New Delhi: It may not have the flair and rivalry you associate with a Test series, but India and Australia on the same pitch always leads to sparks flying – off the bat, with the ball and led by an odd sledge. Over the five ODIs beginning Sunday in Chennai, this could become a norm.

But there is more.

Australia’s worry list on the batting tracks India rolls out in limited-over matches revolves as much around Rohit Sharma as Virat Kohli. This is how.

ROHIT’S FAVOURITE MEAL

Of late, Rohit has enjoyed Aussie cuisine the most when it comes to having a run-feast in the centre of a cricket ground, though it didn’t start rosily for Rohit.

India will host Australia for 5 ODIs and 3 T20Is | Getty Images

Rohit was almost Australia’s bunny in the first 10 innings he played against them. For the record, just 193 runs were produced by his bat in those 10 knocks. But that’s where the turnaround happened.

In the next 13 innings against the men from Down Under, Rohit’s runs-tally multiplied six times irrespective of whether India played home or away. He scored 1104 runs, 613 of which came in seven ODIs played in Australia and 491 in six matches hosted by India. These were decorated with five hundreds, including a double at home.

During that prolific run, Rohit also broke Sachin Tendulkar’s record of highest aggregate of runs in 10 consecutive innings against the same opposition. Tendulkar scored 778 against Australia and Rohit improved that to 958 at an average of almost 137.

Looking at the above numbers, it would be an understatement to say that Rohit must be licking his lips.

KOHLI vs SMITH

Kohli and Australia captain Steve Smith, along with Kane Richardson of New Zealand and England’s Joe Root, are the four most prolific and talked-about batsmen of the modern era, and the coming five ODIs and three T20Is will pit Kohli and Smith against each other, not just on the captaincy front but also in who outscores the other.

As far as the limited-over battle is concerned, former Australia captain Michael Clarke has settled the issue in favour of Kohli.

“In limited-overs cricket, I think Virat is ahead of Steve, but just by that much,” he said at an event earlier this week. 

Our Fielders Can Win us Games Against India, Says Travis Head

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And then toned it down.

“I think over the next few days, everybody would want to speak about Steve Smith vs Virat Kohli but at the end of the day, it comes down to one thing, and that is the team that wins. It doesn’t matter who makes the runs – Kohli or Smith. At the end of the day, your job as a captain is to win,” Clarke said.

Clarke’s limited-overs verdict in Kohli’s favour finds its answer in the comparison of numbers.

In 186 ODI innings, Kohli has scored 8587 runs at an average of 55.75 with 30 hundreds, which is second only to Tendulkar’s world record of 49 ODI tons.

Smith, in 84 innings, has scored 3187 runs, averaging 44.26 with 8 hundreds. Interestingly, in his first 84 ODI innings, Kohli had notched up 3697 runs with 12 hundreds; he averaged 50.24.

And if you feel captaincy can affect a batsman, Kohli is proving that theory wrong, too, with his average of 81.17 as captain in 32 innings that have produced 1867 runs from his bat. Smith’s 40 innings as captain have produced 1740 runs at an average of 51.17, which is also remarkable.

Needless to say, bet on who will outscore the other at your own peril.

BATTLE FOR NO. 1

The ODI series presents both India and Australia a chance to displace South Africa from No. 1 position in ICC’s ODI Rankings. But for that to happen, both the teams will have to win by either a 4-1 or 5-0 margin, which could be tough considering how evenly the two sides stack up.

India are currently No. 3 and behind Australia, but only with a difference of few decimal points as their points read 117 each. South Africa lead the chart with 119 points.

A 4-1 win for either India or Australia will take them past South Africa to 120 points. In case of a 5-0 win, it will swell their total points to 122.

Interestingly, a 3-2 victory for India will see them displacing Australia at No. 2 with 118 points. Smith’s team will slip to No. 3 in that scenario with 116 points.

Here are all the possibilities:

* If India beat Australia 5-0 – India 122, Australia 113

* If India beat Australia 4-1 – India 120, Australia 114

* If India beat Australia 3-2 – India 118, Australia 116

* If Australia beat India 3-2 – Australia 118, India 116

* If Australia beat India 4-1- Australia 120, India 114

* If Australia beat India 5-0 – Australia 122, India 112