INDIA-AUSTRALIA RIVALRY RESUMES
INDIA VS AUSTRALIA FIRST ODI
Chennai, India - Only soured friendships and damaged relations remained after the on-field taunts and verbal scuffles on Australia's previous tour to India. In between, there was a darn good series of Test cricket as Australia proved the stiffest challenge to India's immaculate home season. Apart from the format, the nature of the surfaces and a few personnel adjustments, not much will change on the limited-overs leg.
Australia's recent ODI form has been atypically horrendous away from home. It has lost its last eight completed matches on the road, last winning one in September 2016, against Ireland. Its emphasis on rotation has meant the set-up, save captain Steven Smith and vicecaptain David Warner, has consistently changed. Yet, Australia, who is coming off a resounding Test-series-levelling rout of Bangladesh in Chittagong, is never far away from finding its best, irrespective of the format.
In contrast, India has lost just three of its last 15 ODIs, all away from home. It has preferred wrist-spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav to finger-spinners R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, and possess two of the best end-overs specialists in Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
It’s only apparent weakness, it seems, lies in its batting. Does Ajinkya Rahane, who could open in Shikhar Dhawan's absence, have the ability to match modern scoring standards? M S Dhoni's finishing skills aren't getting better, while Lokesh Rahul, Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav haven't yet carved their name in any of the open spots in India's middle order.
India: With Dhawan absent for the first three games, Rahane should slot into his opening spot. With Australia - and the rest of the world - struggling to pick wristspin, Kuldeep is likely to be persisted with. Axar Patel might sit out the game, having suffered a minor injury to his left ankle while playing a warm-up game of football during India's training session on Friday. This would mean Yuzvendra Chahal slotting in as the second spinner.
Australia: With a calf problem ruling Aaron Finch out of the first few ODIs, Travis Head might be forced to open the batting, a position he is accustomed to, having opened for South Australia. With Glenn Maxwell's off-spinning ability, Australia may stick with just one spinner.
In the spotlight
Virat Kohli and M S Dhoni: How do you stop India's master chasers Kohli and Dhoni? In South Africa's previous ODI series in India, captain A B de Villiers employed a 4-5 field for his tall seamers, who angled the ball into their ribs.
In its defence of 270 in Rajkot, South Africa stole the game from an improbable situation. Kohli and Dhoni may or may not be susceptible to the short ball, but the point is South Africa executed a set of discernible plans while defending a middling total. Bowling without gameplans in favourable batting conditions may not be the best way to go, as Australia found out in its last ODI series in India. David Warner: Confidence is an influential factor in sport. He would have gained plenty after he overcame arguably the biggest flaw in his record, scoring hundreds in the sub-continent; he scored two against Bangladesh in successive Tests in gruelling conditions. Opening the batting in ODIs in India, against hard, new balls, is every batsman's dream, and he, with his attacking template, is best suited to taking advantage of the powerplay.
India (likely): Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (capt), Manish Pandey/Lokesh Rahul, Kedar Jadhav, M S Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah. Australia (likely): David Warner, Travis Head, Steven Smith (capt), Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade (wk), James Faulkner, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Adam Zampa.
Match begins at 12pm.
Indian captain Virat Kohli speaks with teammates during a training session ahead of the first one-dayer against Australia in Chennai on Friday
Australian skipper Steven Smith smiles after a nets session on Saturday