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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 February 2019

Don’t doubt MS Dhoni and other Australia-India ODI series takeaways

India's first ever bilateral ODI series win in Australia will give Virat Kohli's men lots of confidence ahead of the World Cup

India captain Virat Kohli, centre, has good reason to be a happy man at the moment. Mark Dadswell / Reuters
India captain Virat Kohli, centre, has good reason to be a happy man at the moment. Mark Dadswell / Reuters

India’s first ever bilateral one-day international (ODI) series victory in Australia on Friday was a memorable one especially given how closely fought the last two games were.

It might still get overshadowed by their preceding Test series triumph, probably because India had never won a Test series in Australia before whereas they had previously clinched two ODI competitions there – the World Championship of Cricket in 1985 and the Tri-Series in 2008.

That said, it was an important series to take with just four months to go before the Cricket World Cup gets under way in England and Wales.

So here are four takeaways for Virat Kohli’s team as they cross the Tasman Sea to play five ODIs and three Twenty20s against New Zealand.

MS Dhoni had been criticised for a relatively poor strike-rate and dwindling returns with the bat in recent times. Sam Wundke / EPA
MS Dhoni had been criticised for a relatively poor strike-rate and dwindling returns with the bat in recent times. Sam Wundke / EPA

Dhoni ends drought – for now

India’s middle-order has looked vulnerable for the past four years primarily because they have been unable to locate a permanent fixture for the No 4 slot. The other issue has been the waning influence of MS Dhoni.

The former captain’s one-day strike-rate was below 70 in 2018 – 67.77 to be precise before the start of the Australia ODIs – which is worse than that of any of the other occupants of the positions from four to seven.

That he is 37 has not helped his case, and he is in the side partly due to his experience but also because no player has compelled the selectors enough to take his place. Rishabh Pant is his natural successor, but is yet an unfinished article behind the stumps.

Dhoni, though, served a timely reminder to critics and selectors of his class with back-to-back match-winning knocks and three fifties on the trot. His strike-rate is still a worry; a poor 53.12 arguably cost India the first game.

Some were also left to wonder on social media why the master run-chaser tended to take matches to the last over when a few big shots could, in theory, settle the issue.

Regardless, it is safe to say that Dhoni will play at the World Cup unless something unexpected occurs between now and then. He should ideally be used as a floater, his batting position depending on the situation.

Yuzvendra Chahal has proved time and again he and Kuldeep Yadav are India's best spinners in the limited-overs game. Mark Dadswell / Reuters
Yuzvendra Chahal has proved time and again he and Kuldeep Yadav are India's best spinners in the limited-overs game. Mark Dadswell / Reuters

Chahal checks back in

Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal needed just one match this year to take his best ODI figures of 6-42.

He had been left on the bench for the first two matches, with India playing left-arm orthodox spinner Ravindra Jadeja and left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav. But there is no doubt Chahal and Kuldeep are the two best slow bowlers India have in the limited-overs game.

And even as Jadeja adds tremendous value to the side for his batting and fielding capabilities, it makes more sense to pick your best bowlers especially if conditions allow for both of them to play.

Kedar Jadhav, centre, has proved why he should be India's go-to guy with bat and to a lesser extent with the ball. Mark Dadswell / EPA
Kedar Jadhav, centre, has proved why he should be India's go-to guy with bat and to a lesser extent with the ball. Mark Dadswell / EPA

Jadhav jack of two trades

Another reason for India to play Kuldeep and Chahal in the XI - rather than to pick one of them to operate alongside spin-bowling all-rounder Jadeja - is the presence of Kedar Jadhav in the squad.

Jadhav's 60 not out and 121-run stand with Dhoni in the final ODI proved why he is the ideal player to have in the middle-order, especially in the death overs. He is a genuine No 4 or No 5 batsman who plays with a cool head, runs hard and hits the ball long. At 33, he also has plenty of match experience.

What is also useful is the fact he bowls decent off-spin and helps break partnerships.

In other words, he can possibly replace Jadeja and / or Ambati Rayudu, depending on the situation.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar has had to deal with injury, but remains but one of India's most important seam bowlers. Mal Fairclough / AP Photo
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has had to deal with injury, but remains but one of India's most important seam bowlers. Mal Fairclough / AP Photo

Bhuvi and Shami shine bright

India’s fast bowling stocks have never looked this good. That India beat Australia in Australia without the services of the rested Jasprit Bumrah bodes well for the side.

Two men who has made strong comebacks to the ODI set-up are Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami. Both seamers made their ODI debut a week from each other in 2012/13. Injuries have been a part of their careers, but they have over the years maintained their relevance in Indian cricket.

Bhuvneshwar took eight wickets in the series, while Shami took five. Theirs has not been just about taking wickets. They also nshowed great control to put pressure on Australia’s batsmen, and will be difficult to hit for runs in English conditions.

Mohammed Shami, centre, has made a strong comeback to the Indian one-day international side. James Elsby / AP Photo
Mohammed Shami, centre, has made a strong comeback to the Indian one-day international side. James Elsby / AP Photo

Updated: January 19, 2019 03:07 PM

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