For India, this tour of Australia has reached a point where writing about them can be dealt with in one phrase: "Insert previous comments here." The arrival of some fresh legs and a change of format had promised the possibility of an upswing in fortunes, but instead a sorry tale played out.
Stripped down, cricket is a contest between bat and ball and there is no need to go into any deep analysis of where India faltered: they conceded too many runs and were hopeless with the bat. It was bad cricket.
India allowed the home team to score 171 and then flopped with the bat. Chasing that total under lights in slippery conditions was always going to need something special and India failed to find heroes with the bat. MS Dhoni walked in with the innings creaking and after a slow start, larruped his way to an unbeaten 48 from 43 balls. The only purpose that innings served was to inflate his batting average.
"There is a tomorrow. [Matthew] Wade batted really well. We could not capitalise. We thought it would rain in the second innings in Melbourne,” was all Dhoni could muster at the post-match presentation. It rang a familiar hollow.
Australia have been able to produce match-winners almost at will; it is tough to even know where to begin with India. There were dropped catches – the culprit being Rahul Sharma both times – and the bowling was shoddy as first David Warner and then Matthew Wade tore into the attack. The changes India made to their line-up for this format only meant that there were new faces serving up hit-me deliveries.
But it was, ominously, the batting that really let India down. Virender Sehwag fell to a recognizable dismissal, getting himself into a tangle against pace and edging to slip. Gautam Gambhir played a few delectable shots before chipping a tame catch to cover. Virat Kohli got a start and threw it away with a mistimed pull off the 40-year-old Brad Hogg. Rohit Sharma waited over a month for his first bat and lasted just one – one – delivery, bowled by the gentle offspin of David Hussey. Suresh Raina yet again made room and swung wildly to be bowled, and another limited-overs star, Ravindra Jadeja, slogged himself back to the dug-out.
George Bailey, the Australian captain on debut, must think this format is easy. "I didn't know you get a trophy after every game," he beamed afterwards. "Our fielding and bowling was outstanding. There's a great feeling around Australian cricket at the moment."
This match was merely a continuation of how Australia have bossed India during the Test matches while making them look very second rate. The catalyst was Warner – one of two members of the Test squad in this match – who slammed 25 off 14 balls before Wade took over the limelight with a ballistic 43-ball 72. A 20-minute rain delay was followed by India removing Wade, and it seemed they had used the time to gather their thoughts during the stoppage. Then up stepped Hussey to first steady and then launch an attack, as Australia took 29 0ff the final three overs.
Comparatively, India's chase was a near repeat performance of the Test series. Four wickets went down in 7.1 overs, and India reached 144 with only Dhoni passing 22. There is no sugaring the pill: India succumbed to their same follies.
This 31-run defeat took India's winless streak away from home in all formats to a staggering 14 matches. To go back to their last overseas win in any format, you have to look at June 23, the final day of the first Test against West Indies at Kingston. It is hard to see where a revival will come from.