Team Kohli’s hunt for right balance
During their previous tour Down Under, India were beaten comprehensively by Australia in the first of the three ODIs before making necessary amends in the next two games to clinch the series.
Virat Kohli’s men can draw inspiration from history and look to replicate the feat of 2018-19 by first levelling the series in the second ODI at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday, and then heading for the decider in Canberra with much-needed momentum.
But hang on. Those were the days when no one knew about Covid-19 and its influence. More importantly, Australia were struggling to put together a proper XI then with their batting line-up considerably weakened by the absence of the banned Steve Smith and David Warner.
Yes, earlier this January India did come from behind and beat a full-strength Australian side 2-1. But that was at home and India also had Rohit Sharma, who was instrumental in that series victory.
The current Australian bowling attack, irrespective of Mitchell Starc looking ragged and rusty on Friday evening, bears a far sharper look in home conditions and well equipped to get crucial breakthroughs. For India, the new opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Mayank Agarwal didn’t do a bad job in pursuit of a massive total. That said, the visitors missed Rohit’s presence at the top.
Batting-wise, India’s performance in the opening game of the tour wasn’t unsatisfactory, barring the period when they lost four quick wickets inside the first 15 overs of their reply. Having said that, the current scenario beckons a Virat Kohli special if India are to stay alive in this ODI series.
The likes of Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood are most likely to target the India captain again with the short delivery, which led to his undoing the other evening. If Kohli can execute those pulls and swivels better on the SCG track that appears to favour batsmen more, India’s prospects will look brighter.
Their batting aside, the visitors may need to sort a few things out in terms of bowling as well. Barring Ravindra Jadeja to a certain extent, the rest, including Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, had a tough time in the middle.
Instead of continuing with Navdeep Saini, who has already complained of back spasms, India do have the option of handing “yorker-specialist” T. Natarajan an international debut, while left-armer Kuldeep Yadav’s wrist spin may well force the in-form Australian batting line-up to make some adjustments.
With Hardik Pandya still not able to bowl, India have been forced to include a specialist bowler in their XI which, in turn, seems to be affecting the balance of the side.
For Australia, all-rounder Marcus Stoinis has sustained a low-grade side strain and looks doubtful. Moises Henriques, Ashton Agar or the uncapped Cameron Green could replace him.
⚫ Match starts: 9.10am (IST)