Bangalore: Scratching their chins pondering over what's enough to defend, MS Dhoni and George Bailey will once again bank on their batting arsenal in the series-deciding shootout at Bangalore.
After two washouts and two wins each in the seven-match rubber, the seventh ODI at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium will decide who wins the series that has seen over 2500 runs scored despite two matches falling prey to rain.
Both the teams have chased down targets in excess of 300, with India going a step further to register two record ODI run-chases: 360 in Jaipur and 351 in Nagpur. Virat Kohli set both grounds ablaze with match-winning tons, making him the quickest to 17 ODI centuries and the only man to record five consecutive 50-plus ODI scores on two occasions.
Something of similar sorts is on the cards in Bangalore, where the wicket has historically been loaded in the favour of batsmen, which means the news continues to be bad for bowlers with another mauling in store.
Change in fielding rules (four boundary riders) and two new balls have neither allowed the captains to set fields of choice nor allowed bowlers a chance to attempt reverse swing or get the ball to grip the surface and spin.
That effectively means it will once again be up to the batsmen, led by Kohli for India and George Bailey for Australia, from both sides to chase the score down as the captain winning the toss will in all likelihood elect to bowl first.
Australia, however, will feel hampered with the absence of Mitchell Johnson who has at times troubled Indian batsmen, especially Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh, with his pace and bounce. He has been recalled by Cricket Australia to practice with the red ball before the first Ashes Test. In Johnson's absence, James Faulkner and allrounder Shane Watson will have bear bulk of the bowling load, with the fast-bowling vacancy likely to be filled by Nathan Coulter Nile.
India's worries are not dissimilar to Australia's. Their bowlers, like Australia's, have been hammered out of shape by the Aussie batsmen. Offspinner R Ashwin has never been allowed to settle throughout the series. Amit Mishra played his first game of the series in Nagpur and conceded 78 runs in his 10 overs. Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami and Jaydev Unadkat continue to be expensive, not to mention Ishant Sharma, who may consider himself lucky to be included in the Test squad for the series against West Indies.
It remains to be seen if Dhoni makes any changes by bringing back the underfire Ishant or Vinay, who has the knowledge of local conditions being a Karnataka man. Australia may have their noses slightly in front in batting despite India's batting heroics, led by Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Dhoni. Yuvraj and
Raina continue to find it difficult against Australia's short-ball tactics, where Australia's middle order has been brilliantly led by Watson and Bailey, both of whom scored centuries in Nagpur.
It also stresses the point that whichever team makes the lesser mistakes in bowling may come out on top to clinch the series. History, though, favours the Australians who have beaten Indian in two seven-game series in the past.
India: 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suresh Raina, 5 Yuvraj Singh, 6 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Amit Mishra / Vinay Kumar, 11 Mohammad Shami.
Australia: 1 Phillip Hughes, 2 Aaron Finch, 3 Shane Watson, 4 George Bailey (capt), 5 Adam Voges, 6 Glenn Maxwell, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 James Faulkner, 9 Nathan Coulter-Nile, 10 Clint McKay, 11 Xavier Doherty.