Leading the seven-match series 2-1, an Australian victory in Nagpur will win them the series and turn the last match into a dead rubber. (BCCI Images)
Pressure is set to pile up on India's under-fire bowlers who will have to deliver in the sixth ODI against Australia in Nagpur if the hosts were to stay alive in the seven match series, which Australia lead 2-1.
Washouts in Ranchi and Cuttack have turned the series into a best-of-five affair, and a win in Nagpur will give Australia the series and turn the seventh ODI into a dead rubber.
Australia will undoubtedly plan to use this must-win pressure on India to their advantage, and the visitors have already made it clear that they want to clinch the series in Nagpur itself. "From our point of view, this is the game we want to win. We don't want to save it for the last game. We want to wrap up with this game," left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty has said.
Batsmen from both the sides, though in terrific form, have been without match practice for close to a week since the Ranchi ODI on October 23, when rain allowed just 4.3 overs of Indian chase after Australia scored 295. The fifth ODI at Cuttack on October 26 was washed out without a ball being bowled.
For India, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni are the top-scorers so far, both having a century under their belt. Kohli hit a record 50-ball century in India's record chase of 360 in Jaipur, while Dhoni's hundred helped India post 300 plus in Mohali. Also in form are openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma who played excellent knocks of 95 and 141* in Jaipur.
The worry for India remains the middle order where the experiment of playing Suresh Raina at No. 4 has failed so far and Yuvraj Singh too has been found out against the pace and bounce extracted by the Aussie pacers. But the two left-handers will have to produce the goods at Jamtha Stadium under must-win pressure.
India skipper MS Dhoni, who has always been an advocate of turning tracks at home, feels R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja could enjoy their best time of the series on this track that is expected to spin. "Looks like this wicket will spin a bit and spinners will play a bit more of a role," Dhoni said.
Ashwin has not only been unable to get among the wickets but has also proved expensive. In comparison, Jadeja has managed to keep a plug on the free-flowing Australia batsman, led by series top-scorer George Bailey. Dhoni has the option to replace Ashwin with legspinner Amit Mishra, but he seems to have more faith on his Chennai Super Kings's team-mate.
Mohammad Shami, Jaydev Unadkat and Vinay Kumar formed India's pace trio in Ranchi, where Shami impressed with a three-wicket opening burst. But considering the must-win situation, Dhoni may bring in Bhuvneshwar Kumar - who has provided breakthroughs up front - in place of Unadkat. However, Ishant Sharma, who has been woefully out of form may continue to sit out.
Australia have very few such worries. Their batsmen, led by skipper Bailey, have been delivering consistently and bowlers, led by Mitchell Johnson, performing much better than India. The have found a good opening combination in the form of Aaron Finch and Phil Hughes, who have provided a good foundation for the likes of Shane Watson and Bailey. The only out-of-form batsmen in their eleven have been Adam Voges and vice captain Brad Haddin.
The visitors are not expected to make any changes to their bowling unit as well. Johnson has rattled the Indians with his pace and bounce, consistently clocking over 145 kmph. He has been ably supported by James Faulkner, Clint McKay and allrounder Watson. Doherty, the lone spinner on the touring party, should also retain his place as a specialist tweaker.
India: 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suresh Rain, 5 Yuvraj Singh, 6 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar/Jaydev Unadkat, 10 Vinay Kumar, 11 Mohammad Shami
Australia: 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Phil Hughes, 3 Shane Watson, 4 Adam Voges, 5 George Bailey (capt), 6 Glenn Maxwell, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Mitchell Johnson 9 James Faulkner, 10 Clint Mckay, 11 Xavier Doherty