The bluer than Blue sky has a calming experience. As the seed darts around, you can feel a buzz in the air so light that you would not even blink a bit. Cricket in Australia has its own special charm and when the opposition are India, you know you are in for a special treat. November 27 will mark the resumption of India’s international commitment since the horror show in New Zealand earlier this year and this will also see the return of fans to men’s international cricket events – a step in the right direction towards “old normal”. Can you really keep calm?
But none of that will hold any bearing for India and Australia who will be eager to wrap up their Quarantine today to engage themselves in an exchange of breath-taking cricket. Few teams in the world are a saving grace to the 50-over format that looks for relevance and when Virat Kohli will lead his band of boys to the ground, despite a major link to their success story over the years being absent from the squad, all eyes will squarely be on them for the next few hours. It’ll be joie de vivre.
In the process, the bigger picture, however, can’t be missed. Mayank Agarwal and Shubman Gill will be vying for the opening slot, vacated by Rohit – a decision that might impact India’s strategy for the 2023 World Cup. Both Mayank and Gill were in formidable form in the IPL, even though their contrasting approaches were the talking point, but you really can’t blame the management for whichever side they will be tilted to. It is that close.
The trio of Kohli, Rahul, and Shreyas Iyer will hold the middle-order together but the burning question will be about Hardik Pandya. The Baroda all-rounder’s hitting ability is known to all and sundry but if he is not going to bowl at all, it creates a flexibility equation that rules Ravindra Jadeja out of the squad, especially on the current bowling form. But if India wishes to have options in hand, they will have to be a bit more pragmatic and play someone who can bowl a few overs in the middle-overs while adding crucial runs in the process.
In the bowling department, India will bank on a more settled combination with Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami sharing both new and old ball. The duo are in great touch with the ball in hand, as evident from their IPL exploits, but there is a hovering doubt about the spinners. Yuzvendra Chahal picks himself but can India afford Kuldeep Yadav in the XI?
Among Navdeep Saini and Shardul Thakur, the latter has done enough to demand a place in the side, although it is Saini’s X-factor on the Aussie pitches that might get the first preference. You can’t certainly rule out both players grabbing alternative chances in the course of the series.
For Australia, this will also be a huge litmus test and a question of pride after being at the receiving end in three out of the last four ODI series against India. From the squad that took on England before the IPL, Mitchell Marsh will be swiftly replaced by Steve Smith with Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stonis essaying the middle-order role. Stoinis and Maxwell are at the contrasting ends of recent form but the Big Show is a different beast when he dons the Canary yellow. You can never ascertain it for real. Irrespective of who gets the nod between Cameron Green and Moises Henriques, Australia will be unsure of the output.
With plenty of options to crack down the middle-order, India will, in fact, look to silence the top-order of Aaron Finch, David Warner, and Marnus Labuschagne. The latter is a class act ever since that Lord’s Test last year and the reinvention is compounded by him finding the edge in the ODI format. If the Queenslander can hold it together, it will be tough for India to contain the flow of runs with only five specialist bowlers in their arsenal.
Bout by Bout, India have a better bowling department though, with the home side missing the services of Jhye Richardson, who continues to be sidelined with a shoulder injury, and Kane Richardson who will miss the series due to the recent birth of his first child. There has been no clarity yet on Pat Cummins who might be rested after a long IPL stint with Kolkata Knight Riders. If Cummins indeed doesn’t play, then the workload on Mitchell Starc and Adam Zampa will be up by a significant amount. Daniel Sams might possibly be in for a debut after warming the bench in the England series.
Squads for India vs Australia series:
Australia ODI & T20 squad: Aaron Finch (c), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (vc), Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Marnus Labuschagne, Glenn Maxwell, Daniel Sams, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa
India ODI squad: Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Shubman Gill, KL Rahul (wk), Sanju Samson (wk), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Mayank Agarwal, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur.
First ODI: November 27, SCG, 9:10 AM IST
Second ODI: November 29, SCG, 9:10 AM IST
Third ODI: December 2, Manuka Oval, 9:10 AM IST