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India vs Australia 2020 First ODI: What Will Be India's Ideal XI?

India will clash with Australia in the series opener at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on the 27th of November. While most of the positions in the XI select themselves, there are a few slots still up for grabs and a few other permutations and combinations to look into depending on form, conditions, team balance and opposition.

India vs Australia 2020 First ODI: What Will Be India's Ideal XI?

India will clash with Australia in the series opener at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on the 27th of November. While most of the positions in the XI select themselves, there are a few slots still up for grabs and a few other permutations and combinations to look into depending on form, conditions, team balance and opposition.

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We analyze what India's IDEA XI should be for the ODI series. To answer that we pose 5 questions:

The Questions

1. Should KL Rahul be used as opener or at Number 5?

2. If Rahul bats in the middle order who should partner Dhawan?

3. If Hardik is to play as a specialist batsman, is Manish Pandey a better choice?

4. Yuzvendra Chahal or Kuldeep Yadav - which wrist spinner?

5. Navdeep Saini or Shardul Thakur as the third seamer?

The answer to these questions should solve all the remaining puzzles and select the Indian XI for the series opener at the SCG. We tackle them one at a time.

1. KL Rahul Should Bat at Number 5

KL Rahul has an excellent record opening the innings for India. He has an aggregate of 808 runs in 18 matches at an average of 50.5 and strike rate of 81.53. But with a top-heavy batting line-up India needs a world class operator in the lower middle order. Rahul could be their finisher at number 5. He has already given a glimpse of his ability to play in that position - Rahul scored a cracking 80 off just 52 deliveries against Australia in Rajkot in January 2020 before coming up with a run-a-ball 112 against New Zealand at Mount Maunganui in February - both from the number 5 position. In just 5 innings from the position, he has scored 291 runs at a strike rate of 118.77. Rahul is too good a batsman to be pushed around as a floater - something which is bound to happen (if he is used as an opener) when Rohit Sharma makes a comeback.

Another interesting observation is related to Rahul's strike rate as an opener - for a batsman of his class and prowess, a strike rate of 81.53 is low and below the standard. It is almost that Rahul has pre-decided that he will play the role of the anchor and let Dhawan or Rohit (if he opens the innings with them) take the attack to the opposition bowlers. Rahul is at his prime when he is at his destructive best and playing as an accumulator is not only counter-productive to him but also to the team as a whole - an example of which was witnessed in this year's IPL.

Thus, India should not get tempted to use Rahul as an opener and let him play as the 'finisher' at 5.

2. Mayank Agarwal Should be Dhawan's Opening Partner

If Rahul is batting at number 5, then Mayank Agarwal should be the number one choice to partner Shikhar Dhawan at the top. Shubman Gill has played just 2 ODIs for India while Sanju Samson is yet to make his debut in the format. Agarwal, himself, has played just three ODIs for India but has the best LIST-A record amongst the three candidates.

Agarwal has a LIST-A average of 48.03 and strike rate of 100.84 while Gill's corresponding numbers are 45.6 and 88.26 respectively. Also, Agarwal was the best amongst the three batsmen in the IPL 2020 taking a combination of runs scored, innings batted and strike rate - he aggregated 424 runs in 11 innings at a strike rate of 156.45.

3. Pandya Should Play as a Specialist Batsman

Hardik Pandya played as a specialist batsman for the Mumbai Indians in their victorious 2020 IPL campaign. Pandya had a back surgery last year and the Indian management will not want to burden the all-rounder with the extra load of bowling. They would want the best of Hardik - the destructive batsman - evidence of which was again witnessed in the IPL 2020.

The question then arises - does India play Hardik - the specialist batsman at number 6 or Manish Pandey at that position. Going only by hard numbers and Pandey has a better record from number 6 for India but the sample is too small to make it the only criterion for selection. Hardik has been at his best at number 7 and may need to modify his game a bit if he bats a position higher - he may need to rotate the strike for a few overs before pressing on the accelerator but given his X-factor - he can and has won India matches from situations other batsmen can't and his overall hitting prowess and given that India needs a finisher in the lower middle order, Hardik will play ahead of Pandey at number 6.

4. Chahal Will Play As the Specialist Spinner

A better record since the World Cup 2019, top form for RCB in IPL 2018 and 2019 and impressive numbers against Australia make Chahal the preferred candidate amongst the wrist spinners. Kuldeep Yadav had a nightmare last two seasons of the IPL for KKR and his international ODI form for India has taken a massive dip since the World Cup. The chinaman bowler has lost his biggest weapon in the format in the last year and a half - his ability to take heaps of wickets. From averaging two wickets a match from his debut till March 2019, he has barely managed to take a wicket a match thereafter.

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5. Saini's Extra Pace Might Give Him the Edge

There is not much to choose between Navdeep Saini and Shardul Thakur in terms of numbers but the former might get the nod on the hard, bouncy and fast Australian wickets due to his ability to generate extra pace.

With all the pressing questions answered, here is the most probable Indian XI for the series opener at the SCG:

1. Shikhar Dhawan

2. Mayank Agarwal

3. Virat Kohli (Captain)

4. Shreyas Iyer

5. KL Rahul (Wk)

6. Hardik Pandya

7. Ravindra Jadeja

8. Yuzvendra Chahal

9. Mohammed Shami

10. Jasprit Bumrah

11. Navdeep Saini



Team Rankings

RankTeamPointsRating
1 New Zealand 3198 118
2 India 3765 118
3 Australia 3498 113
4 England 4326 106
5 South Africa 2499 96
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RankTeamPointsRating
1 England 5405 123
2 India 6102 117
3 New Zealand 3716 116
4 Australia 4344 111
5 South Africa 3345 108
FULL Ranking
RankTeamPointsRating
1 England 6877 275
2 Australia 6800 272
3 India 10186 268
4 Pakistan 7516 259
5 South Africa 5047 252
FULL Ranking