Forget context, focus on contest as heavyweights India, Australia clash

Match details
Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
January 14, Tuesday; 13:30 IST

The main picture

You could argue that India, Australia, England, and New Zealand—the semi-finalists at the 2019 World Cup—are in a league of their own in world cricket currently. Considering the results in the last dozen months in matches between this quartet, that won’t be an unsubstantiated argument: last year’s Ashes series finished 2-2 and the quality of cricket was transcendental, to say the least; England toured New Zealand for a five-match T20I series, which, unlike the Ashes, wasn’t watched by jampack crowds but, much like the World Cup final itself, the two teams refused to give an inch and the series was decided by a super over. If we further roll back the months to January 2019, the Virat Kohli-led India achieved what none other Asian Test playing nation had: win a Test series on Australian soil. They blew away New Zealand in their own den in the ODI series (winning it 4-1), but the preceding T20I series made for an absorbing contest that the Blackcaps won 2-1.

Essentially, any cricket tour involving two or more of these teams would banish the question of context and put the focus on the contest that you’re likely to get.

It’s the first time in almost 50 years that Australia are on an overseas tour in the middle of their home season. They were scheduled to play an ODI series against New Zealand, but that has now been pushed back to March. The ODI series against India, starting tomorrow in Mumbai, is part of the ICC’s Future Tours Programme, though Cricket Australia had requested the BCCI to arrange the tour for later in the year, which was refused. It has left us with a short but potentially enthralling series between two teams at full strength.

Australia will be playing their first ODI series since the World Cup semi-final loss to England, but they are arguably in their best moment as a unit in a long time. Much of Australia’s recent success has to be attributed to the emergence of Marnus Labuschagne and his consistent churn of runs at No. 3 in the Australian Test side. After Steve Smith’s near-impregnable Ashes series with the bat, Labuschagne took the baton from his senior team-mate during the home summer and was unstoppable in the Tests against Pakistan and New Zealand, accummulating 896 runs at an average of 112.00. He has forced his way into the one-day side, which is without Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis from the team who toured India for a five-match ODI series last March, and after his exploits at the Test level, the expectations of him are high.

David Warner is another of the in-form Australian batsmen in a line-up laden with stroke-makers from Nos. 1 to 6, with wicketkeeper-batsman Alex Carey likely to be slotted in the middle order. Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are likely to be the three fast bowlers in the bowling attack, which will be completed by leggie Adam Zampa and left-arm spinner Ashton Agar. Peter Handscomb and Ashton Turner are in a two-way battle for the No. 5 spot; whether Australia prefer Handscomb’s aptitude against spin bowling or opt for Turner’s power-hitting remains to be seen.

India, much like Australia, have most bases covered. However, question mark remains over the team combination they want. Against the West Indies, the spin-bowling combo of Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav struggled to pick wickets in the middle overs, but the team management have remained reluctant to play Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep together since their poor performances against England at Edgbaston in a World Cup group-stage match. Jadeja remains the front-runner to be the team’s No. 7, particularly after his unbeaten innings to haul India to the winning target against the West Indies in the final ODI in Cuttack, but against Australia’s strong batting line-up, India need to be picking wickets through the middle overs (overs 11-40) to give themselves the chance of winning matches whether they bat first or second. India must also address the surfeit of options for the two opening slots, with Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul vying to be Rohit Sharma’s opening partner.

Wankhede Stadium Mumbai pitch report and weather forecast

You could stack the Wankhede Stadium and the 22 yards right in the centre to the Johannesburg Wanderers Stadium and the pitch there, and you wouldn’t find many differences. The Wankhede pitch offers true pace and bounce, which make it a batsman’s delight, while the relatively smaller boundary also favours the batsmen. Given the possibility of dew, the captain winning the toss is likely to opt to field first. With conditions loaded in favour of batsmen, the result of the match is likely to hinge on the performances of the two bowling attacks.

The weather forecast indicates Tuesday will be clear with the air quality potentially unhealthy for sensitive groups.

India vs Australia 1st ODI playing 11

Possible India playing 11: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Shikhar Dhawan, 4 KL Rahul, 5 Shreyas Iyer, 6 Rishabh Pant (wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Shardul Thakur, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal

Possible Australia playing 11: 1 Aaron Finch (c), 2 David Warner, 3 Marnus Labuschagne, 4 Steve Smith, 5 Peter Handscomb/Ashton Turner, 6 Alex Carey (wk), 7 Ashton Agar, 8 Mitchell Starc, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Josh Hazlewood, 11 Adam Zampa

India vs Australia 1st ODI telecast channel

The first One-Day International between India and Australia will be telecast on the Star Sports network and streamed live on Hotstar. The match can also be viewed on DD National.

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