In what will be a final rehearsal before the World Cup begins, the Indian cricket team will be up against Australia in the first match of their limited-over series against Australia on Sunday in Visakhapatnam. The Men in Blue will be led by a returning Virat Kohli in the first of the two Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is) as they will aim to maintain their momentum acquired over Kangaroos during their tour of Australia.
The seven-match tour comprising two T20Is and five ODIs will be India’s last international assignment before the ICC World Cup 2019, which starts on May 30 in England and Wales.
India won a historic Test and ODI series Down Under last month and Virat Kohli – back after a break to lead the side – and coach Ravi Shastri will be hoping for a repeat performance.
The likes of Rishabh Pant and all-rounder Vijay Shankar are aiming to make the final cut to the World Cup and the T20I series will go a long way in boosting their confidence.
With Hardik Pandya out injured, it will be a great opportunity for Shankar to strenghthen his case while Pant will also look to make the most of the chances he gets.
For Dinesh Karthik, who was dropped from the ODI squad to play Australia, the two T20Is will be his last chance on the international stage to make a statement before the World Cup.
Coming to India’s bowling department, pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah is back after a break.
Bumrah is two shy of his personal tally of 50 wickets in T20I cricket, an achievement only in possession of Ravichandran Ashwin.
All eyes will be on rookie leg-break bowler Mayank Markande who could make his debut in international cricket.
But India could go in with the tested pair of Yuzvendra Chahal and Krunal Pandya, who have done reasonably well for the home team in recent times.
Kohli will look to straightway get back among runs after a sterling 2018 where he ended the year with an astounding 2,735 runs from 38 matches across formats.
He averages 61 from 13 T20I innings against Australia with five half-centuries in those games.
The tourists led by Aaron Finch may not have played T20Is since their last series against India three months back, but they are fresh from the Big Bash League (BBL) with six players, including the skipper, featuring in the all-Melbourne final on February 17.
D’Arcy Short, who became the player of the tournament, played 15 BBL games this season for Hobart Hurricanes scoring 637 runs at 53.08 average (140.61 strike rate).
He was followed by competition leading wicket-taker Kane Richardson who topped the bowling aggregate with 24 at 17.70 (economy rate 7.75).
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, Lokesh Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik, M.S. Dhoni, Krunal Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Vijay Shankar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Sidharth Kaul, Mayank Markande
Australia: Aaron Finch (captain), D’Arcy Short, Pat Cummins, Alex Carey, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Peter Handscomb, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner, Adam Zampa.
(With IANS Inputs)