India fight for pride in dead rubber; Raina, Yuvraj fight for survival | india | Hindustan Times
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India fight for pride in dead rubber; Raina, Yuvraj fight for survival

While the last ODI of the series against South Africa will have little more that academic interest, Team India will be fighting to salvage some pride while some players were be desparate to justify their inclusion in the team.

india Updated: Dec 11, 2013 18:06 IST
Khurram Habib

This is a dead rubber, and it looks as dead as it can get. With the series already decided in a lopsided manner, and people here focused more on the Nelson Mandela farewell which began on Tuesday with the memorial service in Soweto (over an hour's drive from here), this final game has little significance; except for India, who want to get into the right frame of mind before the Tests.

While rain-soaked Johann-esburg was choc-a-bloc with traffic jams since morning, the scenic SuperSport Park here was calm and secluded, a setting the beleaguered India would have preferred ahead of the final One-day International on Wednesday.

What they may not have liked though was the skies opening up in the morning like in Johannesburg, which is around 40 km from here. It continued to rain till after they had left, denying them on-field practice.

READ: Live Coverage of Third ODI

Short on practice
After the first ODI, Virat Kohli had said India did not get enough practice ahead of the tour. Although Rohit Sharma on Tuesday rebutted that saying they have been playing enough cricket for making such excuses, a brief stay in the middle or open nets on Tuesday would have done their confidence some good. Instead, they were forced indoors to prepare for a track that is again expected to play as bouncy as the Wanderers did in the first game.

Coach Duncan Fletcher was seen talking a lot to the players. The nets also included the Test specialists. Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara walked in with Pragyan Ojha. Over the past few days, they have been practicing separately at the Wanderers. Their arrival was a significant indication that India are finally gearing up for the Tests and they want the team strategy to be built around that.

Although Rohit denied they are looking that far ahead, and the team think tank insisted they won't call up these players for this ODI, it won't be a bad option to have them around even if it means drafting them in for this game, what with some of the batsmen flying back.

Last chance, perhaps?
The match will be a battle for survival for Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh, who make up India's vulnerable middle-order. On Tuesday, the desperation showed with Raina getting throw downs from Mohit Sharma even before the others could get into the act.

Yuvraj, who missed the last game due to back spasms, was also seen loosening up. "We'll take the final decision on Yuvraj's fitness tomorrow morning," said Rohit.

India have been hammered in all departments but the middle-order remains their biggest concern. Sooner or later, the top-order batsmen will find their groove as they are young and talented but in the middle-order, they have players who have been there for far too long without showing consistency.

Ajinkya Rahane was tried in the last game in place of Yuvraj but he couldn't grab the chance. It will be interesting to see what the team management does if Yuvraj is fit. Will they play persist with Rahane, who is also in the Test squad, giving him another chance to get ready for the Tests, or go in with Yuvi and Raina. Anyway, a thunderstorm is forecast for Wednesday as well.