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India hope for Yuvi protection

India will be lot more confident when they take on an injury-hit Australia in the second one-day International (ODI) in Nagpur on Wednesday, reports Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.

cricket Updated: Oct 28, 2009 02:25 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

Be it good or bad, Australians invariably find themselves in an unusual position when they reach the geographical centre of India. They couldn't believe their stars when they found a greentop in Nagpur in 2004 to seal a coveted Test series win in India and it was here a year ago when they lost hold of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

This time, the visitors find themselves on a sticky wicket ahead of Wednesday's second ODI despite the pitch at the Vadodara Cricket Association ground promising lots of runs. Australia, who are leading 1-0 in the seven-match series, might have the guys to score them but the same can't be guaranteed when it comes to defending those runs.

Ricky Ponting's team is suddenly short on bowling options, in terms of quality as well as experience with Brett Lee too being ruled out of the match after all-rounder James Hopes.

Then, there is a big question mark over Mitchell Johnson. If the left-armer doesn't play, it wouldn't only bring into play bowlers with little knowledge of these conditions, but also elongate the tail because both Lee and Johnson are capable of scoring quick runs.

India are decisively better placed on the fitness front and Yuvraj Singh is set to return to the XI, most probably in place of Virat Kohli. Munaf Patel is the other player likely to be brought in, because, despite his late heroics with the bat in the first match, Praveen Kumar's bowling left a lot to be desired, particularly in the second spell.

This doesn't mean India don't have their own worries. They neither bowled as a unit in the first match and nor did the batsmen perform up to reputation on a pitch which was good for strokemaking, as the Australians showed. Suresh Raina should be under the scanner because despite getting chances, he is still to translate potential into performance.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni said on Tuesday that bowling at the death was his prime concern, but there are several other areas to think about. Bowling in the middle overs is one, batsmen firing in unison another and pulling things back when they go out of control being the big one, which cost his team the first match, the late charge notwithstanding.

That said, it's Australia who start this match slightly on the back foot, purely because of fitness issues. Between them, Lee, Johnson and Hopes have 321 ODI caps. If Johnson doesn't make it, the trio of Shaun Marsh, Ben Hilfenhaus and Douglas Bollinger will come in with a combined experience of 31 ODIs. In that eventuality, Australia will have to produce something special to avoid the blues in the city of oranges.