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Indians have only pride to play for

With the Aussies leading the series 4-1, the Indians will try salvaging the damage on Wednesday's encounter.
IANS | By Qaiser Mohammad Ali, Mumbai
UPDATED ON OCT 16, 2007 04:09 PM IST

With world champions Australia taking the competitive zing out of the current cricket series with their 4-1 winning lead in Nagpur, India will only have pride - and some statistics - to play for in the seventh One Day International (ODI) in Mumbai on Wednesday.

It was billed as a battle between the champions - Australia are the ODI World Cup winners and India the Twenty20 kings - but the seven-match series turned out to be thoroughly one-sided with Ricky Ponting's team emerging head and shoulders above the hosts.

If the first match had not been abandoned due to rain in Bangalore, the scoreline could have looked more embarrassing for Mahendra Singh Dhoni's side.

Now, the players will try to salvage some lost pride and add a few runs and wickets to their personal accounts in the day-night encounter - the last match at the stadium in its present form. The structure will soon be demolished and a new, modern stadium will be built in its place.

The gap between the two teams can be shown statistically. Consider this: the Australians have scored two centuries and 11 half-centuries while the Indians have managed just one century and five half-tons, the top Australian run accumulator Andrew Symonds has aggregated 365 while his counterpart Sachin Tendulkar has managed 257, the top Australian wicket takers Brad Hogg and Mitchell Johnson have dismissed 11 batsmen while Sreesanth has taken nine.

Numbers apart, the Australians have played no-holds-barred, professional and aggressive cricket throughout while the home side has only attracted negative media coverage for verbal duels. Significantly, India's aggression has not been backed by solid performances, unlike the Australians.

One reason could be that following their Twenty20 World Championship triumph, the Indian players got a mere four-day gap for switching to the ODI mode. Admitting as much a few days ago, Robin Uthappa said that the hangover of the Twenty20 fever did affect the team's performance in the first few matches.

But what about the rest of the matches, millions of Indian fans are asking. That the defeats have come on home ground, on tailor-made pitches and before vocal supporters is all the more embarrassing for Indian cricket.

India has not been up to the mark in either batting, bowling or fielding. The team has realised during the course of this series that there is a huge difference between the bang-bang Twenty20 version and 50-50 cricket, which requires more planning and strategising.

In today's extremely tight international itinerary for Test-playing nations, teams will now require to switch quickly from one mode to another, from Test cricket to ODIs to Twenty20, and the other way around. Australia do it remarkably well - their defeat in Twenty20 World Championship was an aberration - and the other teams will have to emulate them if they are to be competitive.

Amidst the ruins, Tendulkar has been the saving grace for India. At a time when people are debating the ageing maestro's place in the shorter version of the game, he has once again replied with his bat and emerged with the best aggregate for the home side.

While Tendulkar's fans in his home city would like him to extend his form to the Wankhede Stadium, Dravid, who has managed 61 in six matches, would like to leave his poor form behind and get among the runs, provided he is picked for Wednesday's match.

If the experienced three - Tendulkar, Dravid and Sourav Ganguly - hit form together on Wednesday, Indian fans could see a competitive match ahead of the lone Twenty20 encounter between the two sides in Mumbai on Saturday.

The Indian bowlers, who have done well recently in England, in South Africa and in patches in this series, can come into play only if the batsmen give them a good enough total to bowl with. Although Sreesanth and Zaheer Khan (seven) are the top wicket-takers among the Indians, their scalps have come at a cost.

The fielding and especially the catching have let India down badly. Bapu Nadkarni, the legendary former left-arm spinner, felt it was "criminal" to miss those crucial catches in the series.

Teams (from):

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain/wicket-keeper), Yuvraj Singh (vice-captain), Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Dinesh Kartik, Subramaniam Badrinath, Robin Uthappa, Irfan Pathan, Rudra Pratap Singh, Rohit Sharma, Murali Kartik, Zaheer Khan, Sreekumaran Sreesanth and Harbhajan Singh.

Australia: Ricky Ponting (captain), Adam Gilchrist (vice-captain/wicketkeeper), Nathan Bracken, Stuart Clark, Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, Matthew Hayden, Ben Hilfenhaus, Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, James Hopes, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Andrew Symonds, Adam Voges, Michael Hussey, Shaun Tait and Shane Watson.

Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pakistan) and Ameesh Saheba (India)
Third umpire: G.A. Pratapkumar (India)
Match referee: Chris Broad (England)

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