January 14, 2020
India v Australia
Venue: Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai | Start: 7:00pm (AEDT)
India analysis: Since their World Cup semi-final exit, India has won five of six ODIs against the West Indies, both at home and away. A formidable unit at home, they start this series as deserved favourites despite going down 3-2 to the Aussies 10 months ago. Always a matter of contention ahead of an ODI series, skipper Virat Kohli has hinted that India may opt for the fearsome top four of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and himself. But with Hardik Pandya still sidelined and Rishabh Pant still finding his way, India aren’t as settled lower down the order. The sense of calm that MS Dhoni brought to the side for over a decade is gone and the new era has commenced. On the bowling front, however, Jasprit Bumrah looks set to make his return after a back injury.
Normally punchy before a series, Kohli reserved high praise for the Australian team and said the two were the best overall teams in the world at present. “I think we, along with Australia, are probably the top two sides in the world, as far as the balance is concerned,” he said. “Whether it’s (the series) relevant or irrelevant, that’s for people to decide. But we as a team are excited to play Australia, in our conditions, to test ourselves against the best.”
Australia analysis: By contrast with India, the Aussies haven’t played an ODI since being humbled by England in the World Cup semi-finals, way back in July. And with stand-in coach (and senior assistant) Andrew McDonald at the helm, this quick three-game series represents a unique challenge. It was less than a year ago that the Aussies – still without Steve Smith and David Warner – came back from 2-0 down to win in India 3-2. That memorable win was the confidence boost Aaron Finch’s side needed before the World Cup, where they performed admirably.
Test cricket run machine Marnus Labuschagne has made his way into the ODI side and looks set to make his debut, likely at number four after the experienced top three of Finch, Warner and Smith. Peter Handscomb will then likely bat at five, his proficiency against spin a big factor in this series. Then comes the big question, and that is whether the Aussies opt for big-hitting Ashton Turner at six and keeper Alex Carey at seven, or Carey at six and all-rounder Ashton Agar at seven. In essence, the dilemma boils down to whether Finch will need an extra bowling option, or to strengthen the middle order. Either way, it’s likely the Australians will opt for their three premier quicks in Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, then the spin of Adam Zampa.
All roads point to an Indian victory first up; a home crowd advantage, strong recent form, and pitted against an Australian side who haven’t pulled on the ODI strip for six months. But as we saw in last year’s series, Aaron Finch’s side have the mettle in these conditions, which many nations don’t, and won’t be overawed by the occasion. Expect a batting-friendly surface and, with dew set to kick in later in the evening, should Finch call correctly may well bowl first. For the hosts, look for ODI king Rohit Sharma in the individual markets on the back of a strong record against the Aussies. With the ball, Bumrah is perhaps a risk given he returns after an extended layoff but he still remains the biggest threat alongside Starc in the format. For the Aussies, look for David Warner to come out firing in conditions he knows all too well, while a refreshed Josh Hazlewood may just go bang in his return to ODI cricket.
Head to Head: India
Top Runs Scorer – Australia: David Warner
Most Wickets – Australia: Josh Hazlewood
Top Runs Scorer – India: Rohit Sharma
Most Wickets – India: Jasprit Bumrah