India's domination over reigning world champions Australia was completed on Sunday night at Nagpur, as Virat Kohli's team raced to an easy 7-wicket win to wrap up the series and also returned to the top of the ICC ODI rankings by leapfrogging South Africa.
India had briefly occupied the top spot after taking a 3-0 lead in the series but the loss to Australia in the fourth ODI in Bengaluru saw them slip marginally behind South Africa to second position. Sunday's victory could signal the start of a new era and also marked an end to South Africa's long run atop the ODI tree.
What would have been satisfying for coach Ravi Shastri and his think tank is the all-round nature of this series win. Almost every player involved in the team had a role to play in the triumph and this is great news for Indian cricket. The overseas tours of 2018 will provide a definitive answer to whether Virat Kohli and his boys are the 'team to beat' of this generation or not, but for now it's time to rejoice in the glory of this juggernaut.
Here is Cricketnext's analysis of the performances of the Indian players in the ODI series.
Ajinkya Rahane: Rating 8: Verdict: Very Good
Ajinkya Rahane might not be the first choice opener for India, given the fact that he seldom plays the attacking brand of cricket the current team has come to be known for, but his consistency is what makes him a very important part of the set-up. And that ability to grind it out in the face of some excellent seam bowling was on show in this series too. The Australian pace duo of Pat Cummins and Nathan Coulter-Nile posed problems for the Indian top order but Rahane's cool and calm demeanor on the crease helped the team weather the storm.
Apart from his failure in the first ODI in Chennai, where he was dismissed while uncharacteristically chasing a wide delivery outside the off-stump, Rahane was a paragon of stability and composure at the top of the order. Scores of 55, 70, 53 and 61 in the remaining four matches go on to show two things about the stylish stroke-maker. While Rahane does the hardwork and provides the team with a platform needed to launch an attack later on, he is unable to go on and get the big scores which the other two, first choice, Indian openers are capable of. Rahane is a valuable member in this Indian team set-up and perhaps the full extent of his importance will come to the fore when India starts touring abroad next year.
Rohit Sharma: Rating 8: Verdict: Very Good
Rohit Sharma's ability to take the opposition bowlers to the cleaners, on his day, and his effectiveness on Indian tracks makes him a colossus at the top of the batting order. Low scores in the first two matches meant Rohit was hungry for a big score and he chose the perfect setting to get back among the runs, as India made a mockery of Australia's total of 293 runs in the third match of the series at Indore.
Rohit's vicious attack, which saw him slam four maximums and six boundaries, set the stage for an easy victory. He was in his elements in the fourth match too and made a quickfire 65, with the help of five sixes this time, to set the stage for an exciting 330-plus chase, India though fell short this time. The bowlers ensured the 'Men in Blue' had a simple task of making it 4-1 in the final ODI at Nagpur and Rohit blasted his way to a knock of 125, to put the icing on the cake.
Virat Kohli: Rating 7: Verdict: Good
Such are the standards that the Indian captain has set in one-day internationals, that a series where he doesn't get past the century mark could well go down as a disappointing one. But the informed and educated cricket followers would know that the Indian captain is pretty much in-form and that was on display in Kolkata, as Kohli battled his way through some great seam bowling before finding his metre. Fans were waiting with bated breath for the 31st century, that would put him in second place behind Sachin Tendulkar in the list for most ODI centuries. But it wasn't to be as Kohli lost his stumps when on 92.
He got starts in the rest of the matches, all while batting second, but failed to get past the 40-run mark. In the field, Kohli was as active as ever, taking important calls in terms of bowling changes and field settings, which made Australia's job even tougher.
Hardik Pandya: Rating 9: Verdict: Excellent
His rise in the Indian team set-up has been meteoric and Hardik Pandya has delivered on the expectation of the team management so far. Every captain has a pet project and Pandya is that for Virat Kohli, who has unwavering faith in Pandya's all-round abilities. Hardik announced himself with a belligerent knock of 83 down the order in the first ODI, guided perfectly by the calm Mahendra Singh Dhoni, after India had suffered a top order collapse. He returned to take two wickets in a rain-curtailed chase and was adjudged the player of the match.
A valuable knock of 20 down the order on a difficult pitch at Eden Gardens helped India crawl past the 250-run score and the important scalp of Steven Smith with a well-guided bouncer meant Pandya had contributed to another Indian victory.
But the moment of the series arrived in Indore as Pandya was promoted to the no 4 slot in a big chase, and the Baroda boy delivered again. His measured attack on the left arm spin of Ashton Agar set up India's win as he scored 78. An attacking 41 in the fourth ODI wasn't enough to take India home at Bengaluru, but Hardik has given enough indication that he could be the answer to India's perennial search for a seam bowling all-rounder .
Kedar Jadhav: Rating 6: Verdict: Above Average
Kedar Jadhav has the onerous task of filling in to the shows of the likes of Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, two great performers in limited overs cricket, who were India's go-to-men in the slog overs. Jadhav showed maturity and good temperament as he steadied India's innings at Chennai after an early collapse, scoring 40 runs. He then combined with Pandya on a difficult track in Kolkata and his knock 24 eventually turned out to be crucial as India defended a low total.
His only other substantial contribution of the series as a knock of 67 in a losing cause in Bengaluru as he and the rest of the lower order failed to complete a big chase. Given his role in the team, Jadhav has so far been fairly effective. Not to forget his golden arm with the ball, broke a crucial partnership in the final ODI.
Manish Pandey: Rating 4: Verdict: Below Average
Manish Pandey had the perfect opportunity to prove his credentials under difficult circumstances, but failed to get going in the first two matches. A quickfire cameo (36*) towards the end of the innings in Indore took India to victory but the credit for that win belonged to Pandya. Pandey could have has his moment in Bengaluru, where he looked to be taking India through in a big chase, but his dismissal after scoring 37 runs put paid to India's hopes.
Pandey seems to be enjoying the management's confidence for now but with the likes of Raina and Yuvraj still around, the pressure is well and truly on the youngster.
MS Dhoni: Rating 5: Verdict: Average
Dhoni set the tone for the series with a knock of 79 in the opener at Chennai, which turned out to be a match-winning knock. He failed to make any big contribution with the bat in the remainder of the series, but Dhoni's lightening quick glovework and pearls of wisdom in the field make him an irreplaceable asset.
Yuzvendra Chahal: Rating 7: Verdict: Good
Chahal has for long been labelled as a T20 specialist, but the leggie showcased what he brings to the table in 50-over cricket, as he bamboozled the Australian batsmen in the first three matches. His spells of 3/30 and 2/34 in the first two matches respectively pretty much broke the back of Australia's batting.
A wicket-taking bowler who needs to be nurtured and given more opportunities in the run-up to the World Cup.
Kuldeep Yadav: Rating 7: Verdict: Good
Belonging to the rare breed of 'Chinaman' bowlers, Kuldeep has been another big find for Indian cricket. Still early days in his career, but Kuldeep has impressed one and all with his variety and ability to pick up wickets. His hat-trick at the Eden Gardens made the headlines but his performance at Chennai as well as Kolkata, despite a brutal assault from Maxwell is what impressed more.
Axar Patel: Rating 6: Verdict: Above Average
Axar Patel was unlucky to miss out on the first three ODIs after picking up an injury and his comeback match in Bengaluru didn't go as per plans as he was carted to all parts of Chinnaswamy by the Warner-Finch duo.
Axar though hit back with vengeance on a spin friendly track at Nagpur as his figures of 3/38 restricted Australia to a below par score. He stays in the mix as far as the core group of players for the World Cup is concerned, but the wicket-taking prowess of the wrist spin duo of Chahal and Kuldeep pretty much relegates him to the reserves category for now.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar: Rating 8: Verdict: Very Good
Bhuvi was impeccable with his line, length and control in the first three ODIs and had the Australian batsmen on the ropes. His spell of 3/9 at Kolkata was a stand-out performance while his economical bowling in Chennai was crucial in a 21-over chase. Bhuvneshwar's discipline both at the top of the innings and towards end makes him India's premier seam bowler in ODIs for now.
Jasprit Bumrah: Rating 8: Verdict: Very Good
Jasprit Bumrah continues to be India's go to bowler in the death overs and his prowess was there to be seen in this series too. Along with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Bumrah has managed to keep the experienced duo of Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami out of the playing XI.
His bowling figures of 2/52 in the third ODI at Indore and 2/51 in the final one-dayer do not do justice to his effectiveness in the death overs, perhaps the best in the world currently.
Umesh Yadav: Rating 7: Verdict: Good
Umesh Yadav picked up his 100th ODI wicket in his only outing at Bengaluru, where he ended with figures of 4/71. Umesh has always been in the team as a wicket-taker, and he played that role to perfection by picking up 4 wickets. India could have been chasing closer to 350-360, had he not dismissed Aaron Finch and Steve Smith in quick succession. He bowled with a lot of heart on a flat pitch and was rewarded accordingly.
Mohammed Shami: Rating 4: Verdict: Below Average
His constant battles with injuries have ensured Shami has gone down the pecking order in one-day internationals for India. He got a lone game on a flat deck at Bengaluru and his returns of 62 for no wickets shouldn't be looked much into.
Still remains one of India's best speedsters with the new ball, Shami would be hoping for a change in fortunes once India starts touring in 2018.
*KL Rahul and and Ravindra Jadeja were also in the squad but didn't get a game
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