After a most miserable start, India can ensure the sweetest of ends to their tour of Australia when they go for a clean sweep of their Twenty20 series in Sydney on Sunday. It would be perfect preparation, too, less than two months before getting the World T20 underway on home soil.
Such an ending to the tour looked unimaginable during a wretched start. India lost their first four matches Down Under to continue what has been a miserable record in Australia. But, after picking up a first victory in the fifth and final match of their one-day international series, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team have hit the ground running in the T20 format.
Having recorded a 37-run victory in Adelaide, India secured a 27-run win at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday to seal their first series victory in Australia, in any format, for eight years. After Australia made a strong start chasing down India’s total of 184, it appeared they were in good shape to level the series and take it to a decisive finale in Sydney. But India, helped by another two wickets from young pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah and two vital economical overs from Yuvraj Singh, got the job done to ease the gloom that had descended over their limited-overs teams in recent months.
“As a captain, you feel more in control if your bowlers are executing well, irrespective of whether it's a medium-fast bowler or a spinner,” Dhoni said afterward, according to The Times of India. “What's important is how well you are exploiting the field, if there's not much help for you then what's the line you are looking to bowl? And more often than not, if you can hit the same area, it becomes slightly easy to set a field.
“It's all about execution, if you execute well, irrespective of a fast bowler or spinner, the captain will look good, the players will look good. But if you don't execute well, all of a sudden it looks like there is no plan and no one has any plan about what needs to be done.”
For Australia, the last two results may act as something of a wakeup call. Resting Steve Smith and opener David Warner among others ahead of the tour of New Zealand, starting next week, Australia have now relinquished a chance to build some momentum heading toward their attempts to win a first World T20 title. And the team will be further disrupted for the third and final T20 contest with India after captain Aaron finch was ruled out with a hamstring injury suffered in Thursday’s loss.
Still, there is plenty of excitement surrounding his replacement. Usman Khawaja has received his long clamored for call up, although it remains to be seen whether he will make his T20 international debut. Still, Shane Watson, who will replace Finch as captain, insists that Khawaja more than merits his chance.
“He's ready to go, and whatever [format] the opportunity arises he's in incredible control of his game at the moment,” Watson said of Khawaja, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. “Whatever opportunities come his way he incredibly deserves.”
Match time: Sunday, 3:38 a.m. EST
TV channel: Willow TV