Nitin Chouhan: India faltered on all counts in the first match of the CB Series.
They say that history repeats itself, but only few had thought that it would repeat so quickly for the Indian team. It's the third occasion, when India started their campaign in Melbourne on a positive note, only to lose the fizz as the match progressed, except in the second Twenty20 that they won on Friday.
Even on the Boxing Day Test of India's whitewash series recently, they had an upper hand for the first three days but couldn't maintain the momentum and lost the battle in the end.
Australia were 35/2 in the opening encounter of the tri-series on Sunday when rain interrupted the play for over three hours. But what we witnessed thereafter was the way it has been throughout the tour. The team bowled and fielded the way they did in their T20 win against the same opponents two nights ago, but the rain break, instead of affecting the rhythm of the batsmen, affected the concentration of the Indian bowlers. Almost all of them, with the exception of Vinay Kumar, paid the price for bowling inconsistently.
The strategy of going in with three spinners - including the left-arm spin of Ravindra Jadeja - and not with an extra seam bowler, backfired big time. Having an extra pace bowler instead of a bulk of spin-bowling options should have been the recipe for the Indians, especially after taking in account the two new balls which are available these days from each end. And anyway, the way R Ashwin has been hit for runs in Australia, he could have easily given way to the experienced Zaheer Khan or young Umesh Yadav.
MS Dhoni was found short of resources so much so that he got four overs bowled from the part-timers immediately after the game resumed. Ravindra Jadeja, who was raked in for over $ 2mn in Saturday's IPL auction for his all-round abilities, also lived up to his reputation of giving away too many six-hitting deliveries. David Hussey, with his spunky knock, made merry with the long hops offered by Jadeja.
Chasing a target, with the required run-rate hovering around seven from the outset, was always going to be a tough ask. And the Indians were behind the eight ball once they lost Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir early. Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma played brisk knocks in the middle but could not carry on with the required rate.
Suresh Raina, for the upteempth time in his career, was caught on the hop when he was tested with a bouncer by Daniel Christian, while Ashwin's athleticism couldn't match Dhoni's and the Indian tail surrendered meekly one more time.
Another poor show by the middle order batsmen should make Dhoni consider promoting himself up in the batting order. He has been found short of partners quite a few number of times in India's recent limited-over encounters.
But India should find solace from the fact that they will be playing Sri Lanka next and not Australia on Wednesday. At least it will give them a chance to stop a streak of defeats they have suffered on foreign soil, if we count the T20 relief as a breather at best.