With the World Cup now less than three months away, the Virat Kohli-led side would want to use the remaining matches to fine-tune their combinations while also testing their bench strength ahead of the tournament.
For Australia, this will be their last chance to keep the series alive. Having swept the two-match T20I series, the visitors have thus far struggled to assert their authority in the two ODIs in Hyderabad and Nagpur.
Their bowling attack did put in an efficient performance in the second ODI at Nagpur despite Kohli constructing a century, but the batting hasn’t yet clicked, and the issues begin from the top.
Australia’s Batting Woes
Skipper Aaron Finch has been struggling for form lately and his inability to provide the team with a solid start at the top of the innings has exposed the inconsistent middle order. Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinus and Peter Handscomb have shown flashes of form so far but the middle order’s lack of a lynchpin is evident.
Steve Smith will most likely be thrust into that role during the World Cup but given his lack of match practice and the fact that he will be returning from injury, Australia would do well to temper expectations from the former skipper. David Warner is also expected to be back in the side following the end of his suspension and he could add firepower and stability to the top order but he too will be returning from an injury layoff.
Quite clearly, in this scenario, Australia’s batsmen will be eager to find a modicum of consistency and rhythm in the remaining three games to assuage the concerns of the selectors and team management.
Time to Experiment?
For India, perhaps the biggest dilemma they face is whether or not they choose to experiment with their playing XI in the final three games. India have played with a near full-strength XI in the previous two games yet common sense dictates that even squad members need time in the middle ahead of a tournament like the World Cup.
KL Rahul, who will likely be India’s back-up opener, played in the T20I series but has yet to feature in the ODIs and will be keen to make a case for himself should he be given the opportunity to do so. Rishabh Pant is another player who may feature in the fifteen-man squad for the tournament but hasn’t played thus far in the series, although given MS Dhoni’s recent form the youngster would most likely feature in this series as a pure batsman should he be given a game.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who was rested for the T20 series and the first couple of ODIS, is part of the squad for the last three ODIs. He hasn’t been at his best in white-ball cricket during recent times but is a genuine threat with the new ball and will be keen to rediscover his rhythm soon.
The Indian team management will undoubtedly have an eye on the World Cup but there is also a series to be won. A full house is expected for the contest on the home turf of the talismanic M S Dhoni, and the crowd will be desperate for their favourite soon to produce a strong performance.
India: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (c), Ambati Rayudu, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Vijay Shankar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja
Australia: Aaron Finch (c), Alex Carey, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Ashton Turner, Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Lyon, Adam Zampa, Andrew Tye.
First Published: March 8, 2019, 8:25 AM IST