Sehwag, Gambhir doubtful for Mohali ODI | cricket | Hindustan Times
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Sehwag, Gambhir doubtful for Mohali ODI

There might be a question mark over Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir's fitness, but Australia have far too many fitness issues to contend with before they launch a mission to square the series at the Punjab Cricket Association ground on Monday, reports Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.

cricket Updated: Nov 01, 2009 23:50 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

There might be a question mark over Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir's fitness, but Australia have far too many fitness issues to contend with before they launch a mission to square the series at the Punjab Cricket Association ground on Monday.

Injuries have disturbed their combination like never before and solutions are not in sight.

Bowling spearhead Brett Lee has flown back, as has wicketkeeper Tim Paine who was shaping up well as an opener.

With first-choice all-rounder James Hopes waiting for the next flight home and key middle-order bat Michael Clarke not even making the trip, the situation Australia are in would have been hard for any team.

This surfeit of injuries has forced unforeseen changes like Ricky Ponting opening the innings, and with the captain expected to continue in that role, it reduces the depth in batting. Ponting, Shane Watson and Michael Hussey as the top three means there isn't much after them because Cameron White is yet to be tested at No. 4, especially in Indian conditions.

Those who follow are bits-and-pieces players like Adam Voges and Moises Henriques, who have done little so far with either bat or ball to inspire confidence.

In a way, this is the weakest Australian batting line-up in recent times. Shaun Marsh at the top of the order could have been a solution, but his team seems to prefer an all-rounder at the expense of a batsman.

The reliance on all-rounders is justified because Mitchell Johnson isn't 100 per cent fit, Watson hasn't delivered with the ball like he can, and despite showing potential, off-spinner Nathan Hauritz hasn't struck regularly or been economical.

There are problems in every department and unless someone does something exceptional or India perform abysmally, it's difficult for Australia to script a turnaround.

The gap could narrow if Sehwag and Gambhir are ruled out, but even then, India have the numbers at the top and in the middle with almost everyone coming in after the openers with runs in their kitty.

The temperament shown in milking Australia's limited resources before punishing them in the last two games indicates the Indians have got a measure of what to do and for them, it's about being patient and executing the plan.

There are areas of concern in the bowling department with Harbhajan Singh not being in top form and Ashish Nehra going for runs in the last two games.

The chinks in the Aussie batting order are enough to encourage India because if they can get a few of the top order bats early, pressure will be on a lightweight middle order.

Only a batting paradise can neutralise things to an extent and the visitors will be hoping that seasoned curator Daljeet Singh's prediction comes true.