November 21, Wednesday; 13:20 IST
Live on SPN, streaming on SonyLiv
The main picture
As India embark on another overseas tour this calendar year, the excitement among the cricket-watching public is as high as when India toured South Africa at the start of 2018 and England midway through the year. In most quarters, the suggestion is that the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner gives India the edge to win the Test and the ODI series thereafter, and create history. However, the caveat is that Australia are tough to beat in home conditions, with the bowling quartet of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, and Nathan Lyon capable of terrorising any batting line-up in the world.
Like in England, India begin the tour with a three-match T20I series. Not only are India one of the in-form teams in T20 international cricket (the only other being Pakistan), having won 13 of the 16 matches they have played this year, but they also have the right blend of personnel (all-rounders and specialist batsmen and bowlers) to be able to succeed in this format.
Kohli returns to the India T20 team after being rested for the three-match T20I series against the Windies, bolstering what was already a strong Indian side. The form of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has struggled to pick wickets and been expensive since returning from a lower back injury, will be a worry for the Indian team management leading up to the World Cup. Despite the presence of Jasprit Bumrah, who has been lethal across formats this calendar year, and Kuldeep Yadav in the bowling attack, India need Bhuvneshwar to be at his best.
India take on an Australia team who have not faced a bigger test of their mental strength than now, in the aftermath of the sandpaper gate, which has had a debilitating effect on the entire playing group. To say that the absence of Smith and Warner weakens Australia will not be providing the state of Australian cricket in its entirety.
Cricket Australia chief executive (James Sutherland), chairman (David Peever), director (Mark Taylor), and high performance manager (Pat Howard) are among those who have resigned in the aftermath of the Longstaff Review, which delivered a damning verdict of Australia’s cricket culture. The newly-adopted elite honesty has been scoffed at in the cricketing fraternity and the onus is on Aaron Finch and co. to win and restore some level of normalcy.
Speaking at a press conference earlier this month, Finch admitted to having difficulties focussing on cricket when so much has happened off the field and the papers are full of it. In the same press conference, Finch said that the confidence in the Australian camp is low. And since then, Australia have lost a home ODI series against South Africa and a one-off T20I right before they take on India.
However, Australia have quality players starting with the captain and opening batsman, Finch. In the batting line-up, Glenn Maxwell and Chris Lynn are among those who must take greater responsibility for the team and try and be the spark amid such turmoil. Billy Stanlake and Andrew Tye have been excellent with the ball in T20 cricket this year, but who also face their toughest test against Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli.
From a fan’s perspective, the upcoming tour will make for excellent viewing despite Australia’s on and off-field troubles
Gabba pitch report and weather forecast
The pitch at the Gabba in Brisbane has remained prominent for its pace and bounce, though it has flattened out over the years and the bowlers have not really had much assistance. But you cannot have a more appropriate playing surface for a T20 match, which you can expect to be high-scoring. This is only the fourth T20I to be played here, with the last one taking place more than five years ago.
The forecast says that Wednesday evening—the match begins at 17:50 local time—will be cloudy and humid, with a thunderstorm late in the evening.
1st T20: India vs Australia probable playing 11
Australia played with just four frontline bowlers in the playing XI for the one-off T20I against South Africa. For the first T20I against India, they will probably bring in Ashton Agar or Adam Zampa for Ben McDermott, a batsman.
Possible Australia XI: 1 Aaron Finch (c), 2 D’Arcy Short, 3 Chris Lynn, 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 Marcus Stoinis, 6 Alex Carey (wk), 7 Ashton Agar, 8 Nathan Coulter-Nile, 9 Andrew Tye, 10 Jason Behrendorff, 11 Billy Stanlake
Virat Kohli will return to the Indian playing 11, in place of Manish Pandey or Dinesh Karthik, with Rishabh Pant potentially keeping wickets in a T20I for the first time. In the bowling department, India have a couple of major selection decisions to make. Washington Sundar played the final T20I against the West Indies, but he is likely to make way for Jasprit Bumrah, who was rested. Yuzvendra Chahal is likely to retain his place.
Possible India 11: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Shikhar Dhawan 4 KL Rahul, 5 Rishabh Pant (wk), 6 Krunal Pandya, 7 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 8 Kuldeep Yadav, 9 Yuzvendra Chahal, 10 Khaleel Ahmed, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
India have the form and personnel and are in the right mental space to get off to a winning start. But you can expect Australia to be ready for the Indian challenge, with the rivalry potentially getting the best out of the players.