In Stats: Smith Out, India Start Favourites in T20 Series vs Aus
India face off against Australia in the first T20 in Ranchi on Saturday.
A confident India will look to extend their domination, while a hapless Australia would aim for a change of fortunes in the three-match T20 series beginning in Ranchi on Saturday.
India dominated the limited over series against Australia with a 4-1 win to reclaim the number one ODI rankings and the hosts would be keen for a perfect finish to the T20I series. A reliable pool of bowlers in both pace and spin department to complement their traditional batting might is what makes Virat Kohli's side look so formidable.
They have looked flawless, be it against reigning world champions Australia or a new-look Sri Lanka. The rise of Hardik Pandya, the guile of the two wrist spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal have made life difficult for Australia in the one-day series.
Adding another positive in the home team’s column is Cricket Australia’s announcement that skipper Steve Smith has been ruled out of the three match series due to an injury. David Warner has been named the captain in his place.
But come T20Is, it could be worse for Australia as India boast of a 9-4 head-to-head record.
In the last T20I bilateral series, India made a 3-0 clean sweep in Australia in January last year while they have lost only once out of the five series played between the two nations.
For India, all eyes would be on old warhorse Ashish Nehra who has been recalled for the T20I series, having last played against England in February this year.
The 38-year-old's ability to notch up pace and his death bowling ability will be a key factor for India as the left-arm pacer would add variety to the pace attack of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah.
Nehra has played 26 T20Is and took 34 wickets and still has the world batsmen in awe, something that was seen during the Sunrisers Hyderabad's campaign in IPL.
Man-of-the-series in the ODI series, Pandya – 222 runs at an average of 55.50 and six wickets – has been able to establish himself as a key player in the side. He is seen as a vital cog in the wheel for India's road to 2019 World Cup.
His match-winning 66-ball 83 at number 7 in the first ODI in Chennai with a hat-trick of sixes against Adam Zampa not only demoralised the Aussies but virtually sealed the momentum of the series in favour of India.
Then came a 72-ball 78 after he was promoted to number 4 in the Indore third ODI. The Baroda lad will turn 24 next week and he has already being levelled as the next 'Kapil Dev in the making'.
Pandya along with Kedar Jadhav will be the two key Indian all-rounders while opener Rohit Sharma, the top run-getter in the ODI series (296 runs), will look to continue his good run.
Shikhar Dhawan, who had opted out of the five-match ODI series, is back after attending to his ill wife, while there's also KL Rahul who has been chosen ahead of Ajinkya Rahane despite the latter's four successive fifties in the ODIs.
Rahul has happy memories of Ranchi as the last time India played at the JSCA International Stadium Complex in a Test versus Australia, he scored a 67 in a drawn affair.
His return from a shoulder injury has not been up to the mark as he did not get a chance to play in the ODI series but Rahul has been retained for the T20I series and he would look to make it count.
For Australia, it's paramount to get back to winning rhythm with the Ashes series beckoning in a month's time.
Their over reliance on Steve Smith and David Warner and the middle order's failure to capitalise was the reason behind Australia's failure in the ODI series.
With the middle order equally inconsistent, the onus will be on the opening duo of Warner and Aaron Finch to give them a strong start.
Finch scored 250 runs in three innings, while Warner made 245 runs from five outings in the just-concluded ODI series and they would hold the key to their campaign in the T20Is.
The uncapped left-arm speedster Jason Behrendorff, along with wicketkeeper-batsman Tim Paine, all-rounders Moises Henriques and Dan Christian, are the new additions in Australia's T20I squad.
With James Pattinson ruled out for the Ashes, Behrendorff will be closely monitored in the T20I series. He along with Nathan Coulter-Nile, the leading wicket-taker in the ODI series, will look to make an impact.
Behrendorff maintained that the "morale" of the side is good despite the 1-4 loss in the ODI series.
We speak a lot about having a good attitude at training and games. We are doing everything we can to remain positive. That’s a big part for the new guys coming into the group. We need to keep the ground buzzing.Jason Behrendorff
(Statistics by Arun Gopalakrishnan)
(With inputs from PTI)
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