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India should concentrate on cricket rather than verbal duels

HYDERABAD: With their unusual show of bravado backfiring heavily in Kochi, India will need to focus more on the game instead of trying to unsettle Australia with verbal duels as they go into the third cricket one-dayer here on Friday.

The hangover of the Twenty20 World Cup triumph seemed still around in Kochi and the 84-run battering in the second ODI there was actually a clear message that Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his teammates would need to raise their game by a few notches if they are to match the ODI world champions in this 50-overs-a-side format.

The Indians seemed determined to match the Australians in the sledging game in Kochi but it did not pay much dividends with the players not trasnlating the aggression into their game. Australia have already proved that their batting line-up has enough depth and the middle order, especially the underrated Brad Haddin and the incredibly talented Michael Clarke is capable of surviving any top order collapse.

And to further bolster the batting, regular captain Ricky Ponting is almost certain to return to the playing eleven, having recovered from the hamstring injury he had picked up during the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa.

Ponting attended yesterday’s practice session and it would be interesting to see how he is accommodated in the line-up, which may be at the expense of Brad Hodge. However, more than Ponting’s return, Dhoni would be pre-occupied with the bowling woes of his side.

As it was the case in the washed-out series opener in Kochi, the Indian pacers got early breakthrough to peg the visitors on the back foot and then allowed them to get off the hook with some ordinary stuff and on both occasions, Australia overcoming early jitters to post 300-plus totals.

“The pacers bowled well and gave us a good start but I think we did not bowl well during 30 to 50 overs once again and that made a lot of difference. I think we need to improve on this aspect,” Dhoni rued.

S Sreesanth’s volatile temper has become another unwanted worry for Dhoni and he is finding it increasingly difficult to rein in the speedster’s temper. Adam Gilchrist has already picked up the gauntlet and promised that his team would pay India back in their own coin, which may result into yet another ill-tempered match on Friday.

Another worry for the hosts has been their frontline spinners, Harbhajan Singh and Ramesh Powar, both of whom proved a big let down. Together, they conceded 87 runs in 15 overs without any success in Kochi.

Dhoni was clearly unhappy with the show by the spin twins and said both had a “lot of room for improvement”. And if the bowlers could not maintain the momentum, it was worse with the batsmen. Chasing imposing 300-plus marks, India never had the start that would have laid the foundation for a successful chase.

In the rain-ruined Bangalore opener, India were nine for one in the third over when heavens opened up and the match was called off. In Kochi, it was worse. They lost opener Gautam Gambhir at 11 and eventually slumped to 87 for four and could not recover from there.

“I think the batsmen needed to apply themselves a bit more. It was a wicket where one needed to do that to score runs,” Dhoni lamented. Though Dhoni (58), Robin Uthappa (41) and Rahul Dravid (31) got some runs under the belt in Kochi, it was just not enough to upstage the Aussies.

Meanwhile, a cloud of doubt still hovers on Sourav Ganguly, who missed the last match with a hamstring injury. Apart from their big-hitting batsmen, Australia have been served well by their bowling combination too. Mitchell Johnson’s lively pace has asked all those uncomfortable questions, while Brett Lee gave no leeway even though he was not among the wickets.

Stuart Clark has done justice to his growing stature as an able successor of Glenn McGrath, while James Hopes too met success in Kochi in his first over.

Brad Hogg proved he has enough guile as he grabbed three wickets to emerge as the pick of the Australian bowlers in Kochi and the left-arm chinaman bowler would prove a handful for the host batsmen once again. And Michael Clarke’s part-time off-spinners were good enough for him to finish with two scalps.

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Categories: Cricket Article, twenty20
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