Four matches, five centuries, but no change in India’s fortunes as the visitors once again lost a closely-contested encounter on their tour of Australia.
Australia fast bowler Kane Richardson claimed his maiden five-wicket haul to script India’s spectacular collapse and bowl Australia to a 25-run victory in the high-scoring fourth ODI at Canberra on Wednesday.
Three batsmen – Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and Aaron Finch – struck centuries in the 671-run match between the world’s top two ODI teams, but it was Richardson’s 5 for 68 that clinched the contest.
Chasing 349 for victory, India were cruising at 277 for one before losing their last nine wickets for 46 runs to succumb to their fourth successive defeat in the five-match series. Opener Dhawan (126) and Kohli (106) featured in a 212-run stand for the visitors before the wheels came off India’s cart at the Manuka Oval.
Here are the five reasons that led to the dramatic collapse and an embarrassing defeat.
Smith and Maxwell Cameos
Australian openers Aaron Finch and David Warner led an all-out assault against the Indian bowlers as the hosts blasted their way to 348 for 8.
Finch made 107 and Warner 93 in a huge opening stand of 187. However, what fuelled the hosts’ rocket was high-flying cameos from captain Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell. While Smith smashed 51 off only 29 balls, Maxwell blasted 41 from 20 on a docile track.
Smith’s superlative half-century, his 9th in ODI cricket, was studded with 3 sixes and 4 fours.
Maxwell, the tormentor of the last match who took the game out of the visitors’ hands in Melbourne with a 104-ball 96, showed no mercy to the Indian bowlers as he struck a six and 6 fours at a strike rate of over 205.
Dhoni’s Continuous Failure
It is no secret that India’s ODI captain is no longer the batsman or a finisher he used to be. The strokes that made him famous, like the ‘helicopter shot’, have disappeared from his arsenal; boundaries aren’t coming regularly from his bat; and the clamour is now growing louder that Dhoni is no more the middle-order tormentor who could single-handedly win matches for India.
It is not that he has not tried to prove the naysayers wrong, but his efforts have not materialised to the extent he would have wanted. And on Wednesday he took full responsibility for the defeat, failing to live up to his role in the batting line-up.
Like during the Bangladesh tour, where he tried to provide solidarity to India’s fragile middle-order by promoting himself up the batting ladder, Dhoni came on to bat at No. 4 with India at a remarkable position of 277 for 2. Only this time the decision was forced one as Ajinkya Rahane injured his finger while fielding.
At a time when the clamour is growing loud over Dhoni’s removal from captaincy, it was a supreme opportunity for him to finish off the match with Kohli at the other end. But India’s captain cool couldn’t deliver, falling to John Hastings for a duck – leaving Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Ravindra Jadeja and Rishi Dhawan to do the hard job.
With India’s continuous losing streak in ODIs, coupled with his own failure as a captain and batsman, only time will tell how much more will the selectors keep faith on Dhoni as captain.
Comeback of Australian Bowlers
If the Australian batsmen have so far dominated the series, the hosts’ bowlers too showed their never-say-die side in Canberra. Credit should be given to Richardson and company to arrest India’s tirade and turn the match on its head right when it was needed.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that it was an ideal situation for the visitors to register their first win in Australia with opener Dhawan and Kohli leading the charge by striking centuries.
But the Australian bowlers soon set the cat among the pigeons and wiped out the famed Indian batting line-up in a matter of 12 overs. After Dhawan’s dismissal, India collapsed like a pack of cards as the visitors lost 9 wickets for 46 runs.
Failure of Indian allrounders in batting
The scarcity of genuine allrounders in the Indian ranks is an open secret. Time and again India have felt the need for allrounders, especially in difficult overseas conditions.
In this match too, the visitors’ over-dependency on the top four proved fatal as youngsters Gurkeerat and Rishi, who are playing their maiden series in Australia, proved no good in front of the charging Aussie attack.
Dhoni’s favourite in limited-overs cricket, Jadeja, once again proved to be a flop and could only manage an unbeaten 27-ball 28.
The other allrounders, Gurkeerat and Rishi, fell prey to their inexperience. Attempting a glory shot, Gurkeerat holed out to Shaun Marsh at 5. Same was the case with Rishi, who came dancing down the track to Richardson but could only hit it as far as Warner at sweeper cover for 9.
Their inexperience and inability to handle and understand the situation cost India dear.
If lack of a genuine allrounder, miserable bowling and sloppy fielding was not enough, Rahane’s injury compounded India’s problems in a tough chase that needed a steady head like Rahane’s to guide them home. Rahane split the webbing of his right hand while fielding during the first innings of the match and required four stitches. As result, India kept him in bank, to use only if needed.
He did came out to bat at No. 7 but it proved difficult for him to handle the situation being less than 100 percent.
The fifth match will be played in Sydney on Saturday.