In Stats: Why India Are Favourites Against Australia in T20 Series
Second-ranked Team India will have the opportunity to close the gap on table-toppers Pakistan in the ICC T20I rankings when they begin the T20I series against Australia on Wednesday. The first match of the three-match series will be played at the Gabba in Brisbane.
Team India, led by Virat Kohli, are overwhelming favourites to win the series, while the hosts, who are going through some tumultuous times, will do well to compete. It is worth reminding that Team India, who have been in red-hot form this year, whitewashed the Australians when the two teams met Down Under in 2016.
Team India have won seven consecutive T20I series and haven't lost a T20I series since July 2017. So far this year, Team India have won T20I series at home (against the Windies), in South Africa, Ireland and England, and even clinched the Nidahas Trophy triangular series in Sri Lanka.
Team India's first XI has a formidable look to it and the team has most bases covered. Each of the top three batsmen are in red-hot form, and the bowling unit is packed with a variety of wicket-taking bowlers.
Shikhar Dhawan has hit a purple patch and the expectations will be for him to carry his form through the three T20Is; the left-hander will enjoy the conditions in Australia, where the ball comes on to the bat nicely, allowing for stroke play.
The area of concern for Team India’s management, if anything, has to be players haven’t nailed their places in the middle-order. Whichever three players – from among KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant – gets to play will have three matches to prove they can polish off matches.
The hosts are in complete disarray at the moment. Only recently, they were beaten at home by their nemesis South Africa; they lost the ODI series 1-2 and were handed a sound thrashing in the one-off T20I.
It isn't that Australia is a team of rookies or don't have players with the necessary skill. The players are facing immense pressure in the aftermath of the ball tampering episode from earlier this year. One wouldn't be wrong in saying the Australian players are facing a confidence crisis, and that can only be overcome by playing more, winning often and enjoying those wins. Where they are at the moment, Australia need to cultivate the habit of winning.
The on-field problem that has plagued Australia recently is that they have tended to cede massive ground to the opposition very early in the contest. Even though it's only a 20-over contest, Australia will do well to play out a few deliveries early-on before launching, and when bowling they need to bowl a few tight overs early on and look to build pressure.
There are four players in the Australian batting line-up who can blow away opponents single-handedly; Aaron Finch (record-holder for the highest score in T20Is), D'Arcy Short, Chris Lynn and Glenn Maxwell have batting strike-rates in excess of 140 in T20 cricket and have established a reputation of being match-winners. Yet, they have a combined aggregate of 173 runs in their last four T20Is – when that should have been the contribution of each one of those four players.
On the bowling front, Australia are wasting no time in sending the Indian camp a message that their pace bowling department is their strongest suit. It is likely that in Brisbane, Australia will field a bowling attack that will test the Indian batting line-up thoroughly.
Andrew Tye is the top wicket-taker in T20Is this year, while Marcus Stoinis has picked up several wickets in the last few matches. Add Billy Stanlake, and one of Nathan Coulter-Nile or Jason Beherendorff into the mix, and Australia will have a formidable pace attack.
India have everything in their favour; they have the wood over Australia, they have momentum on their side, and their players are in form. Therefore, one should expect Team India to dominate the series. Anything less than that will be seen as a failure to do justice to potential.