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There’s only one way out: Victory

Despite India grabbing the headlines for the wrong reasons and trailing Sri Lanka and Australia on points with just three league games left in the CB Series, they are very much in the race to qualify for the finals going into Sunday's must-win tie against the hosts. Amol Karhadkar reports. Match reckoner

india Updated: Feb 26, 2012 01:47 IST
Amol Karhadkar
Cricketers-Praveen-Kumar-L-Virat-Kohli-C-and-Gautam-Gambhir-talk-during-net-practice-in-Sydney-AP-Photo-Rob-Griffith
Cricketers-Praveen-Kumar-L-Virat-Kohli-C-and-Gautam-Gambhir-talk-during-net-practice-in-Sydney-AP-Photo-Rob-Griffith

Despite India grabbing the headlines for the wrong reasons and trailing Sri Lanka and Australia on points with just three league games left in the CB Series, they are very much in the race to qualify for the finals going into Sunday's must-win tie against the hosts.

However, India, needing to win their next two games and also not featuring in the final league tie, are the team under the http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/26feb_pg19c.jpgmost pressure.

As the Men in Blue tried hard to keep their focus on cricket at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday, more than the prospect of rain playing a part in the game, the bigger concern was the team combination.

They suffered a twin blow after Zaheer Khan, who has struggled with fitness, was ruled out due to a right calf strain while R Vinay Kumar, India's most consistent performer in the series so far, is almost certain to miss out due to the hamstring injury he suffered against Sri Lanka in Brisbane on Tuesday.

This means the three-pronged pace attack will comprise Umesh Yadav, Praveen Kumar and all-rounder Irfan Pathan. Pathan has shown signs of improvement in each of his three outings while Yadav, the find of the Test series, has disappointed in the last three games. And Praveen bowled too short to trouble the batsmen with his swing in the only game he played.

Yet, skipper MS Dhoni insisted the bigger worry was batting. While the opening combination, rotated among Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, has hardly put on a decent partnership, the younger lot — Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja — have not cashed in on the extended runs they have got in the series.

Replacements needed

Had it not been for Dhoni's three innings on the trot before being suspended for the last game, and Virat Kohli's two knocks, India would have been ready to pack their bags by the end of the league stage.

With Jadeja failing to make an impact as an all-rounder, it would be prudent to replace him with Rohit or Manoj Tiwary. Despite Rohit's dodgy run in the five games he has played and Tiwary still awaiting his first, their chance of coming good with the bat in a big game is better than Jadeja clicking.

Jadeja has also failed miserably to restrict runs or pick wickets with his left-arm spin, both important for someone who bowls in the middle overs. Rohit or Tiwary can come in handy here as they can, along with Raina, share the 10 overs to be bowled by part-timers.

However Dhoni, as he has always done over the last three years, backed his favourite cricketer and new Chennai Super Kings teammate. It's unlikely that Jadeja will be replaced, at least for Sunday's game.

The captain explained that, for Jadeja to be replaced, the top five or six batsmen will have to fire consistently. If they do that, India will most likely stay alive in the tournament.