Sport » Cricket

Updated: February 4, 2012 23:26 IST

Australia and India to battle it out

S. Dinakar
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Tendulkar will be under focus as the batsman will be opening the innings in the upcoming ODI tri-series against Sri Lanka and World No.1 Australia.
Tendulkar will be under focus as the batsman will be opening the innings in the upcoming ODI tri-series against Sri Lanka and World No.1 Australia.

Memories come swirling back - India bucking the odds at the energy-sapping triangular ODI series down under in 2008. After Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men nailed the second final at the 'Gabba overcoming Ricky Ponting's Australia, the celebrations continued well into the night.

India had come up trumps in the gruelling competition for the first time. It had made history.

We now move on to 2012. The Commonwealth Bank ODI tri-nation series is being revived after 2007. And the same sides – India, Australia and Sri Lanka – will duel it out.

The teams will play eight league games each – four against each side – and the top two teams will qualify for the best-of-three finals. Along the way, they will criss-cross Australia.

The format of the tournament is such that the one-day skills of the various teams will be comprehensively tested. This competition rewards consistency. World No. 1 Australia and World Cup winner India will duel it out in the first game - a day-night affair - at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) here on Sunday.

The Australians will start as favourites. But then, the Indians might approach the contest with greater belief having managed to square the two-match Twenty20 series at the same venue.

The pitch for the game is expected to offer bounce which is good news for both the batsmen and the bowlers. There could be some turn for the spinners as the match progresses.

Rain has been forecast on Sunday afternoon and both sides will keep a keen eye on the weather. If the chances of the Duckworth and Lewis coming into play appear bright before the toss, then chasing is a better option.

Dhoni faces a fresh challenge. In 2007, he pitched for youth for the tri-series – Saurav Ganguly was controversially omitted for the squad and Virender Sehwag dropped from the eleven during the climactic stages of the competition – but Dhoni's gamble paid off.

Few expected India to lift the Cup. The team, though, found new heroes. As the tournament developed, the side became resilient. Some of the key players in that Cup victory, Dhoni, Sachin Tendulka, Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma and Praveen Kumar are still around.

Predictably, much focus will be on Tendulkar and the maestro's 100 international hundred. The legendary batsman will be opening the innings – a slot where he can be influential.

The levels of energy shown by the Indians on the field in the twenty20 game here on Friday augurs well for the ODI series. If the Indians continue to be brilliant, the Aussie batsmen can be hustled into committing mistakes.

The one-day matches in Australia can make compelling viewing since they are not dominated by the batsmen alone. There invariably is movement and carry for the pacemen and the slip cordon often comes

into play. If the ball darts around, plenty of India's fortunes could hinge on Tendulkar, Segwag and Gambhir, the three men at the top of the order.

They are likely to be confronted by a worthy pace attack of Brett Lee, Ryan Harris and either Clint McKay or left-armer Mitchell Starc.

The Indian middle-order of Kohli, Rohit and Suresh Raina is not without ability. Being a southpaw Raina brings variety to the middle-order but could be targeted by the short-pitched stuff.

Of course, Dhoni's ability to rotate the strike, run hard, deliver the occasional big hit and form associations with the lower order will be critical to India's chances.

Zaheer Khan's left-arm seam and Praveen Kumar's swing could complement each other and carry much of India's pace-bowling hopes.

Although leg-spinner Rahul Sharma bowled exceedingly well in the twenty20 games, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and left-armer Ravindra Jadeja might combine in Sunday's game. In how India controls the middle overs could be crucial to its chances. Australia has the firepower in both batting and bowling. And in Michael Clarke, it possesses a skipper who is in control.

India will have to find a way to dismiss the explosive David Warner quickly and giving Ashwin the new ball might feature in the plans. The in-form Matthew Wade could surface at the top of the order.

Australia has a strong middle-order where the likes of Ponting, Clarke and the two Husseys could make the Indians sweat.

It promises to be an engrossing contest.

India (from): M.S. Dhoni (captain), S. Tendulkar, V. Sehwag, G. Gambhir, V. Kohli, Rohit Sharma, S. Raina, R. Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Rahul Sharma, Irfan Pathan, Vinay Kumar, M. Tiwary, U. Yadav, P. Patel.

The teams: Australia (from): M. Clarke (captain), D. Warner, M. Wade, R. Ponting, M. Hussey, D. Hussey, D. Christian, B. Lee, C. McKay, R. Harris, X. Doherty, M. Marsh, M. Starc, P. Forrest.

Plays starts at 2.30 p.m.

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