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What lies ahead for Australia after ODI series loss to India?

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Indian cricket team veteran MS Dhoni consigned Australia to yet another ODI series defeat. It was a poor sight to see the Aussies going deep into a hole, from which there is no respite at the moment. Dhoni delivered another spectacular knock to lead India to a dramatic seven-wicket victory at the MCG.

It was India’s maiden bilateral ODI series win in Australia. Indian skipper Virat Kohli will be pleased with the effort shown by his side. India came out unscathed from their tour of Australia. Set 231 to win Friday’s decider, India chased their target with four balls to spare to claim a 2-1 series victory and cap off a summer of unprecedented triumph.

The hosts on the other hand reel under tremendous pressure. They lost their seventh successive ODI series and are winless for over two years now. The ICC World Cup 2019 will start from May 30 onwards and Australia have little time to make grounds. So much so, the defending champions could be in for a real battle from now on and they have less time to react.

Australia could have won this series. They did not take the chances in the third match at the MCG. Dhoni was dropped twice and most importantly he was let off on zero by Glenn Maxwell at point. A player with one of the greatest pair of hands, missed a sitter. Dhoni went on to score 87* and seal the win for India.

Virat Kohli was dropped on 10 by Peter Handscomb. He went on to get to 46. Several run-out chances were missed as well. Overall, that summed up the show for Aaron Finch’s men, who look disdained and short of confidence at the moment. Australia will take aplenty of positives though. It was a young side and there were some promising moments throughout the series.

Where do Australia get to from here on? Here we analyse the same.

Alarm bells ringing for the Aussies

Aussie players congratulate MS Dhoni after India’s victory. (Image: Twitter @ICC)

Ahead of the World Cup, the last thing Australia would have wanted was to endure poor run off form in ODI cricket. It has been too long and predictable from the Men in Yellow. This shows that the alarm bells are ringing for the team’s World Cup title defence.

Australia have won the title a record five times, but this time they are below the standards of what’s expected out of them. For a side that has dominated the 50-over format like nobody else, Aussies look a side that will need time to get back to their groove.

Out of the seven series defeats since the start of 2017, two have come against India (home and away). Against England as well, they have faced a similar show. South Africa and New Zealand are two other sides to have defeated them. Another loss came in the 2017 Champions Trophy.

Now when you look at these losses, six bilateral series defeats have all come against quality outfits. One fancies England and India to be the favourites for the World Cup. SA and NZ can challenge for the title. Australia are off the pace at the moment.

Side can learn from mistakes, but where is the time?

Indian platers celebrate a victory against Australia in the ODI series. (Image: Twitter @ICC)

Australia play two Tests next against Sri Lanka at home. Post that it is a five-match ODI series against India, which is their only shot to try their luck out in the 50-over format. Australia are a side that looks unsure about many positions in the squad. The series in the sub-continent against India becomes altogether more crucial for them to gain something.

Australia put up some decent stands throughout the series, but they lacked the intensity to go the distance. They were 20-25 runs short in Adelaide, despite having the platform to go strong. In Melbourne, they collapsed from a strong position. In both these ODIs. Australia lost their set batsmen in the same over. Something they need to address quickly.

Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb are in form and look like the only two batsmen that can have an impact. But what about the rest? Where is the consistency? Usman Khawaja cannot keep throwing away the starts. What the players need is to learn from someone like MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli. The ability to put a price on the wicket is missing at the moment.

Things look unsettled for Australia

Indian players celebrate the fall of an Aussie wicket at the MCG. (Image: Twitter @ICC)

Two of their main batsmen in David Warner and Steve Smith will see their 12-month ban end on March 28. They are in contention for a role in the World Cup, but recent injuries have shadowed the comeback. Warner is likely to make a return for the IPL and then can present a case for the World Cup. But same cannot be said about Smith, whose participation is a doubt.

Smith’s recovery along with lack of cricket could be a huge gamble for Australia. Moreover, three of their main pacers haven’t played much ODI cricket of late. From the current lot that played against India, only Jhye Richardson looked like a real bet. He is a must for the World Cup given his form and potential.

The spin options are a worry. Adam Zampa should be backed, but he needs wickets to present a real threat. Nathan Lyon is a world class Test bowler, but lacks the character in ODIs. Lyon has played only 17 ODIs since his debut in 2012, and has a modest record of 18 wickets at 42.83. Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell are two all-rounders, but they need the consistency level to be high.

Beating India at their own backyard in ODIs will be a huge task for the Aussies. That could harm their confidence even further. Australia’s woes against spin is another problem  Unless the Australians can rectify this issue, they have little chance of securing a fifth World Cup.

Langer draws heart from recent shows against India

Jhye Richardson celebrates the wicket of Virat Kohli at the MCG. (Image: Twitter @ICC)

Australia head coach Justin Langer backed his young one-day side to learn from the mistakes they made against India. Langer said his team will take confidence from the fact that they came close to winning the last two matches in Adelaide and Melbourne against a very strong opponent filled with big guns.

“I honestly believe we should take great confidence out of this series. India are a gun side and we got very, very close to them. We could have won tonight if we’d taken our chances, we could have won the other night (in Adelaide). So we should take great confidence out of that,” said the coach in his press match conference.

“I honestly think there’s some light at the end of the tunnel for this team, I really do.” But the question is, will Australia see any light in England?

Australia open their campaign against Afghanistan on June 1.

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