Five. That’s the number of ODIs India play between now and the start of the World Cup. Though most Indian players will be in action during the IPL, the selectors need to have firmed up their picks before that. So, when India face Australia in the first ODI of the five-match series on Saturday in Hyderabad, it will be another chance for the likes of KL Rahul and Vijay Shankar to push their cases forward.
The same holds true for Siddarth Kaul in the bowling department. Kaul replaced Khaleel Ahmed, who had been part of India’s limited-overs set-up since making his debut at the Asia Cup last year. But now it looks like the selectors are exploring other options as well.
Australia are slightly better placed on that front, as they play another five-match ODI series – against Pakistan in the UAE – before the World Cup. But with Steven Smith and David Warner likely to come back into the reckoning and, if fit, be discussed, there are question marks on their plans too.
One gamble Australia might be tempted to take during the India series is handing over the wicketkeeping duties to Peter Handscomb. Handscomb kept wickets during the T20I series against India and has also kept in ODIs previously, but will Australia be comfortable going into the World Cup with Handscomb as their first-choice gloveman?
Glenn Maxwell‘s form with the bat in the India T20Is must have given them some assurance, but his desire to bat higher up in the batting order was dashed by coach Justin Langer , who said that only “what’s best for the team” would be done.
The visitors will be high on confidence after sweeping the two-T20I series, but India might not make much of that, especially in a World Cup year with the bigger picture to focus on.
India WLWWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Two fluent knocks – 50 in 36 balls and 47 in 26 balls – in the T20I series has once again made KL Rahul a serious contender for the World Cup side. He can be India’s reserve opener or a back-up No. 4 in England and Wales, but whether he will be on that flight or not might be decided how he performs in this series.
In his last ten ODIs, Aaron Finch has managed just 225 runs at an average of 22.50 and a strike rate of 76.27. On eight of those occasions, he failed to cross 25. In Australia, Bhuvneshwar Kumar had his number with the one nipping back into the right-hander. On Indian pitches – and with Bhuvneshwar not in the squad for the first two ODIs – Finch may find it a little easier to get in and go big.
India are likely to field the two wristspinners – Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal – with Vijay Shankar filling the allrounder’s spot in Hardik Pandya’s continued absence. If the team management decides to give Rahul as many chances as possible before the World Cup, Ambati Rayudu might miss out.
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 KL Rahul/Ambati Rayudu, 5 Kedar Jadhav, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Vijay Shankar, 8 Kuldeep Yadav, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
Carey, who didn’t find a place in playing XI during the T20Is, is expected to return to his place behind the stumps unless, as discussed earlier, Handscomb is the chosen one for the team. Nathan Lyon, however, may have to sit out with Maxwell joining Adam Zampa as the second spinner.
Australia (probable): 1 Aaron Finch (capt), 2 Alex Carey (wk), 3 Usman Khawaja, 4 Shaun Marsh, 5 Peter Handscomb, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Glenn Maxwell, 8 Adam Zampa, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Jason Behrendorff, 11 Jhye Richardson
Pitch and conditions
The Uppal pitch generally favours batsmen and that reflects in the average first-innings score of 286 at the venue. The forecast for Saturday is partly cloudy with the temperature hovering around the 30-degree Celsius mark.
Stats and trivia
- Australia have played two ODIs at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium – in 2007 and 2009 – and won both.
- Rohit Sharma needs 192 runs more to reach the 8000-run landmark in ODI cricket. He currently has 7808 runs in 195 innings at an average of 47.60.
- Ravindra Jadeja is ten runs away from achieving the double of 2000 runs and 100 wickets in ODI cricket. If he gets there, he will be the sixth Indian to do so after Kapil Dev, Ravi Shastri, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh.
Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.