Aus V Ind ODI series 2020: Pandya the shining light in underwhelming start for India

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Even as India avoided a series whitewash by claiming the third ODI in Canberra, both teams already had one eye to the upcoming T20I series. In a whirlwind start to India’s tour of Australia that will see the sides play no fewer than 6 limited overs matches in just 12 days, the ODI series, which the Australians won 2-1, took on an almost ephemeral quality. Yet even in such a fleeting and compact series, there were memorable moments aplenty.

Pandya’s powerful performances

Hardik Pandya of India bats during the third ODI cricket match between Australia and India at Manuka Oval, Canberra, Wednesday, December 2, 2020.
Hardik Pandya. Source: Joe Kennedy

India’s best batsman of the series, Pandya has looked a transformed player since returning to the side from a lower-back injury that has seen him all but abandon his bowling role and play as a frontline batsman.

In his three innings, Pandya amassed 210 runs at an average of 105 and a strike rate of nearly 115, including two career-best scores of 90 and 92*. It was an assured performance from the most explosive player in India’s team, who will have a critical role to play in the upcoming T20 internationals.

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India’s fielding woes

This series, the Indians donned an adaptation of their 1992 World Cup jersey, and at least during the first ODI, you could have been forgiven for assuming India had sent its 1992 team as well, such was the woefulness of India’s fielding.

While under MS Dhoni and most recently Virat Kohli, India has become one of the best fielding sides in the world, most fans will remember the abysmal standard set by those before them. In the first ODI, India dropped and mis-fielded so often, Kohli would have been close to spontaneously combusting – if only he himself had not also been guilty of the schoolboy error of letting a ball go through his legs.

Fans ecstatic to be back at the cricket. Source: Joe Kennedy

Even just one of these may well have cost India the match, and as it ultimately turned out, the series: Shikhar Dhawan’s misjudged attempt to catch a skied ball from Steve Smith when the Australian great was on just 38* cost the Indians 67 runs, with Smith scoring a sublime 105. Australia’s margin of victory? 66 runs.

 Win the toss, win the match? 

India would have taken solace in the fact that their two losses in the series came after they lost the toss amidst a sweltering heatwave in Sydney that capped Australia’s hottest November on record. As Australia racked up enormous totals, so too did the Indian batsmen and fielders wilt, and though they made valiant efforts in the ensuing chases, the damage was already done in the first innings.

Indian cricket fans were unfazed by the weak fielding. Source: Joe Kennedy

In contrast, in the final ODI in Canberra, Virat Kohli called correctly and India scraped home in a thriller, saving the blushes that accompany a whitewash. It was not the kind of thrashing India would have liked to mete out after their sufferings in the first two matches, but nor was the Canberra heat as sapping for the Australians in the field.

The toss will, however, be less relevant for the imminent T20 series, so Kohli will be bereft of excuses if Australia once again rack up massive totals, this time in the shortest format.

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Ritam Mitra
Ritam Mitra
Ritam is an award-winning journalist and lawyer based in Sydney. Ritam writes on domestic and global politics, human rights and social justice, and sport.

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