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India vs Australia | Strong Australia Promise Another Stiff Challenge for India in Short Series

(Photo credit: AFP)
India's pace attack - the Bumrah-Bhuvi-Shami trio - seem to be working wonders for the team in the ICC World Cup 2019

(Photo credit: AFP) India's pace attack - the Bumrah-Bhuvi-Shami trio - seem to be working wonders for the team in the ICC World Cup 2019

There's a mighty good chance that India will face another competitive series at home, with Australia coming for a three-match ODI series beginning Tuesday (January 14).

There's a mighty good chance that India will face another competitive series at home, with Australia coming for a three-match ODI series beginning Tuesday (January 14).

Going against pre-series expectations from many, West Indies recently gave India a run for their money in their limited-overs series, although they lost both the T20Is and ODIs 1-2. They stretched India in the ODIs in particular, winning the first game in Chennai before India fought back in the last two, sealing the series with a thrilling win in the final match.

Now, they face Australia, who only last year beat India in India in a five-match ODI series. What more, Australia are even stronger this time around, with Steve Smith and David Warner in the side.

India will welcome the stern test, for it will help them finetune their own combinations. There's no 'context' of a World Cup around the corner, butthat shouldn't stop India from taking every step they can towards long term goals.

The first decision they'll have to make begins right at the top - Shikhar Dhawan or KL Rahul? Dhawan's absence in the West Indies series gave Rahul and opportunity, and he made terrific use of that with scores of 102 and 77 in his last two ODIs. Dropping him now will not be an easy task.

The decision could have been slightly easier if this was a T20I series, and India might have tilted towards Rahul. But Dhawan is tougher to drop in ODIs, especially given his stellar record at the top with Rohit Sharma. Dhawan's last ODI knock against Australia was a century in the World Cup game, after which he was ruled out with injury. It will be a huge call to drop Dhawan now and separate the Rohit-Dhawan pair.

Holding on to both Dhawan and Rahul will be a tough call too, for they'll then have to change the batting positions of a few others. If Rahul goes to No. 3 or 4, it will mean Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer will be moving down from positions they are doing well in. Which way India go now will be interesting to see.

Apart from the openers' conundrum, India have a fairly settled batting order, with most of them coming good against West Indies. Iyer scored two half-centuries against West Indies, while Rishabh Pant too made a half-century and a 39. Australia will provide a tougher challenge, which is not a bad thing for India at all.

India's issues in the series against West Indies were in the bowling. They conceded 291/2 (47.5), 280 (43.3) and 315/5 in the three matches, with West Indies' big hitters striking hard.

One man who could change that is Jasprit Bumrah. The pacer returned to the set up after a back injury in the T20I series against Sri Lanka, and will be eager to ease into the ODI set up too. He has another senior pacer in Mohammed Shami for company, while a confident Shardul Thakur and Navdeep Saini will be eager to go as well. Eyes, though, will be on Bumrah.

India haven't played too many ODIs after the World Cup - only six to be precise, all against West Indies. On the other, this will be Australia's first ODI outing after the World Cup.

Australia have made a big call by dropping Usman Khawaja, the leading run-scorer in their victory in India last year. They've got Marnus Labuschagne into the ODI set up cashing in on his Test form. There's plenty of quality and experience with Aaron Finch leading the likes of Smith and Warner, although they don't have a place for Glenn Maxwell who is on fire in the BBL.

Australia have a full strength bowling attack too, with Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Kane Richardson and Josh Hazlewood in the mix along with spinner Adam Zampa. Cummins had a stellar series in India last year, and will be the biggest threat.

The matches are held in typically good batting wickets too - Mumbai, Rajkot and Bangalore. The short series, thus, promises plenty of action.