Are Ashwin and Jadeja home track bullies?: Team India began their ODI series campaign in Australia in a disastrous way. Having won both the practice games (T20 and ODI formats) against Western Australia at WACA, it was expected that Team India would keep their winning streak going.
While the duo of Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli ensured a victory in the T20 format, the spin trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel did the honours in the 50-over variety.
Team India dressing room was really upbeat with these wins, after a drubbing by the Proteas, at home, in both, T20 and ODI formats.
It was thought that the batsmen and bowlers are ‘back in their groove’ and would give Kangaroos, a run for their money.
But what panned out WACA Ground in the first of the five-ODIs was very much contrary to the expectations.
Winning the toss and electing to bat on a batting-friendly track, the visitors failed to pile up a big score. Losing Dhawan (9) early, the duo of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli did establish a huge partnership of 207 runs in 37.5 overs but failed to score at a brisk rate.
Kohli scoring at strike rate of just 93.81, put on 91 runs as his contribution while Rohit, registering his 9th ODI century, scored at a strike rate of 104.9 for his unbeaten 171* runs.
They needed to score 350+ runs to make a match of it but could only put up 309 runs for the loss of 3 wickets in 50 overs.
The target of 310 runs was always achievable, given the depth in Aussie batting in the form of David Warner, Aaron Finch, Steven Smith, George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell, unless Indian bowling was going to be of exemplary variety.
Debutant left-arm pacer, Barinder Sran, did exactly what was required. He first removed Aaron Finch (9) in the third delivery of his second over (third over of the innings) and accounted for the other opener, the dangerous David Warner (8) in the fourth delivery of his third over (fifth over of the innings), reducing the hosts to 212 in 4.4 overs.
At this juncture Georg Bailey and the skipper, Steven Smith cm together, and remained un-separated till the penultimate delivery of the 42nd over, taking the team within striking distance of the target.
Bailey, who was let-off on his first delivery, came up with his 3rd ODI century when he notched up 120-ball 112 runs with 7 fours and 2 sixes while Smith registered his 5th ODI century by scoring 149 runs off just 135 deliveries with 11 fours and 2 sixes.
It was really surprising to see Dhoni bring on Rohit Sharma to bowl even before the third pacer, Umesh Yadav was tested. Rohit bowled quite an expensive over, giving away 11 runs. Even Dhoni did not seem to have an explanation for this move in the post-match press conference.
Ashwin, who had picked up 31 wickets from 4 Tests and Ravindra Jadeja, who had scalped 23 wickets from 4 Tests against South Africa, at home, not too long ago, and were ranked the Top 2 bowlers of the series, literally failed to make any impact or whatsoever on the Aussie duo of Smith and Bailey, who were plundering runs at their will.
This cast a serious doubt on the wicket-taking and run-containing abilities of these two spinners, playing away from home. They proved lethal and virtually unplayable in home conditions but looked pretty much ordinary overseas.
Ashwin, in his quota of 9 overs, gave away 68 runs and had a poor economy rate of 7.55 but could take the wickets of George Bailey and Glenn Maxwell (6). But by the time Ashwin struck, the Aussies were within hand-shaking distance of victory.
On his part, Jadeja gave away 61 runs in 9 overs at an economy rate of 6.77 and that explains how the Aussie batsmen could read him clearly and prevented him from settling down.
Dhoni seemed to be ‘at sea’ with ideas running dry and the bowling changes yielding no effect.
Smith departed (falling to Sran) in the form fifth wicket at the team score of 308 runs, in the first delivery of the 49th over, scoring 1 run short of 150.
Australia took a 1-0 lead in the series, winning the game by 5 wickets.
Young Sran finished with the analysis of 9.2-0-56-3.
Smith picked up the Player of the Match award.
Indian team management has a lot to introspect and take corrective measures before they go into the second encounter at Brisbane on 15, June, 2016.