The year hasn’t been normal by any measure. As the coronavirus pandemic swept across the earth and disrupted our lives, it also put a halt to international cricket. While some nations have gradually resumed action over the last few months, Indian fans have been deprived of seeing their beloved men in blue on the cricket field.
India’s last international game was a test against New Zealand at Christchurch from February 29 to March 2, after which the team returned home to host South Africa for an ODI series. The first ODI at Dharamsala was washed out by rain, and thereafter the series was abandoned following the virus’ spread in the country. The recently-concluded IPL 2020, held in the UAE, gave us a glimpse of our favourite players in action, but fans have been longing to see them don the India jersey again. The wait finally ends tomorrow, as India’s much talked-about tour of Australia finally gets underway.
The tour comprises three ODI games, three T20Is and four test matches. The test series in particular is much-anticipated. India beat Australia on their shores the last time around, and will look to defend the Border-Gavaskar trophy. Ahead of the first ODI at Sydney tomorrow, we look at some of the talking points around the tour.
Rohit’s absence in the white-ball games
There’s been an air of mystery surrounding the selection of India’s white ball vice-captain for the tour. Rohit Sharma sustained an injury during the IPL and missed a few games for the Mumbai Indians, prompting the selectors to omit him from all three squads. However he returned for the final leg of the IPL, making one wonder why he hadn’t been picked for the Australia tour. The selectors eventually added him to the test squad. But if recent reports are to be believed, he is still far from being fully fit and is likely to miss the first two tests.
It is, however in the ODI and T20 series that India will miss Rohit’s presence the most. The opening batsman has been one of the most prolific run-scorers in limited overs cricket in recent years and has been integral to India’s success. KL Rahul, who enjoyed a great run in the IPL, is most likely to open the batting with Shikhar Dhawan in Rohit’s absence. However India also have Mayank Agarwal and Shubman Gill in the ODI squad.
Kohli’s paternity leave
Skipper Virat Kohli will play the ODI and T20I series and the first test at Adelaide, before returning home for the birth of his child. While his wish to be with wife Anushka Sharma at such a time is completely understandable, India will miss their best batsman in their bid to hold on to the Border-Gavaskar trophy. The onus will be on Cheteshwar Pujara, the architect of the previous test series win in Australia, and stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane to navigate India’s batting.
India have decided to go back in time for the limited overs leg of the tour. They will sport a retro navy blue jersey that was worn by the Indian team during the 1992 world cup. Incidentally the 1992 world cup was held in Australia and New Zealand, so it is fitting that India have decided to revisit the jersey on a tour down under.
New jersey, renewed motivation. Ready to go. 🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/gKG9gS78th
— Shikhar Dhawan (@SDhawan25) November 24, 2020
The jersey, while matching in colour with the 1992 edition, is crowded with sponsor logos. Kiran More, India’s wicketkeeper in the 1992 world cup, gave us a glimpse of the original jersey.
Remember this inauguration of the 1992 @ICC @cricketworldcup in Sydney, good to know that @BCCI will be wearing a similar jersey during the upcoming ODI series against @CricketAus @azharflicks @RaviShastriOfc @sanjaymanjrekar @pravin__amre @sachin_rt @vinodkambli349 #AjayJadeja pic.twitter.com/faCnyIjfj6
— Kiran More (@JockMore) November 24, 2020
Left-arm pacer T Natarajan was rewarded for his wonderful showing in the IPL with a spot in the T20 squad. Natarajan caught everyone’s attentions with his pinpoint yorkers in the death overs for the Sunrisers Hyderabad. The prospect of seeing Jasprit Bumrah and Natarajan bowling together is a mouth-watering one.
Meanwhile, the new entrants in the test squad are pacer Mohammed Siraj and batsman Shubman Gill. Siraj has been a consistent performer in domestic red ball cricket since 2015, averaging an impressive 23 with the ball. The 21-year-old Gill, on the other hand, is widely considered to be the next big thing in Indian cricket, and it was only a matter of time before he broke into the test squad.
Siraj’s selfless act
Mohammed Siraj was bereaved when his father passed away on November 20. Siraj was in Australia training with the team when his father breathed his last. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) gave him the option of flying back to be with his family, but Siraj chose to stay with the Indian team.
Want to fulfill my father’s dream: Siraj
The fast bowler speaks about overcoming personal loss and why he decided to continue performing national duties in Australia. Interview by @Moulinparikh
— BCCI (@BCCI) November 23, 2020
Battle of the pacers
Both India and Australia boast of the two best pace attacks in world cricket today. While Australia has Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, India boast of Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah. It’ll be interesting to see which trio prevails over the other in the test series.
The first ODI kicks off tomorrow at 9.10am IST tomorrow. Indian fans can catch live action on Sony Ten 1, Sony Ten 3, and can also live stream the game on SonyLIV.