Dhawan’s absence somewhat evens out the contest

Match details

MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai
September 17, Sunday; 13:30 IST
Star Sports 1, Star Sports HD 1, Star Sports Hindi 1 HD, Hindi 1, Tamil

The main picture

Same time last year, more Test matches than One-Day Internationals were on the menu for the Virat-Kohli led India, who geared up to play 13 Test matches in a home season spanning seven months. This time, the menu is even tastier with a lot more limited-overs matches (ODIs and Twenty20 Internationals) scheduled to be played in a three-and-a-half-month span against Australia (five ODIs and three T20Is), New Zealand (three ODIs and three T20Is) and Sri Lanka (three Tests, five ODIs and a one-off T20I). Just as the last season, we are in for an enthralling ride which gets underway this Sunday with the No. 2-ranked Australian side facing the No. 3-ranked India, for whom 2017 has been a fantastic year so far.

ODI cricket is Australia’s favourite format and, while they have tended to struggle in the other two formats over the last decade, they remain not just formidable opponents in this one but who you rarely get the better of. From that viewpoint, Steve Smith and co. haven’t had a great 2017, a year in which they have lost to New Zealand away from home and failed to qualify for the knockout stage of the ICC Champions Trophy, though inclement weather played a massive part in their ouster from the eight-team tournament. For the Aussies, therefore, this series against India is an opportunity to resurrect themselves and ensure that this year doesn’t worsen before an all-important Ashes series.

The ODI squad named by the selectors is by no means Australia’s strongest. They are well-stocked in the batting department and David Warner and co. will take some stopping, but their bowling attack is suspect, one because two of their premier fast bowlers (Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood) are missing due to injuries and secondly, it is one-dimensional. Steve Smith and the team management are expected to have a tough time picking a balanced bowling attack given the number of fast bowling options at their disposal and the lack of enough spinners.

When Australia toured India for a seven-ODI series back in 2013, the five completed ODIs produced an astonishing aggregate of 3274 runs and we might well end up witnessing an ODI series full of runs once again. The simple reason being the two quality batting line-ups who may prove too good for the bowling attacks. The pitches at the five ODI venues have historically been good for stroke play and presuming they play to their type, the batsmen will relish batting on them.

Australia are such a formidable one-day unit that they start pretty much every ODI series as favourites to win it. But this one against India is an exception because, for probably the first time in their history, the Indian ODI side look like they are world beaters. One of the reasons is Virat Kohli has a resourceful team whose biggest and probably the only area of concern is the middle order. For the first three ODIs at least, Team India will be without the services of Shikhar Dhawan, who requested to be released in order to attend to his wife, who is unwell, and his absence will definitely be felt. This does change the dynamic and a Dhawan-less India may not be as formidable an opponent for the Australians, particularly when you consider the left-handed opener’s recent form.

Led by Jasprit Bumrah, Team India now also have a pool of quality “fast bowlers”, who are capable of bowling at all stages of the innings and carry a lot of ammunition. They, however, will be tested by the big-hitting Australian batsmen. Talking about fast bowlers, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav have been named in the 16-man squad for the first three ODIs and this duo will bolster an already strong Indian pace attack featuring Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Bumrah.

We will also come to know more about Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav and whether they can be the answers to India’s find for wicket-taking spinners, for they will be up against accomplished limited-overs batsmen who, unlike the Sri Lankans, will not be accommodating and put them under greater pressure. Captain Kohli, though, has plan A, plan B and plan C as far as his utilisation of the bowling resources is concerned and it’s a stark indication of how resourceful a captain he is.

Team India start this ODI series with their noses just in front. They were not tested by the meek West Indian and Sri Lankan sides and we need to wait and see if those series victories have given us a false impression. But let us not forget that India are at home, had good outings against England (who are among the top one-day sides in the world currently) in January and went the distance in the Champions Trophy. So, they are the in-form and more well-rounded team compared to the Aussies.

India vs Australia head to head in ODI

The Aussies, as you’ve come to expect, have had the better of India, winning 72 of the 123 ODI meetings against the Men in Blue, who have won 41, and ten other matches have ended in no-results. Even on Indian soil, Australia lead India in the head-to-head by 25-21, with five no-results.

Only once before has the MA Chidambaram Stadium hosted an India v Australia ODI and that was won by the Aussies, in 1987.

Recent form

IND: WWWWW (from left to right, most recent result first)

1st ODI: India vs Australia playing XI, team news

Experiment was the buzzword in the Indian camp for the entirety of the ODI series against Sri Lanka. Virat Kohli said in a press conference that the team were prepared to lose in the process of experimenting. And India’s forced experiments put them on the brink a couple of times before they were rescued by MS Dhoni, Bhuvneshwar and Rohit Sharma. The experiment to get Lokesh Rahul and Kedar Jadhav to bat at Nos. 3 and 4, with the original No. 3 dropping to No. 5, was a massive failure and in truth, unnecessary.

Team India are unlikely to be as experimental against Australia. Their aim has to be and will be to keep the winning momentum going, in which case they ought to pick their best playing XI for the conditions. In Dhawan’s absence, the team management will have to choose between Lokesh Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane for the vacant opener’s slot.

In the fifth ODI against Sri Lanka, five specialist bowlers were picked in the Indian playing XI. But for the first ODI against Australia, you can expect India to include just four specialist bowlers and Hardik Pandya to come back into the line-up. The subsequent questions are, who makes way for Pandya and whether India will play three seamers and one spinner or two seamers and two spinners?

The practice match between Australia and the Indian Board President XI was a high-scoring affair, but the Chepauk pitch has a reputation for offering spinners extra bounce and the old ball tends to grip and turn. These are salient features which the spinners can thrive on. So, chances are that two spinners and two seamers will be picked in the XI.

Possible India playing 11 for the 1st ODI: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Ajinkya Rahane/Lokesh Rahul, 3 Rohit Sharma, 4 Manish Pandey, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Kuldeep Yadav, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, and 11 Jasprit Bumrah

Aaron Finch is an injury doubt (calf) for Australia ahead of the Chepauk ODI on Sunday. He left early from Thursday’s training session and having also missed the practice match on Tuesday, this Victorian right-hander is in a race against time. If he fails to recover, Travis Head might be David Warner’s opening partner, with Marcus Stoinis or Peter Handscomb, who is flying in to India on match eve as cover for the injured Finch, being picked as a No. 4.

In the bowling department, the visitors will probably go in with three pacers and one spinner and have James Faulkner as the seam bowling all-rounder.

Possible Australian playing XI for the 1st ODI: 1 Steve Smith (c), 2 David Warner, 3 Travis Head, 4 Marcus Stoinis/Peter Handscomb, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Matthew Wade (wk), 7 James Faulkner, 8 Nathan Coulter-Nile, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Kane Richardson, and 11 Adam Zampa

India vs Australia 1st ODI prediction

The absence of the in-form Dhawan makes this more of an even contest because not only will India bring in Rahul or Rahane to partner Rohit but also miss the stability provided by the Rohit-Dhawan partnership. Still, the home team will believe that their bowlers can make the telling difference in this contest.

From an Australian perspective, they bat deep and the batsmen will feel a lot more confident about their game than they did in the Test series back in February-March. But for them, the greatest worry is the one-dimensional nature of their bowling attack and a potential lack of penetration.

The bottom line is this is a mouthwatering contest that you shouldn’t miss!

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