Fine-tuning strategies and testing combinations will be the priorities for both India and Australia in the three-match ODI series beginning in Mohali on Friday.
Precisely, these three games provide both sides with one last opportunity to set their house in order going into the 50-over World Cup beginning on October 5. Team India’s morale obviously is high following an emphatic Asia Cup triumph last Sunday where they blew Sri Lanka away.
Australia though may have a few aspects to worry about as they lost the away ODI series to South Africa in spite of taking a 2-0 lead. However, their bowling attack in those one-dayers was a tad depleted with the likes of captain Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc not being part of the team.
How Cummins and Starc (out of the first ODI), recovering from wrist and groin injuries, respectively, fare and the rhythm with which they operate in this series will be vital for the five-time ODI World Cup champions ahead of the showpiece event.
Shubman Gill during a practice session in Mohali on Thursday. PTI photo
Going back to India, they would be having their fingers crossed on how Shreyas Iyer, who missed most of the Asia Cup games due to a back spasm, responds in these ODIs. Following the Asia Cup final last Sunday, regular captain Rohit Sharma had said that Iyer was 99 per cent fit and would make further progress going forward.
With Rohit and Virat Kohli set to join the team only for the third and final ODI on September 27, it appears Iyer — assuming he’s made that required bit of progress over the past three days — will be going out to bat at No.3 after openers Shubman Gill and Ishan Kishan. That, if stand-in skipper KL Rahul’s position remains at No.4 in the batting order and doesn’t get tweaked.
Since his comeback from the back injury which required a surgery, Iyer featured in just two games (against Pakistan and Nepal) in the Asia Cup, getting to bat only once where he scored 14. If Iyer does spend some time at the crease, runs reasonably well and makes a decent contribution with the bat, both he and the Indian team management shouldn’t be having too many reasons to worry about.
Ishan Kishan (L), Shubman Gill, R Jadeja and J Bumrah during a practice session in Mohali. PTI photo
The task though won’t be too easy for Iyer as well as the rest of the batters as the Australian bowling attack, even if it’s not at its best, is superior to that of Sri Lanka, one of India’s favourite punching bags in bilaterals.
The focus will also be on Suryakumar Yadav, who couldn’t utilise the lone opportunity in the Asia Cup against Bangladesh last week. This series gives Surya, who may bat at No.5 on Friday, another chance to prove himself in the one-day format.
Eyes will also be on Ravichandran Ashwin, who is “in line” to feature in India’s World Cup squad as Rohit has said. With Kuldeep Yadav too set to return for the final game, it seems the senior pro — in his first ODI series since the one against the Proteas back in January 2022 — as well as his off-spin colleague Washington Sundar will be part of the XI in the first two games at least.