Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) couldn't have been staged at a better time for Australia as five of their players who featured in the tournament are now battle-ready for the seven-match ODI series against India.
Nathan Coulter Nile, Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell (Mumbai Indians) and Shane Watson and James Faulkner (Rajasthan Royals) were part of two teams that went all the way through to the final, where Mumbai outclassed Rajasthan by 33 runs.
With a chance to elbow India out of the No. 1 ODI spot on offer, Australia will be under added pressure to win, and the experience of these five players could come in handy against the World Cup and Champions Trophy holders.
The relatively inexperienced 14-man Australian squad is without their regular ODI captain Michael Clarke, who has been ruled out due to a back injury. That makes Watson the go-to man for stand-in skipper George Bailey. Even though Watson didn't have an outstanding CLT20 (102 runs and 6 wickets), his all-round skills have been the cornerstone for many Australian wins in the past.
Million-dollar baby Maxwell proved his worth in the CLT20 final with his match-winning 37 off 14 balls. Faulkner bowled with discipline for Rajasthan, which allowed bowlers like Pravin Tambe, Rahul Shukla and Vikramjeet Malik to get among the wickets.
Coulter-Nile was one of the star performers in MI's winning campaign. Though he took just six wickets, his economy rate of 6.37 turned Rohit Sharma to him every time Mumbai sought to plug the run-leak. Johnson was perhaps the only disappointment out of the five Australians. He was expected to carry the MI attack in the absence of Lasith Malinga but failed in his endeavour. In hindsight, that should motivate him to do better in the ODIs against India.
Speaking on this in Australia's first media conference of the tour, team coach Steve Rixon said: "We have been fortunate to have five [players] in the [CLT20] final. So to us, we are in a reasonable position as well. End result is, the guys who haven't been playing a lot of cricket, get them up to speed for the remaining leading up to the [one-off] T20 and the one-dayers. Once that happens, it's an even contest."
Bailey agreed that it does give Australia some reading into how to plan. "We know a lot about strengths and weaknesses and a lot about the personalities, so there is absolutely some advantage for both the teams but also some areas to try and exploit," the skipper said.
Australia hold an edge in terms of head-to-head bilateral series victories, winning four and losing two. And in this seven-match rubber, the experience of these five players on Indian soil just before the series could prove vital.
The tour kicks off with the one-off T20 in Rajkot on Wednesday, followed by the first ODI on October 13.
With PTI inputs