Australia's James Faulkner Exposes India's Bowling Stocks
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When Brad Haddin holed out to Ravindra Jadeja at long-on with the score at 213-6, it appeared certain that India would cruise to a second consecutive victory in this ODI series over Australia.
On the back of a batting masterclass from their captain MS Dhoni, the home side had put a handbrake on their guests during the game's second innings.
Unable to accelerate during the middle overs, the visitors looked to be falling apart when Glenn Maxwell was run-out after a dreadful mix-up with Adam Voges in the 37th over. So when Haddin was dismissed with 91 runs (and just 53 balls) still remaining, it looked as though Dhoni's brilliance in the afternoon was set to be the difference between the sides.
Enter James Faulkner.
The hard-hitting all-rounder settled in nicely to reach 24 not out from his first 18 balls faced before launching the one of the most sparkling displays of hitting ever witnessed in ODI cricket.
Four sixes and one four culminated in a 30-run battering of Ishant Sharma in the 48th over of the innings. A bullet-like slap over midwicket was immediately followed by towering six down the ground from a shot that resembled more a golf swing than a traditional cricket stroke.
Failing to heed the lessons from his mistakes earlier in the over, Sharma continued to bowl back of length, watching a further two deliveries land amongst the gob-smacked spectators.
Faulkner's stunning hammering of the Indian quick saw the match transform quicker than Ishant's critics could line up to slam the speedster.
With balls (and his team's hopes) disappearing over the fence with each Faulkner blow, it's unquestionable that Dhoni would have been lamenting India's fatal absence of bowling quality.
Poise under pressure, combined with a methodical approach, would have secured an easy victory for the hosts, yet somehow India managed to let a seemingly unloseable game escape from their grasp.
The home side's crop of bowlers, most notably Ishant, were spectacularly exposed. However, India's dearth of bowling options is hardly a new concern.
In this series so far, Australia have passed the 300 mark in each of their three innings, the second of which was a mammoth 359-run effort.
|Match||Australia Score||Australia Run Rate|
India's problems with the ball have been exacerbated during the final 10 overs of Australia's innings in this series. With each game that has passed, the home side's inability to contain the visitors with precision and accuracy has been illustrated, as the table below shows.
|Match||Runs Conceded in Final 10 Overs|
Although limited overs cricket is considered a batsman's game, India's reliance on their batting lineup will no doubt be troubling the team's administrators.
India's current combination simply lacks the ability to both contain and genuinely threaten the opposition's batsmen.
The emotionally charged Sharma lacks the composure needed to bowl at the death of a ODI innings, as his wayward tendencies and sheer unpredictability make him a lingering headache for his captain.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Vinay Kumar, while more dependable, lack the ability to truly penetrate, leaving India's opening onslaught with the ball anything but threatening.
Compare that with Australia and it's easy to see why the tourists can remain competitive even when the batsmen don't fire.
In Mitchell Johnson, the Australians have a genuine weapon, a bowler capable of tearing through the opposition when at his best. While Johnson has failed to reach the levels many expected of him, he retains the rare capacity to produce bunches of unplayable deliveries.
His opening partner, Clint McKay, is a reliable option for his captain, while Faulkner is incredibly effective in limited overs cricket with his hard-to-detect changes of pace.
That variety and threat is something the hosts are clearly missing.
Yet in previous years, India had always been able to turn to their brigade of elite spinners to do the damage. Unfortunately for Dhoni, that is another luxury he's currently without.
Are India too reliant on their batsmen?
Ravi Ashwin will never be a world-class tweaker. Jadeja is considered steady rather than lethal. Whereas previous Indian generations had owned devastating spinners, the current crop lacks the incisive deliveries that made their predecessors such great weapons.
The fact that Ashwin and Jadeja have just five wickets between them in three completed matches so far perfectly reveals the extent of their flaws. The part-timers in Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli are often required, and that is also a poor reflection on Ashwin and Jadeja.
Of course, India will continue to win matches in the ODI arena, such is their strength with the bat. But to become a truly formidable limited overs team, India must unearth a handful of elite bowlers if they are ever to carry out complete performances.
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