India vs Australia 2019: 3 major talking points from the ODI series

Deepak Panda

When Australia landed on Indian soil for the ODI and T20 series, they were coming off a horrible one year, having won just two out of 18 games in 2018. Moreover, they had just succumbed to their first ever bilateral series defeat at home against India.

The odds were heavily against the sixth-ranked team before the start of the series.

The series started in expected fashion, with India winning the first two games. Australia, however, did not go down without a fight and bounced back in style to win the series by winning 3 consecutive games.

En route the series victory, Australia became the first team to beat India in two consecutive ODIs in India since Pakistan in 2012-13.

Here, we look at five major takeaways from the hard-fought series:

1. Rishabh Pant is not ready for the World Cup

While Pant is a promising prospect, it will not be wise to rush him into the World Cup

The selectors have had a tough time settling in on the slot for the backup wicket-keeper. Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant were picked in turns to make sure both of them got enough opportunities to stake their claims for a World Cup berth.

Now that India have played their last ODI before the mega event, who should make the cut?

Talking about wicket-keeping, as evident from this series, Pant has a lot to improve - and no doubt he will. But taking him as a backup wicket-keeper ahead of Karthik would be foolish.

With MS Dhoni behind the stumps, Karthik or Pant might play as a pure batsman. And in that case, again, Karthik is a way better fielder than Pant.

As far as batting is concerned, Pant did show glimpses of brilliance, but he still lacks the temperament to stay and finish games. No doubt he has played most of his career as a top-order batsman, but he will be given the role of a finisher or a pinch-hitter if he gets into the XI in the World Cup.

With Karthik at number 6 or 7, the lower middle order looks a lot more stable. It's not that Pant cannot perform the role to perfection; it's just that Karthik's experience is something India will need more for the finisher's slot.

Pant is, of course, the future of Indian cricket. But rushing him into this World Cup will not do any good, neither for him nor for the team.

2. Australia are back

Australia are back to their best even without Smith and Warner

With just 2 wins from 18 games in 2018 and a series loss against India at home to start the year 2019, Australia seemed to be underdogs going into the World Cup. Coming into this series, the sixth-ranked Aussies seemingly had little chance against an in-form Indian team in India.

But what transpired will raise the hopes of every Australian fan for the title defense in the World Cup.

After being down 0-2, Australia bounced back to win three consecutive games to take the series, their first on Indian soil since 2009. The team, which had seen only patches of individual brilliance over the past year, fired in unison to dump the second-ranked Indian side.

The out of form openers found their mojo with Usman Khawaja scoring two hundreds and a 95 in the last three games and Aaron Finch returning to form after long. Peter Handscomb ably fulfilled the role Steven Smith used to play, and Glenn Maxwell seemed to have new-found determination in him. Ashton Turner, the hero from the fourth game, showed his finishing prowess.

Adam Zampa was the wrecker-in-chief with the ball, getting the better of most Indian batsmen numerous throughout the series. Pat Cummins was on a wicket-taking spree and young Jhye Richardson was impressive too.

Now with Smith, Warner, Starc and Hazelwood to return for the World Cup, Australia have a problem of plenty, something which they will happily accept.

3. Eye-opener for India

India should not read too much into the losses but take these as learnings

Going into the series India started as clear favorites, and they looked to try out a few combinations to settle in on the World Cup squad. The series started with a Dhoni-Jadhav special, a repeat of the preceding ODI the two teams played against each other at Melbourne. The second game was won by a brilliant comeback with the ball at the death.

But then came three consecutive losses, much to everyone's surprise. And the reasons for all three defeats were different.

The third game saw the top order fail, except Virat Kohli. The middle order batsmen all got starts but could not sustain their play. The bowlers failed to pick wickets with the new ball too.

The fourth game saw India letting the opposition off the hook after having them at 12/2 while chasing 359. The use of non-regular bowlers instead of the strike bowlers allowed the batsmen to settle and take the game deep. And at the death, the unexpected happened when Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah were hit for more than 60 runs in nearly 4 overs.

The fifth game was a combination of both, ineffective new ball spells followed by runs leaking at the death, and that too to the tail-enders. A collective batting failure followed, except for a gutsy stand between Kedar Jadhav and Bhuvneshwar.

Having lost three consecutive games going into the World Cup, India do not have momentum on their side. But the fact that they were trying out a few combinations for selecting the World Cup squad, which never let them play with their preferred combination and strongest XI, has to be considered.

These losses will undoubtedly serve as wake-up calls for India and will prevent any kind of complacency from creeping in.