SYDNEY // India must beat Australia in tomorrow's one-day international in Sydney to retain any hope of reaching the Tri-series finals, and they must do it while denying claims of changing room unrest.
The World Cup winners are four points adrift of second-placed Australia ahead of two crucial ODIs in three days. It is likely they will have to win both if they are to play in next month's best-of-three finals.
If India lose today they will fall at least eight points behind Australia and will need a bonus-point (five points) win over Sri Lanka in their last match on Tuesday to Hobart to have any chance of reaching the March 4-8 final series.
India's big showdown comes after Indian media reported differences between captain MS Dhoni and two senior batsmen, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, and the continuing slump in form of Sachin Tendulkar.
Dhoni, who was suspended from India's 51-run loss to Sri Lanka in Brisbane last Tuesday denied Saturday there was any rift within the team over the rotation policy of the opening batting positions.
"Will play like a unit against Australia," said Dhoni, adding that the team was looking forward to building momentum after their recent losses.
All-rounder Irfan Pathan also downplayed talk of differences in the team.
"Everyone is working hard. There is no difference of opinion in the team," he told reporters today.
"I have been hearing things, but it's nothing like that. Things are pretty good.
"It's a matter of winning big games. Once we start winning the big games, these things are going to vanish," he said.
There is concern over the form of Tendulkar, the greatest run-scorer in ODIs and struggling in his pursuit of his elusive 100th international century during the tour of Australia.
Former India skipper Sourav Ganguly has said Tendulkar needs to reconsider his decision to continue playing one-day cricket.
"Sachin has to ask himself whether he is good enough to play one-day cricket day in and day out," Ganguly said this week.
"Whether it's helping him missing tournaments and playing a one-day series after eight-nine months, whether it's helping him as a one-day player or if it's helping the Indian one-day team.
"If Sachin can't get an answer to these questions, he has to go."
Tendulkar has scored just 90 in five bats in the Tri-series and is 19th in most runs scored among all the three competing teams.
Tendulkar, who took a sharp knock to his shin off an edged stroke from Peter Forrest against Australia in Brisbane last weekend, batted in the Sydney nets for an hour today.
Tomorrow's game could also feature the international return of Australia allrounder Shane Watson after his lengthy injury spell, with out-of-form opener David Warner under pressure to hold down his spot.
Forrest, who scored the only century in the tournament with his 104 in Friday's three-wicket loss to Sri Lanka in Hobart, said the challenge of keeping a spot with Watson waiting in the wings was one the whole batting order needed to rise to.
"It puts all the batsmen on notice to make sure they're scoring runs," he said.
Skipper Michael Clarke is looking for an improvement from his Australia team in today's sellout match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
"There's no doubt our death bowling needs to improve, that's for sure," he said.
"We've tried plenty of guys and we've got the right crew, we just have to execute better than we have in this series."