For once, the Indian cricket team is starting the limited-overs tour of a SENA country as a Test series winner. But they can’t afford to be euphoric for too long, so packed is the cricket calendar. On the back of the historic 2-1 Test series victory in Australia, which culminated in a rain-soaked draw in Sydney, Virat Kohli’s India will now switch modes and remain in this mode till the middle of the year. The Indians will now tend to business in a crucial phase of 13 one-day cricket matches that will lead to the 2019 ICC World Cup in England.
It all begins, of course, with a battle against familiar foes and hosts Australia down under. Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne will be the venues for the three-match ODI series to be played between the two nations. India is ranked no. 2 in the ODI rankings behind England, while Australia is ranked a lowly sixth, thanks to their awful run of 9 consecutive defeats in a troubled 2018.
India vs Australia head-to-head record: Played 148, India 45, Australia 73
Indian Team News
India has flown in a bunch of ODI specialists that are expected to form the core of the team that will fly to England. While fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah has been given a rest, Khaleel Ahmed, keeper MS Dhoni, spin twins Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Shikhar Dhawan and Hardik Pandya will join the group of Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ravindra Jadeja and KL Rahul. The management will look to get its combination right in these matches, irrespective of whether they win or lose.
The Indian middle order, contrary to what the management believes, is far from settled. The choice of a fading MS Dhoni over upcoming star Rishabh Pant is questionable, while Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav and Ambati Rayadu have been preferred for their age and experience over young guns like Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw (who will soon replace them). The older players might be hungry, but with a long time having passed between every ODI series in the last year, they will have to hit their stride immediately and convince the selectors of their pedigree. Manish Pandey seems to have been dropped after multiple chances, while Umesh Yadav too has dropped out of contention. This, you suspect, will be a make-or-break series for an already beleaguered KL Rahul, who is expected to be a different animal in this format (refer IPL 2018 for proof). Still, however, he will be the backup opener behind Dhawan and Rohit.
The openers and Virat Kohli do the bulk of the scoring in every country. Which is why the perception exists that the middle order lacks confidence. Also, the bowling line-up of the two wrist spinners, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shami and Bumrah (when included) is perfectly suited for foreign conditions where not many batsmen are used to facing such a versatile line-up. They are world-class, much like their Test counterparts, and fitness is all that matters for them ahead of England. The Australian batsmen will be wary.
Expected XI: Rohit, Dhawan, Kohli, Rayadu, Karthik/Jadhav, Dhoni, Hardik, Bhuvi, Chahal, Yadav, Ahmed/Shami
Bench: Jadeja, Rahul
With a lot of feeling for form and rustiness to be expected after a long Test season, don’t expect India to sweep the series or dominate it fully. A 2-1 to India is the best possible result before they head to New Zealand, a team that is currently in the best form in world cricket.