A great cricketing rivalry unravels anew

Pace power: The Indian speedsters have, of late, developed into a potent force and could test the mighty Australian batting line-up even on batsmen-friendly surfaces.

Pace power: The Indian speedsters have, of late, developed into a potent force and could test the mighty Australian batting line-up even on batsmen-friendly surfaces.   | Photo Credit: V_GANESAN


India and Australia will have everything to play for in the high-voltage skirmish; Jadeja drafted in for injured Axar

Those were days when disco was king, Doordarshan held monopoly over television in the country, Mr. India became a monstrous hit at the box office, and there were queues outside telephone booths for STD calls.

The year was 1987 when India and Australia were last involved in an ODI at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium.

This is the age of mobile phones, digital technology and T20 cricket. And India and Australia are old rivals with a new bunch of protagonists.

The duel between the two giants at Chepauk on Sunday — the first game of a five-match ODI series — is pregnant with possibilities.

Weather factor

The match, however, faces a threat from the weather. Both teams practised under a cloud cover on Saturday and scattered thunderstorms have been forecast for Sunday.

The surface for the game should be batsmen friendly. However, while the bounce in the track should assist strokeplay, it could also provide the bowlers with a chance to strike.

As the game wears on, there might be some turn for the spinners; dew may not be a huge factor.

Left-arm spinner Axar Patel, who injured his ankle during practice on Friday, is out of the first three ODIs. Experienced left-arm spinning all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja has been drafted in and could find a place in the eleven.

The Indian attack should feature at least one of the two wrist spinners — left-arm chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal.

It will be an attacking ploy. Picking wickets is the best way to keep the run-rate under check.

India has found a temporary solution to the opening partnership conundrum with skipper Virat Kohli declaring that Ajinkya Rahane will open with Rohit Sharma; K.L. Rahul will bat at No. 4.

Yet, Dhawan’s absence leaves India without a left-right combination at the top. The openers have most space and overs to construct partnerships in limited-over format and the two men are critical to a team’s fortunes.

It has to be said that Rahul has the mindset of an opener, uses the pace on the ball to slice open attacks, and did not quite make runs at the other positions during the recent ODI series in Sri Lanka.

On the positive side, Hardik Pandya’s development as an all-rounder — he bowls around 140 kmph and can power the ball into the stands — has lent greater balance to the side.

India now has the option of picking four specialist bowlers including two spinners.

Aggressive style

Kohli’s style of captaincy is aggressive. But then, there are times when he can be carried away by swirling on-field emotions and it is here that M.S. Dhoni’s calming influence will help the side.

The Indians do not have an off-spinner in their line-up but had promising off-spinning all-rounder Washington Sundar bowling at them in the nets.

With Steve Smith making it clear that the attacking Travis Head will bat at No. 4 — he brings left-handed variety to the middle order — either Hilton Cartwright or the hard-hitting Marcus Stoinis might open with the destructive David Warner.

In order to neutralise threat from wrist spin, Australia got former Delhi Daredevils left-arm wrist spinner K.K. Jiyas to bowl at them in the nets.

Aaron Finch’s fleet-footed cover Peter Handscomb might not be rushed into the first game so soon after his arrival in India.

While much focus will be on spin in the sub-continental pitches, the duel between the mercurial Kohli and the hostile Pat Cummins could set the tone for the series.

And then Nathan Coulter-Nile with his three-quarter length and bounce could trouble the Indians. James Faulkner gives the side left-arm death-over option.

Among spinners, left-armer Ashton Agar — if selected ahead of leggie Adam Zampa — and offie Glenn Maxwell — he brings with him the X-factor with the willow — could combine.

With close-in cordon largely absent in limited-over cricket, sledging is unlikely to be a major issue.

The teams (from):

Australia: Steve Smith (capt.), David Warner, Marcus Stoinis, Hilton Cartwright, Travis Head, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade (wk), James Faulkner, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Adam Zampa, Peter Handscomb, Kane Richardson and Tim Paine (wk).

India: Virat Kohli (capt.), Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, K.L. Rahul, M.S. Dhoni (wk), Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Ravindra Jadeja.

Match starts at 1.30 p.m.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 5:02:31 PM |

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