Australian all-rounder James Faulkner ensured that all the focus after the third ODI in Mohali would be on the Indian bowlers, particularly Ishant Sharma. Chasing 304 for victory, the visitors looked in an improbable position, needing 44 to win the last three overs. But Faulkner smashed 30 runs in Ishant's 48th over - including four sixes - as Australia wrapped the match with four wickets to spare to take a 2-1 lead in the seven-match series. Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar has now questioned the ability of the Indian pacers to adapt to match conditions.
"Ishant keeps bowling length deliveries, Vinay Kumar keeps bowling full tosses while Bhuvneshwar Kumar gets away with it by bowling most of his overs with the new ball," said Gavaskar to NDTV. In all the three ODIs in the series thus far Australia have managed to score 300-plus in every innings. "What is disappointing is that the bowlers are fearful of powerful batsmen," Gavaskar said.
Ishant, who was under tremendous scrutiny prior to the match, has come under intense criticism after his 30-run over. "When a batsman gets after Ishant, he loses it under pressure," said Gavaskar. "The problem is that we keep judging Ishant on the great spell he bowled to Ricky Ponting in Australia in 2008. But it has been five years since that spell and if he can't replicate it then I think we need to look for someone else." Gavaskar said, even suggesting that India needed to inject some experience in the bowling attack.
Gavaskar also gave a damning assessment of Ravichandran Ashwin, who has thus far failed to live up to his billing as India's top spinner. "Ashwin's carrom ball is also costing India a lot of runs. The fact that Dhoni gave Yuvraj (Singh) a spell before Ashwin shows that the captain doesn't have the same confidence in Ashwin like he had six months ago," he said. Is Gavaskar suggesting a recall for Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh?
Gavaskar though did show some sympathy towards bowlers in ODI cricket. "It sure is a bad time to be a bowler with the new rules regarding field restrictions," he said. "Unfortunately the Indian bowlers are not learning, which is where Dhoni is right when he says that one cannot spoon-feed the bowlers."
The 64-year-old 'original' Little Master also had a word of caution to Indian team management, with regards to preparation for the 2015 World Cup. "We have to save and win this series first without thinking of the 2015 World Cup," said Gavaskar. "There will be no confidence left in the side if we keep losing one series after another before 2015."
Gavaskar is also against the growing chorus for Yuvraj Singh to bat at No.4 in the lead-up to the 2015 World Cup. "I don't understand the call for Yuvraj to move up the order. In the 2011 World Cup campaign he batted at No.5 and ended up being Man of the Series." Dhoni has been pushing Suresh Raina in the No. 4 position and the experiment has met with limited success.
But India's batting has been the least of the concern in this series. With a problem of plenty, the batting order will ultimately get sorted but who will defend the runs scored? Even scores in excess of 300 look unsafe and with the likes of Ishant Sharma failing to deliver time and again, there is some serious homework to do.