Congratulations to Australia for winning the three ODI series 2-1 against India. Australia looked the far superior team with a deep batting and bowling line-up.
Let us look at how the teams performed.
The current Australian team is blessed with a long batting line-up comprising high-quality top-order batsmen like Steve Smith, David Warner, Aaron Finch and Marnus Labuschagne. A set of explosive finishers like Glenn Maxwell, Alex Carey and Marcus Stoinis follow these top-order batsmen. In this series, Warner and Finch provided excellent starts, which were then eclipsed by the brilliance of the twin centuries by Smith.
Smith has been a bugbear for Indian bowlers since 2015, and he once again toyed with them, scoring 60-ball centuries in the first two matches. Maxwell and Labuschagne finished off the Indian bowlers enabling Australia to score 370+ runs in the first two ODIs in Sydney.
Australia played with pretty much the same team in the 2019 World Cup, but their middle order was quite shaky in that tournament. A lot of that shakiness was because Smith was not in great form and that the middle order was forced to come in to bat a lot earlier and under higher pressure as well. However, in this series, the top three ensured that Maxwell and others could play freely and they duly put the Indian bowling to the sword.
One could see the pressure getting to the middle order in the third ODI at Canberra when the top order left them with a bigger job to do to win the game. Maxwell played a loose shot at the end, and Carey ran himself out, despite looking in control of the chase.
Despite the loss in the dead rubber, it was a dominant performance by the Australian team. The batsmen were the force behind this comprehensive series win. Smith was the batsman of the series, without any doubt.
The Australian bowling unit had the benefit of defending huge scores against the Indian batting line-up. The bowlers did just enough to make sure that the Indian batsmen were continuously kept under pressure and lost wickets at regular intervals. Josh Hazlewood and Adam Zampa were the pick of the bowlers for taking crucial wickets and keeping it tight. Pat Cummins bowled quite well as and was rightfully rested for the final ODI. Ashton Agar played the last ODI and came through with flying colours.
Sean Abbott and Mitchell Starc did not quite live up to the expectations. Starc was wayward and got hit by the Indian batsmen quite easily. Abbott could not quite bridge the gulf between first-class level and international level cricket. Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja took Abbott apart in the death overs and enabled India to post a good score at the Manuka Oval.
Cameron Green did not have a good debut outing with the ball and was efficiently dealt with by the Indian batsmen.
In the end, Finch will be happy with the series win but will remind his bowlers that his batsmen had done half their job already for them.
Any batting team that scores 308, 338 and 302 in the three matches would consider themselves to have done a great job. However, in this series, the Indian batting unit was faced with mammoth tasks of chasing 370+ target in two of their matches in Sydney. The efforts, as mentioned above, were nowhere near enough.
To chase down such monstrous targets, a team needs a top-order that could score quickly and score big as well. Only a very few batsmen in international Cricket can do both. Rohit Sharma is one such batsman, and his absence in the batting unit played a significant role in India not able to chase those mammoth targets down successfully.
Mayank Agrawal, who replaced Rohit, scored rapidly but compiled only 22 and 28 runs in the two outings. In the absence of Sharma, Virat Kohli was forced to take all the risks, and he perished in doing so, well before taking his team close to safety.
The Indian team might have scored 308 and 338 in the two ODIs in Sydney, but they rarely looked like winning either of the matches.
One of the main reasons for the Indian batting failure was their inability to rotate the strike during a partnership. All the batsmen went too hard at the ball trying to hit boundaries of every ball and ended up playing too many dot balls. This inability to rotate strike is one big area that the Indian batsmen will look to improve in the future.
The other crucial reason for the failure was the lack of batting depth in the lower order. India played four specialist bowlers, and none of them could hold their end up for some time. Leave alone, scoring runs!
Hardik and Jadeja provided the best batting performance for India in the third ODI. They compiled a record-breaking sixth-wicket partnership of 150 runs and enabled India to score the match-winning 302 runs. It was only during this period that the Indian batting looked to be on top of the Australian bowling.
The Indian bowling unit was a big disappointment in the first two matches in Sydney. They did start with the handicap of having to bowl first on a flat deck and on two hot days in Sydney.
However, this cannot take away their looking lost when the Aussie batsmen went after them. Navdeep Saini, Yuzvendra Chahal and Jasprit Bumrah were quite disappointing with the ball. They allowed the Australian batsmen to line them up and take them to the cleaners. The best bowling effort in the Sydney ODIs came from Hardik, who mixed his deliveries and bowled four overs for 24 runs in the second ODI. Hardik had to risk an injury to bowl those four overs!
The Indian bowlers put up a better show in the third ODI at Canberra. The Manuka Oval pitch had extra bounce and helped the fast bowlers with some seam movement. Shardul Thakur was the pick of the bowlers with his cross seamed deliveries beating the outside edge many times. Bumrah bowled well and got some wickets as well. Virat will be happy to see his premier bowler return to good form. The debutante Natarajan provided the left arm variation to the attack and chipped in with useful wickets.
Before closing this section, I need to mention the abysmal fielding show that the Indian team put up in Sydney. The number of fumbles and dropped catches cost the team dear. Even in the final ODI, which the team won, there were catches dropped, direct hits missed and fumbles in the boundary line. Virat, who expects high standard on the field, will want the unit to pull up their socks in the T20 and Test matches.
The Australian ODI team was superior to the Indian team not only in terms of the final results and also on paper. The Australian team played with seven bowlers and eight batsmen, while India played with six batsmen and five bowlers. This versatility in the Australian team was the main difference in this series between these two teams. This difference was too much of an advantage to overcome for a team that was playing away from their home conditions.
The 2023 ODI World Cup is still some distance away. Australia will focus on retaining the core of this team until then; India will look for bowling all-rounders like Thakur and Jadeja to come in and add depth to their bowling and batting units. Considering that the World cup is to be played in India, a spin-bowling all-rounder might be the one the management will focus.