Indo-Oz ri­valry re­sumes

The Free Press Journal - - SPORTS -

On a roll af­ter dec­i­mat­ing Sri Lanka, Vi­rat Kohli's In­dian team will be aim­ing for an­other com­pre­hen­sive show against a de­pleted Aus­tralia when the two sides square off in the open­ing en­counter of the five-match se­ries, to­day.

The Indo-Aus­tralia ri­valry over the years have been more tra­di­tional with the in­ten­sity right up there as lot is al­ways at stake. Not to for­get the pas­sion and frayed tem­pers, a tes­ti­mony to that was the Test se­ries that In­dia won 2-1, ear­lier this year. A 5-0 win for In­dia, which could be a rare first against Aus­tralia, will put them at the top of the ICC World rank­ings while a 4-1 win for the vis­i­tors will help them grab pole po­si­tion. For In­dia, fac­ing an Aus­tralian side with­out their top two pac­ers -Mitchell Starc and Josh Ha­zle­wood would cer­tainly work to their ad­van­tage but at the same time, the likes of Steve Smith, David Warner and Glenn Maxwell are sea­soned pros for whom In­dia is like a "sec­ond home".

The two teams trained ahead of the match with fo­cus on fine-tun­ing things and prob­a­bly to zero in on the play­ing XI. Left-arm spin­ner Axar Pa­tel suf­fered an in­jury scare, sprain­ing his an­kle while play­ing foot­ball. How­ever the Aussies are well aware of what threat wrist spin­ners Kuldeep Ya­dav and Yuzven­dra Cha­hal can pose for them. Ac­cord­ingly, they sum­moned mys­tery spin­ners KK Jiyas and lo­cal lad Mu­ru­gan Ash­win to pre­pare for the match.

The two teams are play­ing an ODI here af­ter a gap of three decades, hav­ing last met at the iconic sta­dium in the open­ing fix­ture of the Re­liance World Cup, way back in 1987. It was a thrilling en­counter that Aus­tralia won by 1 run. The last time the Aus­tralians played a bi­lat­eral ODI se­ries in In­dia in 2013, the hosts won sev­en­match se­ries 3-2 with two games were aban­doned due to in­clement weather. Steve Smith, who wasn't part of that se­ries is now the leader of the Aussies and would be ex­pected to lead from the front in a tour that prom­ises to be an­other run fest.

The Chep­auk track is ex­pected to be a bat­ting par­adise. In­dia's vice-cap­tain Ro­hit Sharma said at a me­dia in­ter­ac­tion on Fri­day that the pitch looked like a typ­i­cal Chen­nai wicket – hard and with a lot of runs. Ro­hit has been pro­lific against the Aus­tralians and posted his first dou­ble cen­tury in ODIs in the 2013 se­ries and is com­ing off a strong per­for­mance in the re­cent lim­ited-overs se­ries in Sri Lanka.

Along with his cap­tain (Kohli) he is part of a for­mi­da­ble bat­ting unit that could take on any at­tack. Ro­hit also in­di­cated that his Mum­bai team­mate Ajinkya Ra­hane may don the opener's role in the ab­sence of Shikhar Dhawan, who has been granted a break to at­tend to his ail­ing wife.

De­spite the thrash­ing handed out to the Sri Lankans, the In­dian think-tank would be wor­ried about a mid­dle-or­der that didn’t look too con­vinc­ing. KL Rahul's strug­gles at the No.4 spot pose a few ques­tions

but the skip­per and coach Ravi Shas­tri have hinted that the Kar­nataka bats­man was be­ing con­sid­ered for the role given the fact that Ro­hit and Shikhar Dhawan are the es­tab­lished open­ing pair. Kohli him­self has been in won­der­ful form and carved out a cou­ple of tons against Lanka while vet­eran M S Dhoni guided the team home in his own inim­itable style in two matches. The trio (Kohli, Ro­hit and Dhoni) will be ex­pected to do the bulk of the run-scor­ing while the im­prov­ing Hardik Pandya would be ex­pected to pro­vide the spark both with bat and ball. Kedar Jad­hav and Man­ish Pandey have put their hand up in the op­por­tu­ni­ties they have got and the lower-or­der too has con­trib­uted.

The bowl­ing unit sees the re­turn of Mo­hammed Shami and Umesh Ya­dav af­ter miss­ing out the ODIs in Lanka. The fo­cus would be on the in­ex­pe­ri­enced spin at­tack in the ab­sence of the lead­ing duo of Ravichan­dran Ash­win, play­ing in the County cir­cuit in Eng­land and the rested Ravin­dra Jadeja. The tweak­ers – Axar Pa­tel, Yazu­ven­dra Cha­hal and Kuldeep Ya­dav did the job against the Lankans but the Aussies are a dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion al­to­gether. How they fare would have a bear­ing on the se­ries with the bats­men ex­pected to have the up­per­hand. There has been a lot of talk about wrist spin­ners have a key role in the se­ries with Ro­hit and Aus­tralian spin­ner Ash­ton Agar stress­ing on the value they of­fer. The In­dia vice-cap­tain felt that they have mys­tery about them and can pro­vide break­throughs at cru­cial junc­tures. Agar, on his part, said that his team­mate Adam Zampa with his ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing in In­dia and in the IPL, could do well against the home side's pow­er­ful bat­ting.

On the other hand, Smith’s men would be aim­ing to ex­act some re­venge for the de­feat suf­fered in the 2013 se­ries but a lot depends on bat­ting big and the bowlers find­ing ways to con­tain a ma­raud­ing In­dian bat­ting line-up led by Kohli and Ro­hit. The ab­sence of big-hit­ting opener Aaron Finch, at least for the first three games ow­ing to a calf in­jury, may have up­set the Aussies plans but they have oth­ers to step up.

Kohli has de­cided that he would lend his name only to brands which he him­self uses and be­lieves in, peo­ple in the know of his en­dorse­ment deals have said

Vice Cap­tain of In­dian cricket team Ro­hit Sharma with team­mates dur­ing a prac­tice ses­sion ahead of the first ODI match against Aus­tralia on Saturday

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