India concluded a successful tour Down Under with a seven-wicket victory at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). Old warhorse MS Dhoni was back among the runs, slamming an unbeaten 87, guiding the team to a seven-wicket victory alongside Kedar Jadhav after Yuzvendra Chahal’s six-for helped restrict Australia to a modest total.
In a tour that has seen this Indian team cross one milestone after another, the ‘Men in Blue’ recorded their first-ever bilateral ODI series victory on Australian soil with the 2-1 result. This following their celebrations after a historic Test series victory by a similar margin. More importantly, this also marks the first time ever that the Indian team returns from a tour of Australia without losing a single series, having drawn the T20I leg 1-1.
Much like the Test series, the one-dayers gave Virat Kohli and company a glimpse into the areas that they still are lacking in, and some of the gaps that they have been able to plug. With that, let’s take a look at some of the takeaways for the Indians from their victorious ODI campaign:
Bhuvneshwar Kumar's clinical display:
After a decent outing in the T20I series, Bhuvneshwar found himself benched throughout the Test campaign, with the think-tank persisting with the tried-and-tested combination of Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami.
In the first one-dayer at Sydney, the pacer from Meerut was hammered for runs, especially in the death overs as the Australia posted a competitive total of 288 on the board. Bhuvneshwar however, was back with a bang in the next two games at Adelaide and Melbourne, and eventually finished as the leading wicket-taker in the series with eight scalps, including the dismissal of Aussie captain Aaron Finch in each of the three games, to go with an excellent average of 17.37.
His moment of glory in the series was his death bowling at Adelaide, triggering a collapse with the wickets of Glenn Maxwell and Shaun Marsh and eventually restricting the hosts within the 300-run mark, a good 20-30 runs short of what they would have expected at the start of the final powerplay.
Mohammed Shami highlighting his value as a back-up pacer:
While Bhuvneshwar collected wickets from one end, it was Shami who helped sustain pressure from the other. Utilising the bounce on offer more often than not — as the dismissal of Maxwell at Melbourne would suggest — Shami has showed he is capable enough to be taken into consideration in one-dayers as a third pacer alongside Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar at a time when the team management goes about fine-tuning things with the World Cup in mind. The Bengal speedster finished with five wickets at an average and economy of 30 and 5.08 respectively, and should be in India's scheme of things in the tour of New Zealand in Bumrah's absence.
MS Dhoni silencing his critics:
With Rishabh Pant taking his spot in the T20I series' against West Indies and Australia, there were questions whether MS Dhoni's days in the blue jersey were over.
Dhoni however, put most of those doubts to rest by collecting a half-century in each of the three games in the ODI series, remaining unbeaten while anchoring a successful chase on two of those occasions. With 193 runs from the series — which incidentally also happens to be his average — Dhoni was awarded the 'Man of the Series'. More importantly, the veteran keeper-batsman has effectively put to rest any doubts concerning his ticket to England later this summer.
Kedar Jadhav's stable presence in middle-order:
While the top-order has continued to deliver for Team India time and again, the batting slots between 4-7 have been a source of worry for the selectors for some time now. India needed to find a solution to their middle-order woes in this series. After consecutive failures from Ambati Rayudu, the baton was handed to Kedar Jadhav, brought into the side at No 5 with Dhoni promoting himself to the No 4 slot that had just been vacated by Rayudu.
Jadhav might not have had a great day with his 'below-sea-level' bowling, having conceded 53 runs from six overs in a wicketless display. The Maharashtrian though, highlighted his value to the team by stitching an unbroken 121-run stand with Dhoni to guide the visitors to a series-clinching seven-wicket victory. His 61 off 57 might not have been the most flamboyant of knocks, but gave Kohli and Ravi Shastri reason to believe that his presence could bring stability to lower middle order.
Yuzvendra Chahal roaring back to form with six-for:
The leg-spinner hasn't quite been at his best since a successful outing in South Africa last year, and had been benched for the T20I leg of the Australia tour as well as the first two one-dayers.
The frustration of being on the sidelines for so long would have made Chahal hungry for wickets, and he would've been eager to get a crack at the Australian batsmen after being included in the XI in place of Kuldeep Yadav in the series decider at Melbourne.
Chahal hadn't even bowled a full over after being brought into the attack, and he had already sent two set batsmen in Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja back to the dressing room, pegging the hosts back just when they seemed to be making a comeback. He helped polish off the tail in his second spell, and eventually finished with outstanding figures of 6/42 — the joint best one-day figures Down Under alongside Ajit Agarkar.