India’s batting line-up bears an unsettled look. This is the first series in a long time that neither Virender Sehwag nor Gautam Gambhir will open the batting. Sachin Tendulkar has retired from the ODI format.
In fact, barring MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli, no one can claim to have made a batting position their own. It’s the kind of dressing room atmosphere that lends itself to experiments normally associated with Dr Frankenstein. Middle-order batsmen become openers, openers move down the order. Anything goes. Trial and error.
If there’s one trend that’s emerged after the warm-ups, it’s that Dinesh Karthik, who last played a proper ODI for the country almost two years back, is indispensable. After back-to-back hundreds, it would be hard to leave him out.
Skipper MS Dhoni also hinted at the same in his post-match comments. “I think he has earned his place in the side and we’ll just have to see who misses out when we play against South Africa,” Dhoni said. “I’d like him to play at the top of the order but we’ll see.”
Like the first warm-up, Karthik came in when his team was in a spot of bother. At Edgbaston, he came in at 110-4 chasing a 337-run target; here he came in with the team at 39-4 batting first. His approach was different on both occasions, and was adapted according to the team’s needs.
In Birmingham, quick runs was the need of the hour. With Virat Kohli dealing in singles at the other end, Karthik had to take the attack to the opposition. From the first ball, Karthik showed his full repertoire of strokes. He was in belligerent mood on the day, which incidentally was also his 28th birthday, and by the time he hit the winning runs he had compiled 106 off 81 balls with 12 fours and 2 sixes.
On Tuesday, he needed to take a measured approach. At one point he was 58 off 89 deliveries and hit his first six after facing 91 deliveries. With MS Dhoni playing the aggressor at the other end, Karthik put a price on his wicket.
After Dhoni departed for a fine 77-ball 91, Karthik took over and by the time the Indian innings ended, he moved his once lethargic strike-rate to over a run-a-ball. His 146 came off 140 deliveries and should ideally remove any doubts over his presence in the line-up.
Nightmare for Aussies
If Australia thought their 4-0 Test drubbing at the hands of India earlier in the year was the nadir, they plummeted further on Tuesday, getting bowled out for 65 and losing by a massive 243 runs.
Newlywed Umesh Yadav missed the first warm-up because he arrived for the Champions Trophy three days after the rest of the squad. He looked intent to make up for lost time and bowled a sublime first spell.
Yadav was near unplayable, getting the ball to dance while bowling a tick over 140-kmph. His five-over spell yielded 5 wickets and would have been more had MS Dhoni not introduced Ishant Sharma. The lanky Delhi pacer also had a productive outing and returned figures of 3/11 off 5 overs.