With the ICC World Cup just three months away, Team India will still be indulging in fine-tuning on what will be the final stretch before the mega event. At the same time, the target of series win can’t be ignored as well. The men in blue will be targeting to find the best possible way to give as much game time as possible to those who they view as reserves – players 12 to 15 in the 15-man squad in England.
On Saturday, the five-match ODI series is scheduled to start and the reserves might have to be tested, even if it brings along a few tweaks to the overall combination of the team. How the likes of KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, and even Ravindra Jadeja and Vijay Shankar play could be some of the biggest takeaways for the hosts.
However, the Aussies also gave their own World Cup auditions going on. With Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood rested, and Pat Cummins enjoying a purple patch that makes him a World Cup certainty, the floor is now open for Jhye Richardson, Jason Beherendorff and Nathan Coulter-Nile to slug it out for the last vacant fast bowlers’ position. However, they will have a few more chances after this series, as Australia will play five more ODIs after this series – against Pakistan in UAE.
For all the World Cup aspirants across the two teams that need to turn the attention of the selectors, a fast start will be key. If the opportunity comes as early as Hyderabad, their fate will rest in how they go in the opening ODI of the series.
The Indian skipper, Virat Kohli also said that he is ready to drop down to the no. 4 position and it that gets implemented then, KL Rahul – who Kohli rates very highly – at No.3 in favour of Ambati Rayudu who was to originally bat at No.4. The Indian skipper also elaborated that bowling combinations were not to be tampered with, which means India will stick to having six bowling options, even if that puts a question mark over game-time for Rishabh Pant who has just this series to prove why he should be on the plane to England as the back-up wicketkeeper.
Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja, and Mohammed Shami could be the four front line bowling options, with Kedar Jadhav fulfilling the sixth bowler’s duties if required.
On the other hand, Aaron Finch confirmed the inclusion of Alex Carey in the playing XI as the wicketkeeper. However, D’Arcy Short, who was with the team as cover for Shaun Marsh, is also heading back home now that Marsh has joined the side. Finch remained non-committal about whether he’d be partnered by Usman Khawaja or Marcus Stoinis at the top of the order. There was also praise for Peter Handscomb’s prowess against spin bowling, which should earn him a spot in the middle-order.
India: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul/Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Yuzvendra Chahal
Australia: Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Ashton Turner, Alex Carey, Adam Zampa, Pat Cummins, Jhye Richardson, Jason Beherendorff/Nathan Coulter-Nile
Some of the important stats ahead of the game:
- Australia has won both their ODIs in the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium beating India by 47 runs in 2007 and by three runs in 2009.
- In the eight home series for Virat Kohli since 2014, he failed to register a three-figure score only in one rubber – against Australia in 2017.
- Rohit Sharma is tied with MS Dhoni on 215 sixes – the most for India in ODIs.