IN­DIA-AUS­TRALIA RI­VALRY RE­SUMES

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

The buzz

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.

Teams

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.

(AFP)

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

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