So far, the Future Cup has been appallingly one-sided. Australia have beaten India hollow in all departments of the game to lead 4-1. There has hardly been a note of skirmish to suggest an even contest. Sparks of brilliance have emanated from a couple of seasoned campaigners like Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly and a demonstration of the will to fight from an odd fresh face like Robin Uthappa.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni has hit timely knocks, but he has been put through the wringer by an undisputed champion team. It would be harsh to comment on his first stint as captain for limited-over internationals. Dhoni, though, has shown that captaincy cares have not made him careworn. One can expect him to be full of vitality in the last match of the seven-match series that's in the firm grip of the visitor. As the cricketing adage goes, the captain is only as good as his team.
Dhoni will look back at the series loss with remorse, but he will learn to rise from the fall. The rest of the players should rally around and offer unstinted support. Ponting is the fulcrum around whom the other members of the team operate like a well-oiled machine.
No time to adjust
Scheduled on the heels of the ICC World T20 competition in South Africa, Dhoni's team did not find its feet swiftly enough against the mighty Australians in the more conventional and established short version of the game. Hampered by a niggle, Ricky Ponting did not take the field at Bangalore and Kochi, but his replacement Brad Haddin brought with him a 100-plus match experience for New South Wales and turned out to be a long thorn in India's flesh.
Not far removed from action was left-arm seamer Mitchell Johnson. He exposed the chinks in India's batting though swing and cut, rudimentary elements that make any new ball practitioner a force to reckon with. Australia had variety in bowling; most notable and visible has been the left-am unorthodox, Brad Hogg. Even India's accomplished batsmen have groped forward at him and failed to pick him off his hand and off the pitch. As usual Australia's fielding in the inner and outer ring has been close to the spectacular and they have reaped dividends.
India will get time to introspect once the formalities are completed at the Wankhede Stadium on Thursday. The selectors picked players on current form and perhaps anticipated better results than what the scoreline actually suggests. There is bound to be all-round disappointment, especially the way India's seam attack has operated in their opening bursts. They have been far too generous to a powerful opening pair in Mathew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist, who have pounced on the slightest margin of error in line and length and punished it for maximum compensation.
They have taken risks, but have not been reckless. Andrew Symonds and Haddin have played some smart cricket and made capital of some inept bowling.
Australia will not be lax and will strive to make it 5-1. It would be up to the Indians to find ways to bring a halt to the winnings ways of a competent and fierce rival. A victory will be like salve to the beaten and weary home team before the full series against Pakistan.