Lee's absence could be an advantage
India will seek to take full advantage of speedster Brett Lee's absence as they go into the tri-series one-dayer against Australia in Adelaide on Sunday, hoping to beat the world champions for the second successive time.
Lee, who has turned out to be the most lethal weapon for Australia this summer, will be rested to refresh him for the later stages of the tournament and the news could not have come at a better time for the Indians.
Lee's absence could have a telling effect in a day-night game which assumes a lot of importance for both the teams. A victory for India at the Adelaide Oval would open up the gap against Sri Lanka both in terms of points as well as net run-rate.
At the midway stage of the competition, India are lying second in the table with eight points from four matches and a net run-rate of +0.147. They are behind Australia (12 pts, +1.179) and ahead of Sri Lanka (6 pts, -1.507).
India's batting in this series has been as potent as Australia's bowling has been effective. Three batsmen in the top five are Indians with Gautam Gambhir being at the top of the heap.
Gambhir has been a revelation in this series, not only he has scored the most at 197 runs, his average of 65.66 is streets ahead of others. No less significant are the number of fours and sixes he has managed, 19 and one, the most again.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni is also pulling his weight in every innings and now has 173 runs at an average of 86.50. His form contrasts sharply with his Australian counterpart as Ricky Ponting has just 43 runs at a meagre average of 10.75.
"I'm happy the way I batted," Dhoni had said after an eight-wicket loss against Sri Lanka in their previous rain-affected match.
But India's batting might still cannot hide its concern over Yuvraj Singh, as well as on Virender Sehwag to a lesser extent.
The left-handed Indian vice-captain Yuvraj has a mere 11 runs from three innings at 3.66. Sehwag has 64 runs at 16.00 from four innings.
Sehwag's return to the Test venue though, where he revived his career last month with a scintillating 151 in the final game, could inspire him to showcase his best.
India needs a good chunk of its runs from Sachin Tendulkar and Sehwag who have threatened but not quite delivered the runs India wants.
Middle order batsman Rohit Sharma received a pat from his captain but Dhoni felt India still could not afford an extra bowler.
Australia would surely feel the absence of Lee, who is second in the bowling chart with eight wickets, has formed a potent attack with his left-arm understudy, Nathan Bracken, and Mitchell Johnson.
The three pacemen are the leading bowlers of this triangular series and have 25 wickets between them.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Gilchrist, who scored a century against Sri Lanka yesterday, said the hosts would like to "wrestle back" the momentum from a rampaging Indian team in the ongoing tri-series.
Gilchrist expressed his concerns about tomorrow's match, saying his feat would count for nothing if his side fails against India.
"I am obviously very pleased to get a hundred in my final game at the WACA but I am equally focused on the match against India in Adelaide. They have been playing some fantastic cricket and we are obviously looking forward to wrestle back the momentum from them.
"We have to focus on the games ahead and India is a very tough opponent," he said. Three of India's four games have been rain-affected but there is no such trouble from the sky tomorrow as it is pretty hot and more so for Australia who for the first time this summer would face up to the reality of Lee's absence.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Robin Uthappa, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma and S Sreesanth.
Australia: Ricky Ponting (captain), Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Mike Hussey, James Hopes, Brad Hogg, Stuart Clark, Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Bracken.