s – a lot of flamboyant cricket.”
It doesn’t augur well for the Aussie bowlers though, considering that the last game is at the Sydney Cricket Ground. It’s a surface where the India batsmen have loved to bat on. It is unlikely it will be any different this time.