Although the first ODI ended with honours even on paper, the scales would be uneven as far as the take-away from the drawn game is concerned. The general belief is that Australia had the game sealed, and the Indians were ripe for the picking. But 2.4 overs and 9 runs tell few stories. Besides, psychological advantages are often lost on the mercurial Indians.
The Australian batting looks ominous, more on account of the out-of-form players rather than those in form. Gilchrist and Symonds haven't had a big, all-destroying, match-winning innings that they are capable of for a while now, and they aren't the kind of batsmen who would lie low for too long. So a burst from one of them, in addition to the rich vein of form shown by the middle order could add up to a fair bit of trouble for the Indians.
The impact of the strong Australian batting performance on Saturday is seen by the increase in their team average, which shoots up from 38 as it stood before the Banglore match to 41.19 now, a good six points more than that of the Indians, at 35.78. India's key hope would rest with digging deeper into the hole left by the absence of Ponting (43.31) and Hussey (58.90), by getting Hopes and Haddin early (assuming Ponting doesn't play, which may or may not happen, as things stand now).
India, on the other hand, will be missing the hamstrung Ganguly. India's team average is at 35.7 and Ganguly's average is at 41.43. With Ganguly's most likely replacement - Robin Uthappa - batting at an average of 34.08, it will mean that to prevent the load of filling the southpaw's shoes from spilling on to the rest of the regular batsmen, Uthappa will have to bat better than par, and a 40+ score would do just fine.
With Bracken not yet available but likely to take part in the 3rd ODI at Hyderabad, it will be up to India to make hay when the sun is shining.
Ramesh Powar was the weakest link in the Indian bowling line up in the first ODI, conceding at over 8 an over. More importantly, he was bowling to one of Australia's key strengths - the middle order (although, to be honest, that wouldn't have mattered too much, given that they have strengths spread through the batting line up.) A key difference for India would be that with Harbhajan Singh fit, he is likely to replace Powar, and that would possibly give Clarke, Haddin and co. a slightly thornier path to navigate.
Meanwhile, the other front on which the battle will be fought is the top order. R.P.Singh and Zaheer Khan haven't shown enough evidence to qualify them as major threats on a pitch that isn't offering too much help. Much will depend on which side of the bed Sreesanth gets out of. Helped by the home crowd, if he can find himself on the rosier side of the line of inconsistency and help knock the top order over, India will find the momentum they need to propel themselves forward and beat the odds.
All this, of course, if the rains let up and allow the match to take place. Even as we speak, rains are lashing Kochi and the forecast is not too bright (no pun intended). If we do have a curtailed game, it will play in India's favour, as a match requiring concentrated brilliance is right up India's alley, as against one needing sustained levels of performance, which Australia specialize in.