India started the ODI series quite well, and looked to be putting the disappointment of the test series behind them with some solid, if not spectacular, performances. But the last 2 games have shown that they have regressed badly and now seem to be just waiting for this series to end and to catch the flight home. The zip in the body language, even on the field, is missing. The batting seems to be stuck in a rut on the Aussie pitches and the bowling looks good till about the 38th over or so, then they give it all away in the last 10-12 overs.
It is frustrating as a fan to watch our own team give it up mentally when there are still some matches to be played and a tournament that can be won, simply because no team is looking invincible. The body language and attitude of this team looks similar to the one that lost everything in England about 6 months ago and they dont seem to have learnt from their experiences there.
The main problems are in the batting and the death bowling. It is shocking to see Sehwag make the same mistakes in match after match and get out in similar fashion. It is obvious that opposition teams have now formed plans to get Sehwag and stick to that plan and sure enough, he obliges every time. He needs to do some serious thinking if he wants to continue playing for India for the next 2-3 years. I read a good article by Akash Chopra on Cricinfo where he write about Sehwag and what he needs to do to make the progression to being an all-time great from the very good batsman that he is today. Sachin is now merely going through the motions in batting and fielding and that landmark century seems so far away now that seemed very close at the start of this tour. Like I said before, it will be interesting to see how Sachin plays or what he decides once he does get to the much-awaited landmark.
In bowling, we are badly in need of some good death bowlers who can keep the runs down and the pressure up during overs 40 to 50. Yadav may be a prospective candidate, given how he continues to surprise and hurry batsmen with his pace, but there is some work to be done there and I hope someone can take over the task of preparing him specifically for this. Also, PK needs to come back to this team since he is one cricketer who I have seen that always gives his best on the field and has good attitude and body language. Even during the England series, he was one of the positives for India. Also, it is time to give Manoj Tiwary a chance, even more so now that Rohit has been benched. In yesterday's match against SL, Sehwag came in for Rohit and so we ended up with all 3 seniors playing together. I agree with Dhoni when he said that the seniors cost about 20 runs in the field. In my opinion, they cost more than that because they contibute to releasing the pressure on the opposition when the game is tight and bring down the confidence of the fielding side to an extent with their slowness and resigned attitude.
For a long time, I have advocated the theory that for the shorter formats, we need a team of 11 individuals who will give everything on the field and simply cannot accept losing as an option. The key to building a team that will be consistently successful and feared by opposition in all parts of the world, is to go in with such players. Skill is second to this in my opinion.
There are still 3 matches to go in this series for India and it is still very possible that India makes it to the finals, but on current form, I dont think it will happen unless there is a drastic change in attitude. The one long-term good to come out of this series, is that the core of the Indian batting and bowling for the future, has gained good exposure to Australian conditions and pitches that should help them when they go there for the 2015 World Cup. But 3 years is a long time and a lot of things can happen in that time.
My next post will probably be after the league stage is completed for the ODIs. Stay tuned.