With an Eye on World T20, India and Australia Renew Fierce Rivalry

India gets ready as they renew their rivalry against Australia in the first of the five-match ODI series. 

Updated
Sports
3 min read
India’s captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni speaks during a press conference ahead of the team’s departure for the limited-overs cricket tour of Australia, in Mumbai. (Photo: AP)

India will look to get their combination right as they renew their rivalry against a confident Australia in the first of the five-match ODI series starting Tuesday. It will mark the onset of a long limited-overs schedule stretching until the World T20.

The short limited overs series, including five ODIs and three T20 internationals, down under will initiate the Indian team’s preparations for the marquee ICC World T20 scheduled in March-April. The T20 games will be played after the five ODIs, and Dhoni’s boys would like to carry the momentum in the shortest format.

While India won both their warm-up games – a T20 and 50-over match each – against the second string Western Australia XI, it is certainly not the best indicator of the kind of challenge they will face from Steve Smith’s men.

Indian players from left, Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami, Ajinkya Rahane, and Manish Pandey pose during a press conference (Photo: AP)
Indian players from left, Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami, Ajinkya Rahane, and Manish Pandey pose during a press conference (Photo: AP)

India did not have a great 2015 when they came to the 50-over format as they lost back-to-back series to Bangladesh (away) and South Africa (at home). Skipper Dhoni will like to turn the tables in the new year but will rue the fact that one of his best pace weapons, Mohammed Shami, has been ruled out due to a hamstring injury even before the first ball has been bowled. But there are certain aspects that might also relieve Dhoni.

The fact that David Warner may not be available for better part of the series and with Mitchell Starc or the now retired Mitchell Johnson not there, the Aussie bowling attack comprising Josh Hazlewood, Joel Paris, Scott Boland and Jimmy Faulkner looks thin on experience. As far as his own bowling attack is concerned, Dhoni has been fretting over the possible playing XI combinations.

His most experienced bowler Ishant Sharma did not play any of the two warm-up games, so it’s not known whether he would be playing in the opening game. With three pacers almost certain to play at the WACA, which is the bounciest of Australian pitches, there are high chances that left-arm pacer Barinder Sran could win his maiden India cap alongside Ishant and Umesh Yadav.

The lanky Sran looked impressive in both the practice matches, with both pace and swing in his armoury. With a deceptive short ball, Sran could prove to be a handful, complementing Ishant and Umesh. The two experienced spin-bowling all-rounders Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja will make up the five-pronged bowling attack for India.

India’s captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni speaks during a press conference (Photo: AP)
India’s captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni speaks during a press conference (Photo: AP)

The batting unit looks more or less settled with Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan in the opening slots followed by vice captain Virat Kohli at No 3. Ajinkya Rahane is expected at No 4 and one might find the Indian captain batting at No 5. In the middle-order, the No 6 slot will see a new face.

One among Manish Pandey or Gurkeerat Singh will be playing in slot that got vacated due to Suresh Raina’s exclusion from the squad. The other option could be seamer all-rounder Rishi Dhawan. But the pace at which he bowls, and his batting abilities on this kind of track, has not really been tested.

The year is going to be important for Dhoni, with the World T20 in two months time. For him, a lot will depend on how his pace battery delivers.

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