New Delhi: Fresh from subjugating Sri Lanka across formats, India kick off their home season against Australia in the first of five-match one-day international (ODI) series in Chennai on Sunday. Make no bones about it that the Australians will be no pushovers like Sri Lanka. Expect fightbacks. Expect big totals. Expect sledging. It is India vs Australia, a big-ticket contest!
Leaving aside Champions Trophy, India face their toughest opponents in ODIs over last 12 months. Last year India’s home season saw the hosts defeat New Zealand 3-2 and then England 2-1 in back to back ODI series. The Virat Kohli-led side then had a decent Champions Trophy campaign and continued that momentum against the Windies and recently Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka tour was Ravi Shastri’s first assignment after being appointed as full-time coach. And it was relatively easier as well, given the phase Sri Lankan team is going through. However, the limited-overs series against Australia will be a test of Shastri’s tactics as well.
Meanwhile, Australia begin their campaign at a venue they are unbeaten in ODIs. Australia have played four ODIs at MA Chidambaram Stadium, having won all four, including one against hosts India.
However, the last time Australia played in Chennai dates back to 1996. So the unbeaten record will just act as a ‘feel good’ factor for the visitors.
With Shikhar Dhawan unavailable, Ajinkya Rahane is likely to open with Rohit Sharma. That means KL Rahul may bat at four and Manish Pandey will have to warm the bench once again.
Kedar Jadhav is likely to hold his place at number six, thanks to his effective part-time bowling.
Axar Patel has been ruled out for the first three ODIs due to a left ankle sprain and Ravindra Jadeja has been named as his replacement. It is unlikely that he gets a game straight away as India may continue its own experiment with wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav.
Allrounder Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah will likely make up the pace department.
Australia, on the other hand, will miss the services of Aaron Finch following his calf injury and that means Hilton Cartwright is likely to open with David Warner.
On the match eve, Steve Smith dropped a hint that Travis Head will play at four, besides indicating Cartwright’s inclusion as an opener.
Australia have packed their squad with decent spin options and it looks like Adam Zampa will have Ashton Agar as his partner. Head and Glenn Maxwell can chip in as well.
Australia may field only two fast bowlers – Pat Cummins and Nathan Coulter-Nile. And it will be a toss-up between allrounders James Faulkner and Marcus Stoinis.
It is a day-night encounter with a 1:30 pm start. As per the weather forecast, slight rain could be around during afternoon and evening hours. Otherwise it will remain humid throughout the day.
India: Rohit Sharma, Lokesh Rahul, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, MS Dhoni(w), Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami.
Australia: David Warner, Travis Head, Steven Smith (c), Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade(w), Peter Handscomb, James Faulkner, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Adam Zampa, Hilton Cartwright, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Kane Richardson.