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No joy for Dhoni’s boys

With the countdown to a finale meeting a premature end in the sixth ODI in Guwahati on Sunday, the last match of the series becomes meaningless in terms of producing a true contest, reports Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.

cricket Updated: Nov 09, 2009 22:32 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

With the countdown to a finale meeting a premature end in the sixth ODI in Guwahati on Sunday, the last match of the series becomes meaningless in terms of producing a true contest. When the battle between bat and ball resumes on Wednesday, the sense of purpose won’t be as intense, as is the case with most dead rubbers.

It’s unlikely that the first ODI at the D.Y. Patil Stadium wouldn’t draw fans by numbers but a feeling of what could have been is equally unlikely to go

unnoticed. This is almost the same Indian team which achieved unprecedented ODI triumphs in Australia and Sri Lanka last year and looked good until the Champions Trophy in September-October.

The foremost reason why India failed against Australia is easy to see because it comes early. Just once in six games did the openers share a 50-plus partnership and there was only one 50-plus score from them - Sachin Tendulkar’s 175.

The four who opened for Australia have between them a century, a 93 and two more half-centuries to go with the three 40-odd knocks from Shane Watson.

Numbers don’t narrate everything but in this case, they are indicative. Things were marginally better in the middle where Gautam Gambhir fell quiet after two early half-centuries and Suresh Raina proved ineffective except for a couple of occasions. The same was the case with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who came good just twice.

The biggest blow in the middle-order came in the form of Yuvraj Singh. The kind of impact he makes was felt in the third game on a slow wicket in New Delhi and that he never did well before or after that, hit India hard. Ricky Ponting’s direct hit to run him out in the fourth one in Mohali where India failed to chase 250 was the turning point of the series, because the hosts kept losing after that.

“We are lacking consistency in batting. We haven’t grabbed the opportunities we got. A majority of the batsmen haven’t contributed.

“In the games where our top-order didn’t perform, the middle-order also didn’t bat well and we failed to get enough partnerships,” Dhoni said on Sunday. The bowling wasn’t too bad given the conditions, although India missed one big effort or the odd crucial spell which turns matches.

Harbhajan Singh got better after an ordinary start and all three spinners returned economy rates of under five an over, but to win matches, India needed them to take wickets.

As a result, they could never attack the potentially soft spots in Australia’s batting order No. 6 downwards.

Rarely did the spinners get a proper look-in at these batsmen which is hidden in the fact that in six matches, they took just 35 wickets. Australian bowlers got 42 which isn’t far greater, but supported by superior fielding, the impact they made was decisive. To add to everything, the close games too went in favour of Australia.

To an extent in the first match and certainly in the fifth, India were in sniffing distance of the target only to stop inches

short. If this is a consolation because they came close despite so many things not going their way, Dhoni’s boys would probably not take it.