MS Dhoni loves the Orange City. The Indian skipper’s record at the new Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) Stadium – 243 runs in three matches, averaging a whopping 121.5 with two centuries – is proof.
No wonder then that Dhoni was at his relaxed best during his brief stint with the bat in the nets here on Tuesday. But he had a long chat with coach Duncan Fletcher before padding up, probably knowing that he has bigger problems at hand than his batting going into the sixth ODI against Australia here on Wednesday, after a gap of more than a week.
Being 1-2 down, in what is now effectively a five-match series with the previous two producing no results, India stare at losing yet another one-day series to the Aussies at home should they falter at Dhoni’s favourite ground.
The bowling unit is looking more spineless by the day, and Mohammed Shami’s three-for in his first game of the series in the fourth ODI in Ranchi has been the only noteworthy performance by an attack that has been torn into pieces by the young Australian batters. Not surprisingly – and not for the first time — the spotlight was on the Indian bowlers. And they decided to try a different method of training on Tuesday, away from the rest of the team.
R Vinay Kumar, who has picked up seven wickets but has been leaking a run too many, and Shami strolled out with bowling coach Joe Dawes on the track next to the one prepared for the match, while the batsmen trained at the nets just adjacent to the stadium.
The focus, well and truly, was on keeping the ball straight and hitting the block hole with just one stump to aim at. Shami got into his strides right away, disturbing the timber thrice in three balls, almost to say ‘I could’ve been tried out much earlier’. Kumar smacked the base of the stump twice in his spell, much to the applause of Dawes. The yorkers have eluded the Indian bowlers so far, and it remains to be seen if the duo can produce them when it matters the most, and when it’s hurting India the most – at the death.
The third quicky to grace the centre wicket, interestingly, was Bhuvneshwar Kumar. It may be recalled that Bhuvi was left out in Ranchi for left-armer Jaydev Unadkat, a move that raised quite a few eyebrows. Unadkat, along with the struggling Ishant Sharma, had to be content with sweating it out in the nets here. The bright new cherry might just go to the hands of India’s latest swing sensation again.