Margao: Australia might be winless so far in India in the ongoing tour with only the third and final ODI remaining to be played on Sunday, but visiting team coach Tim Nielsen today said they have been competitive having lost the two Tests and the lone 50-over match by narrow margins.
Australia lost both the Tests and go into the final ODI on October 24 here trailing the hosts 0-1 after losing the previous tie at Visakhapatnam on October 20.
“It’s harsh. We played just one game (ODI). We made 290 and we just got beaten. We lost the first Test match at Mohali when one ball could have made the difference,” he said about the two close matches that Australia, who used to revel in such situations in the past, lost.
In the thrilling Mohali Test, Australia could not separate the last wicket partnership between V V S Laxman and Pragyan Ojha as India coasted home to 216.
Despite the winless tour so far, Nielsen said there were positives to be taken for his side.
“It’s been good, especially for our bowling group. We had both (Mitchell) Starc and (John) Hastings making debuts in the Vizag game and (Clint) Mckay has played only once (at Vizag) after a gap of 10 ODIs. It’s been an excellent experience for our young bowling group,” said Nielsen after the team practice session at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
“It was nice to see our senior players (captain Michael) Clarke, (Mike) Hussey and (Cameron) White giving us a competitive total (in the ODI). We think we can defend 290 more often than not. It needed a wonderful innings from (Virat) Kohli to get India across the line,” he said.
Clarke hit an unbeaten 111, Hussey made 69 and White slammed 89 in 49 balls but all their efforts went in vain as Kohli hit a match-winning 118 in 121 balls and India reached the imposing total of 290 with five wickets and seven balls to spare at Visakhapatnam to lead the series 1-0.
The first ODI at Kochi on October 17 was washed out and there is a distinct threat of rains affecting the match here too as the sky was overcast on Friday.
Nielsen insisted that the team was not pressing the panic buttons with the 2011 World Cup just round the corner in the sub-continent and declared that the team has been very competitive.
“We are not panicking at all. We understand we haven’t got the result on the scoreboard we would have liked but we have been very competitive. If you add the loss of (Ricky) Ponting, (Mitchell) Johnson, (Shane) Watson, (Mike) Hussey, (Shaun) Tait, (Brett) Lee to this one day side, we would take this side,” he said confidently.
Nielsen defended off spinner Nathan Hauritz, who has been flogged mercilessly by the Indian batsmen, saying that he had performed very well over the last two years and that the lack of bounce on the wickets here undid him.
“His performance is better in Test cricket than what he has done here in India. We have talked quite a bit since the end of the second Test match. (He’s) started getting used to the conditions. Probably because of the slowness of the wickets here, the lack of bounce on the wickets here he could not get the assistance he gets in Australia.
“The Indian spinners put a lot of top spin on the ball to try and get the ball to bounce. In Australia the wickets are harder and we probably concentrate more on sidespin. It’s a big difference when you play in these conditions, something Nathan has to do to get adjusted to the playing conditions here,” the Australian coach said.
Nielsen also pointed out that the lack of experience in the new ball bowling in the absence of several key fast bowlers put extra pressure on those bowling the middle overs in the ODIs.
“He (Huaritz) has done a good job for us in one day cricket in the last 18 months. If anything we are lacking it is the experience in fast bowling group that we had in the past. When we won the Champions Trophy in South Africa last year we had (Peter) Siddle, Lee and Johnson as our first three bowlers. That makes it a lot easier when bowlers like 4 and 5 come into the attack.
“We have Starc, Hastings and Mckay who have played very little international cricket. It puts pressure on our middle bowlers. Probably it was a little bit evident the other night when we did not take early wickets. But I still think Huaritz is a very good one-day bowler and has done very well for us in the last couple of years,” he added.
The Australia coach expected the wicket for Sunday’s match to be of low bounce and slow that may aid the batsmen if the sun shone brightly before the start of the match.
“Had a quick look today. Looks like it has rained quite heavily in the last couple of days and I’m not sure it has seen a lot of sunshine. I don’t think it will be a hard, fast, bouncy wicket. Still (there are) two days to go. Tomorrow, if the sun comes out they can roll a bit more. Though the wicket may be a bit slow could be a good batting wicket,” he said.