Change in rules is causing the Indian skipper as much trouble as the underperforming bowlers.
A century from him took India from a precarious 76 for 4 to a formidable 303. But Mahendra Singh's Dhoni's 139* still wasn't enough, thanks to the missing sting in India's bowling. But that's not the only thing bothering Dhoni. There's more, on the eve of the fourth ODI in Ranchi.
Everytime India seemed to have subdued Australian bats during the last three ODIs, a sudden gush flooded the runs column of bowling figures. And the problem turned perennial in Mohali, where, defending 44 off last 18 balls, Ishant Sharma's 30-run over gifted Australia a 2-1 lead.
Dhoni reportedly threw his weight behind the underperforming players to be retained for the last four ODIs, which suggests that the skipper doesn't think that underperforming players is the only reason behind India's two defeats.
Four boundary riders, not five
Dhoni, who relies on restricting runs to take wickets, is yet to find a way to work around this new rule with limited skills of his bowling unit. Neither does he have a genuine quick bowler nor is there a match-winning spinner at his disposal. That also speaks about his faith in Ravindra Jadeja, who the Aussies have found difficult to score off.
But the pressure exerted by Jadeja is getting easily released at the other end, which has allowed the visitors to play out the left-arm spinner and score off others, who refuse to learn from their mistakes.
Statistically too, India are finding it difficult to adapt to this amended rule. The ODI champions have lost six of the 11 home games in the past year while playing with four boundary fielders. However, between 2011 and 2012, when five deep fielders were allowed, India had lost just one of their ten ODIs at home.
Two new balls: no reverse swing, no old ball to spin
Introduction of a new ball from each end has almost negated reverse swing, a major weapon in a fast bowler's arsenal. By the time an ODI finishes, none of the balls is more than 25 overs old, which is about the time when it starts reversing. Not that India have an exceptional opponent of reverse swing in the squad, but two new balls takes away even the minimal chance pacemen might have to attempt it.
And the hard ball doesn't help the spinners as well. Absence of a rough side makes it difficult to hold between the fingers and it isn't conducive to grip the surface and turn, making the spinners ineffective on batting-friendly Indian tracks.
Indian fielding may have hit another level on the fielding scale, but it still carries some slow movers who not only cost India a few extra runs, but also let the pressure ease by failing to stop a single or giving two where it should have been just one.
Two immediate recipients of the 'Slow Movers' award will be offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin and the under-fire Ishant Sharma. And the four-boudary-fielders restrictions means you have to keep them in the ring, where they may hurt you in close finishes by giving away easy singles. So it becomes hard to hide such fielders, adding to a skipper's frustration.
Having said that, however displeased Dhoni may be with the changed rules, he will have to find a way to work around these shortcomings to avoid an embarrassing home series defeat.