It has been four days since Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team sealed history at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Four days of pure joy as Kohli’s side became the first Asian team to win a Test series in Australia. Four days of absolute joy in ensuring India’s overseas woes ended in dramatic style. However, in the middle, there has been a serious distraction in the form of Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul’s ‘outrageous’ comments on the talk show Koffee With Karan. The duo has been suspended and has been ordered to return home, throwing their participation even in the New Zealand series in doubt. Kohli, in the pre-match press conference, had condemned the views of the two players but insisted that the team morale is high and nothing can shatter that. The fact that India are squaring up against an Australia side that is still lacking in firepower gives them an advantage despite the off-field drama.
The three ODIs, in addition to the five ODIs against New Zealand and the home ODIs against Australia are the final 13 ODIs for India to zero in on a combination before the World Cup begins in May which will be held in England. Jasprit Bumrah has been rested for the series and this means Bhuvneshwar Kumar will lead the attack with Khaleel Ahmed and Mohammed Shami as the other three pacers. With the pitch expected to assist spin and having a fair sprinkling of grass, the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav have a big role. Jadeja, in particular, will double up as the bowling all-rounder in Pandya’s absence.
India’s batting is what gives them the edge. Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan scored plenty of runs in the 2016 series along with Virat Kohli. The success of the top three has given India a massive edge in the last one year in ODIs. With the return of Kedar Jadhav and MS Dhoni, the lower middle order also looks in great shape. All eyes will be on Dhoni, who had an underwhelming performance with the bat last year and he will be desperate to make amends before the World Cup.
Australia in transition
The Australian cricket team is searching for good times. So much so that they have gone back to the 80s, a time of retro and disco. They have donned new attire but it will be interesting to see whether their new attire matches their new outlook. The selection of some players in the squad has raised eyebrows.
Peter Siddle has not played an ODI for the last eight years while Nathan Lyon has played only 15 ODIs. The inclusion of Ashton Turner in Mitchell Marsh’s place has only increased the inexperience factor. The onus will be on Aaron Finch, who failed in the Tests but is a proven white-ball cricket performer, to carry Australia’s batting. Glenn Maxwell is the difference maker in the middle order while Australia’s bowling, with the likes of Jason Behrendorff, Jhye Richardson, Billy Stanlake and Adam Zampa offer pace and variety.
A win for India will put them in pole position to win the series while a loss could stall their momentum as they look to build for the World Cup.