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Stage set for a rollicking start to series

G. Viswanath
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YOUNG GUNS:Shikhar Dhawan and local boy Ravindra Jadeja share a light moment during a practice session at Rajkot on Wednesday.— Photo: Vivek Bendre
YOUNG GUNS:Shikhar Dhawan and local boy Ravindra Jadeja share a light moment during a practice session at Rajkot on Wednesday.— Photo: Vivek Bendre

Those connected with the conduct of the Twenty20 International here against Australia at the Khanderi stadium heaved a sigh of relief.

Heavy rain on Tuesday had made the outfield extremely soft, forcing the officials to keep their fingers crossed on the possibility of a prompt start on Thursday.

With sunny weather for the better part of Wednesday and the Indian team lining up in their brand new Nike bleed blue attire, the stage seems set for a rollicking start to the Twenty20 and seven-match One-Day International series against Australia.

Officials happy

The match officials, too, seemed happy with the state of the pitch and the ground, which was a trifle soft in the morning, became parched by the afternoon and was in excellent condition for the Australians to have a fielding work-out.

Though it is festival time here, the locals do not see the match as an intrusion into their revelry, but consider it a welcome change that will re-connect them with the game that has produced players like Ravindra Jadeja and Cheteshwar Pujara and made Rajkot famous.

Left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat is the latest addition to the local heroes list, a significant reason why a good turnout is expected for the match.

The Indian team is without a few of its top performers in this format of the game like Gautam Gambhir, who is the top run-getter (932), Harbhajan Singh, who has the best figures of four for 12 (against England), and left-arm seamer Irfan Pathan (maximum of 28 wickets).

New opening pair

In fact, India will have a new opening pair. Last December Gambhir and Ajinkya Rahane opened the innings in two matches that Pakistan won at Bangalore and India won at Motera.

There will be much attention on Yuvraj Singh, who was the man-of-the-match against Pakistan at Motera. He has become trim, is fit and in excellent form.

The selectors have rewarded him with a recall and it will be upon him to prove worthy of it.

“Yuvraj is a match-winner. He is a big-match player and has always proved himself whenever questions have been raised about his form.

“He performs very well in a tough series and we are hoping he will come back strong. It is good to have him in the side as a bowling option also,” said skipper M.S. Dhoni.

The teams (from):

India: M.S. Dhoni (captain), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, R. Vinay Kumar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ambati Rayudu, Mohammed Shami, Jaydev Unadkat and Amit Mishra.

Australia: George Bailey (captain), Shane Watson, Aaron Finch, Adam Voges, Glenn Maxwell, James Faulkner, Nic Maddinson, Moises Henriques, Brad Haddin, Xavier Doherty, Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay and Nathan Coulter-Nile.

Umpires: C. Shamsuddin and Anil Chaudhary; Third umpire: Vineet Kulkarni; Match referee: Roshan Mahanama.

Match starts at 7.30 p.m.

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