|Scorecard:||India v Pakistan|
|Event:||Pakistan in India 2012/13|
India v Pakistan
Battered and bruised after yet another series defeat, India's struggling cricketers will no doubt seek to restore some pride when they go into the third and final one-dayer against arch-rivals Pakistan on 6 January 2013 with the future of some of the under-performing stars at stake.
The hosts lost the first game in Chennai by six wickets and the second in Kolkata by 85 runs to give their foes their first series win on Indian soil since 2004-05. For the second successive match India's seemingly stellar top order failed. And it meant they have lost three straight and won only two of their last nine matches in all competitions. It is a sorry slump for the ODI world champions.
MS Dhoni, the Indian captain, said his team was finding it difficult to win matches with part-time bowlers after a ruling which demands five fielders inside the circle for the full 50 overs. One cannot be sure what he means. India picked four bowlers and then used Ravi Jadeja, the all-rounder, Yuvraj Singh, who used to be an all-rounder, and Suresh Raina, a genuine part-timer.
The collective failure of the top order batsmen even in home conditions has hurt the team badly in recent times and the hosts will need a huge spark of inspiration to prevent the spirited Pakistanis from achieving a 3-0 clean sweep as obviously, the pressure will be on the Indians who have been plagued by an inexplicable form slump of their star batsmen while the bowling resources have compounded the misery for the hosts who have now sunk to a new low with the recent debacles.
With the series already out of their grasp, India may experiment by giving a chance to some of their bench players but whether they can change the team's sliding fortunes remains to be seen on Sunday. However, although the Captain is in good form with the bat, has been at a loss to explain the repeated failures and there have been suggestions that he should promote himself up the order considering the poor form of the top half. It is also reported that he might sit out the last ODI in order to digest the pressure he is in at the moment. Unless the India put up a far better display, the Feroz Shah Kotla could witness another drubbing for Dhoni and his struggling men.
Ajinkya Rahane, who has surprisingly not played a single match despite his decent showing in the two T20 games prior to the ODI series, is almost certain to feature in the playing eleven tomorrow. The two experienced openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir have invariably failed to give a good start and that has hurt the team. The Indians may contemplate benching either Sehwag or Gambhir and let Rahane open the innings.
The form of Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina has been patchy and none of them have shown consistency nor have they shouldered the responsibility. In the absence of retired greats like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, the experienced players in the team have not shown the willingness to take-on the batting load. Dhoni has acknowledged time and again that the batting has let the team down.
Pakistan have somehow conjured-up added consistency to their considerable talent to take an unassailable 2-0 lead. Nasir Jamshed hit his second consecutive century as Pakistan wrapped-up the series with a game to spare in Kolkata. But it's not just Jamshed providing the runs to guide the visitors home as Younis Khan, Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik have made good contributions in this series so far. One concern for the tourists however is the lack of support from the middle and lower orders and that was highlighted by a collapse in Kolkata as Pakistan slid from 210-4 to 250 all out.
The under-performing batsmen haven't really needed to perform as yet but if Pakistan's top three are dismissed cheaply, India will sense that they can secure this consolation win.
A calamitous run out saw Azhar Ali leave and an unlucky Younis was given out as the umpire failed to spot a big inside edge. However, it is possible that Umar Akmal is brought in to replace one of them.
In truth, Pakistan's bowling doesn't offer too much of a threat as a unit. The giant, 7ft 1inch Mohammad Irfan is getting plenty of headlines but the left arm paceman has figures of 1-104 from two games and is being taken for more than five runs per over.
However, there are two standout performers in Junaid Khan and Saeed Ajmal who have taken advantage of the hosts' poor form. Umar Gul is hitting his best rhythm too but with all due respect to the Pakistani attack, the Indian batsmen are far better than their performances are currently suggesting.
Junaid Khan and Umar Gul took five wickets between them. It remains to be seen whether Pakistan rest players for the dead rubber but it would not be a surprise if Imran Farhat, Umar Akmal and Wahab Riaz were given an opportunity.
The key to this whole contest could lie in the India's will to go for a win. We've seen a distinct lack of fight in this side when they have fallen behind in any recent and if they display that attitude again, Pakistan will claim their coveted series whitewash.
The Feroz Shah Kotla is not the best of batting tracks. There has been only one first-innings total of more than 238 since 2006 (eight matches). And that was the 330 taken off the Dutch attack by West Indies in the most recent World Cup. The average total in the last ten is 236.
India (from): Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, MS Dhoni(w/c), Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashok Dinda, Ishant Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Amit Mishra, Shami Ahmed
Pakistan Squad (from): Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq(c), Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal(w), Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan, Zulfiqar Babar, Umar Akmal, Imran Farhat, Wahab Riaz, Anwar Ali, Haris Sohail.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
Copyright © 2012 Pakistan Cricket Website)