Sydney: Hit hard by an unexpected controversy after the high of the Test triumph, India will look to fine tune their World Cup preparations in the three-match ODI series against an under-fire Australia, beginning here Saturday.
Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul has provided a big distraction for the Indian team by making ‘inappropriate’ comments on women during a TV show.
In the build-up to the first ODI, skipper Virat Kohli underlined that the team management is still waiting for a decision to be made regarding a ban or punishment to be meted out to the two players.
The team management didn’t announce a shortlist for this game, as is now the norm, and will wait to hear from the BCCI on the two players’ availability. Considering the enormity of this developing situation, it is unlikely that both Pandya and Rahul will be available for at least the first ODI.
Rahul’s absence won’t be missed as India have the well-settled opening pair in Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. The bigger question though is regarding Pandya’s absence, for the all-rounder provides crucial balance to the ODI side with his ability to bowl 10 overs as well as bat in the middle- order.
Pandya’s absence could mean that India might have to reconstruct their bowling attack. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is a shoe-in, and thereafter it depends if Kohli wants to go in with a three-man pace attack to compensate for Pandya’s loss. If he does so, then both Mohammed Shami and Khaleel Ahmed are expected to get the nod.
Kohli also stated that, in Pandya’s absence, Ravindra Jadeja may step up as the all-rounder. In that light, he would partner up with left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav as India’s five-pronged attack, with Kedar Jadhav fulfilling any part-time bowling duties if needed.
However, it will former skipper MS Dhoni who will be under close cynosure. Dhoni has had a poor 2018, managing 275 runs in 20 ODIs at average 25 without a half century. While this is a meagre return for a batsman of his stature, the worrying aspect is Dhoni’s strike-rate of 71.42, which is remarkably lower than his ODI career strike-rate of 87.89.
The Indian middle-order has often come unstuck with Dhoni at the crease, and the team management will certainly look forward to the player reclaiming his Midas touch with the bat.
India’s ODI record in Australia is quite poor. Apart from the 1985 World Championships and 2008 CB Series wins, they have lost 35 out of 48 ODIs played against Australia on their home soil.
The absence of David Warner (220 runs in three matches in 2016) and Steve Smith (315 runs in five in 2016) might help them again though, as also the absence of pacers Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, with the trio rested from this series.
Australia have named their playing XI ahead of the first ODI, with Nathan Lyon featuring as the lone spinner and Peter Siddle returning to this format for the first time since 2010.
Keeper-batsman Alex Carey will open in ODI cricket for the first time, and will pair up with skipper Aaron Finch, while Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb will form the middle order. The hosts bat deep with Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell lined up at Nos 6 and 7.
However, their pace attack seems weak on paper. With Siddle returning to the format after eight years, left-arm pacer Jason Behrendorff will make his ODI debut, Saturday.