Test of character for India on Sunday
It will be a test of character for a young Indian team when it takes on World Champions Australia in a cricket tri-series one-dayer in Melbourne on Sunday with the form of some of the middle order batsmen being a concern.
With their first two matches being abandoned due to rain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his young brigade will need to pull up their socks against the hosts, who will be high on confidence after their resounding 128-run victory over Sri Lanka on Friday.
While the Indian pacemen have given a good account of themselves the batting has not shown the desired consistency in the two rain affected games.
One-day specialist Yuvraj Singh has been going through a lean patch since the Test series while the form of some of the other younger batsmen like Rohit Sharma and Robin Uthappa, who joined the team for one-day team, has also been worrying factor.
The focus will again be on the youngsters who have replaced stalwarts like Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly in the team. Another batting failure would no doubt put enormous pressure on them.
The Indians will look for a flying start from the in-form Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag for the team to post a good total on the board on a slow Melbourne Cricket Ground track.
The Australians, on the other hand, have a settled batting line up and the return of Matthew Hayden, who invariably reserves his best against the Indians, has only strengthened the line-up.
The Australians are currently on top of the points table having seven points from two matches, the Indians have four points from two rain-abandoned games while Sri Lanka have two points from as many matches.
Captain Dhoni, who himself has not been in best of nick till he scored an unbeaten 88 against Sri Lanka in Brisbane, will hope that his team comes good in what promises to be a thrilling floodlit contest in front of a packed crowd.
The ability of India's young players to run in their singles hard and power in their returns are also likely to be as decisive factors as the skills they show with bat or ball.
India would have to squeeze out every possible run that exists in the field and partnerships would be the key to ensure the momentum.
Innovative strokes would come in handy and master blaster Sachin Tendulkar, trying out exaggerated flicks in the nets, shows that the message is not lost on him.
Indians would also be tested in the field, both inside the ring and in the outfield on a huge MCG arena where only the strongest with the best methods can fire in a flat return.
It's a kind of pitch which usually doesn't help big strokes and Indians' adaptability will be closely watched.
But India should not allow the repeat of what happened to Sri Lanka on Friday after the latter hung back in the square and allowed Australia to recover in Sydney.
Most Indian batters have not shown a tendency to build on to a good start and hopefully the example of Gautam Gambhir and Dhoni, when they put on 184 runs against Sri Lanka in Brisbane, would not be lost.
Australia appear extremely formidable in all departments even though the likes of Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist are not in the best of forms.
They have variety and cricketers with more than one dimension in their ranks. They could use as many as seven bowling options and eight in their ranks can do a good job with the bat.
Sunday promises to be sunny throughout and India would have their first full game. An upset win tomorrow could bring a considerable gap between them and Sri Lanka.
For much of the last two weeks the speed and agility of the young Indian team has been its' major calling card. Tomorrow could offer a clinching argument, either way.
Australia: Ricky Ponting (capt), Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey, Andrew Symonds, James Hopes, Brad Hogg, Brett Lee, Nathan Bracken and Mitchell Johnson.
India: Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Robin Uthappa, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma and S Sreesanth.
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