While Australia suffered their first whitewash in the last 30 years in Test cricket when they toured India six months ago, their One-Day International (ODI) record against India in the last 20 years is second only to Pakistan. Casting aside the rain-interrupted ODI series in 2010 in which only a solitary game was played, the last time Australia lost an ODI series in India was all the way back in 1996.
Since 1996, Australia have participated in an ODI series in India every couple of years and boasts a record of 17 wins and 13 loses. This equates to a 55 per cent win percentage; only Pakistan have a better winning percentage (62 per cent) when it comes to ODIs.
One of the keys to Australia’s success has been their ability to defend totals. Out of the 17 matches where Australia have batted first, they have managed to win 11 of them. Importantly, in those 17 matches, Australia have been able to post a total of 290 or more on eight occasions. If Australia are to be competitive in the upcoming series they will need to score huge totals, given the general nature of ODI tracks in India where they tend to be flat and full of runs.
Shane Watson at the top will once again have to bear the major responsibility for Australia’s batting. Watson and Brad Haddin are the only batsmen in the squad to play an ODI previously in India. Watson has a healthy average of 41 in India, but like his Test career he is yet to cross the three-figure mark from his eight outings. While a majority of the others have played T20 cricket, they are still not exposed to tackling spin during the middle overs with fieldsmen patrolling the boundaries. Haddin averages over 60 in India and will need to play a pivotal role if Australia are to amass totals close to the 300 mark.
The other reason for Australia’s formidable record in India is the fact that they have managed to restrict the influence of India’s middle-order stars, Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Dhoni is arguably the best finisher in the game today and Yuvraj has been the backbone of India’s middle-order for well over a decade. However, both of these fine ODI cricketers have only modest records against the Aussies even at home.
Dhoni’s average of 38.15 is more than 10 runs per match shy of his impressive ODI average of 51. Similarly, Yuvraj’s average drops to 31 compared to his overall average of 37. Yuvraj will return to the Indian side after being omitted from India’s Champions Trophy triumph and he is expected to bat at number four. At least Australia will be hoping for that, as the left-hander’s average at number four against Australia is a paltry 25. Overall, Yuvraj’s record against Australia is the worst among all other Test nations. Luckily for Australia, one of the two men that have had success against Dhoni and Yuvraj is currently at the peak of his powers. Mitchell Johnson has dismissed Dhoni on three occasions and Yuvraj twice.
Statistically, Australia know the secret of winning in India; the question is can they execute it at least in the shorter format of the game?
(Gaurav Joshi is an Indian-born Australian who played with Michael Clarke in his junior days. He coaches and reports for a Sydney radio station. Over the years he has freelanced for Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and is a regular on ABC cricket show Cow Corner. He is the author of the book “Teen Thunder Down Under” – The inside story of India’s 2012 U19 World Cup Triumph.)