In 2015 when India lost an ODI against South Africa at Wankhede by 214 runs, chasing 439, MS Dhoni summed it up by saying that he cannot judge his team’s performance because there was no performance at all.
Over four years later, at the same venue, India failed to turn up once more as Australia beat them convincingly by 10 wickets inside 38 overs to take a 1-0 lead in the 3-match ODI series.
David Warner (128*) and Aaron Finch (110*) went on a record spree as they smashed a century each while stitching together a partnership of 258* - the highest opening partnership in India ever, the highest ever partnership for any wicket in India while batting 2nd and the highest partnership against India ever.
After stumbling to a modest total with a middle-over collapse, the pacers let the team down, failing to offer any control against the Aussie openers.
Only 12 of the 37.4 overs did not witness a boundary as the duo toyed with the Indian bowling attack. Nine overs were taken for more than one boundary as all the pacers went for more than seven runs an over on a forgetful day.
Since a renewed emphasis on quality pace bowling, it is not often when India’s bowling attack is made a mockery of. This was exactly what Finch and Warner did from the get-go as they scored 84 runs in the first 10 overs.
Thrashing all the three pace bowlers, the pair hit two or more boundaries in five of the first ten overs. Feeding on the half-volleys offered by the pacers, Finch struck eight boundaries on the off-side during this period. Five of them came against Mohammed Shami and three against Jasprit Bumrah.
Warner was quiet till the sixth over when he was given out caught behind by the on-field umpire off Shardul Thakur. Surviving after a review, Warner annihilated Thakur, thrashing him for 28 runs in his next two overs.
Kuldeep Yadav’s introduction troubled Finch slightly but the fours against pacers converted to sixes against spinners as neither he nor Jadeja could provide India with a breakthrough and were taken for five boundaries each.
On a day when all the bowlers struggled, Virat Kohli was most let down Bumrah's off day. Bowling too short or too full, the go-to bowler for the Indian skipper was taken for two boundaries an over in four of his seven overs.
The lack of battle-hardened cricket since the World Cup was on display resulting in this game to be an eye-opener for the Indian team. While it may take a while to get this loss out of their system, the game leaves a lot of questions for India to answer. None more important than their approach towards the inexperienced Aussie spinners and the selection of Thakur over Navdeep Saini.
Since the World Cup semi-final debacle, this was perhaps the first time the India batting line-up was put to the test against a bowling attack more potent than any other they have faced in this period. As Rohit Sharma and Kohli failed to get going, most of the young Indian batsmen failed the first real test, as India were dismissed for 255 in the 50th over.
To solve the opener's debate, India resorted to playing all three openers on offer, pushing Kohli to bat at number 4. The experiment did work in figures but failed to impact in form as KL Rahul gave away his start to a loose drive hit straight to cover after a 121-run stand between himself and Shikhar Dhawan
Dhawan’s everlasting ODI form was the high point of the Indian innings but he too gifted his wicket away on 74 as India lost four wickets in six overs. A series of occurrences that broke India’s back, Kohli (16) was caught and bowled by Adam Zampa just after thumping him for a six.
Shreyas Iyer (4) too failed to prove his merit against a tough bowling attack as he edged a drive loosely played off Mitchell Starc to Alex Carey.
The lower order helped by contributing 91 runs off the last 16.1 overs of the innings to drag India to a face-saving total. Numbers 6 to 10 all contributed with double-digit scores but none carried on for a 30+ innings.
Increasingly confident with the bat, Ravindra Jadeja (25) played a few quality strokes – a slog sweep for six against Ashton Agar and a well-placed touch off Starc to the third man boundary. Rishabh Pant (28), uncharacteristically did not go gung-ho straight away. Resisting himself for nine overs, Pant attacked Agar with a six and a four but couldn’t carry on as Pat Cummins dismissed him with a bouncer an over later.
With his exploits with the bat adding to his selection merit, Thakur contributed 13 before Starc cleaned him up with a yorker. Kuldeep added a crucial 17 that included a couple of fancy drives against Starc – demonstrating the batting-friendly nature of the track.
The Australian bowlers did not let the Indian innings gather any momentum as they kept picking quick wickets either side of the partnership between Dhawan and Rahul. Starc picked three wickets while Cummins and Kane Richardson chipped in with two each. Zampa and Ashton Agar contributed with crucial wickets of Kohli and Rahul respectively.
Earlier in the day, the wicket appeared flat when Rohit Sharma started the Indian innings with two fours off Starc, nonchalantly hit to pierce the cover region in the first over. But that was probably just Rohit’s class because the order was restored right away.
Bowling immaculate channels, Cummins had given only 5 runs in his first three overs as India managed to add only 11 runs in the next five overs. In an attempt to accelerate, Rohit (10 off 15) mistimed a drive off Starc in the air that carried to Warner at mid-off. True to speculation, Rahul walked in at three. After a stuttering start, Dhawan survived after opening his face to a short ball from Cummins that fell just short of Adam Zampa at third man.
Tim Paine’s dismal record with the DRS seemed to have rubbed off on Finch. Australia reviewed an LBW shout against Dhawan later in the over only to find the ball pitching outside leg stump.
The wickets of Rahul and Dhawan fell in consecutive overs after a seemingly lean patch in retrospect where the pair added 47 runs in 12 overs (Overs 17-28). 11 of those were bowled by Zampa and Ashton Agar.
Earlier in the day, India went with only five bowlers in the team. They included both Dhawan and Rahul in the team, along with the incumbent Rohit. Surprisingly, Navdeep Saini was left out of the XI with Thakur included at his expense. The juggle between spinners continued as Kuldeep was preferred over Yuzvendra Chahal.
Citing dew as a factor, Finch opted to field. Marnus Labuschagne is set to make his ODI debut as Josh Hazlewood was left out for Kane Richardson. Unsurprisingly, Kohli too said he would have liked to field first.