PREVIEW: Confident India look to start on winning note against Australia
Chennai: Despite steamrolling Sri Lanka over three cricket formats 9-0 in their last tour, India will know all too well that Australia would be a different proposition altogether when the two sides renew acquaintances in the first of the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium here on Sunday.
India were all over the hapless Sri Lankans in the latter's own den without having to break sweat. Virat Kohli and Co won all the three Test matches, five ODIs and one T20 international to return unblemished.
But in Australia, the hosts will face stiffer competition simply because of the quality of players the visitors posses.
Even without their pace spearheads Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, ruled out due to injuries, the Steve Smith-led side has the likes of Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar to trouble the Indian batsmen.
It won't be smooth sailing for the visitors, though, by any stretch of imagination.
At home, India have been rampant over the last year of so winning against New Zealand and England 3-2 and 2-1 respectively in the 50-over format.
Indian batters are been in good form with veteran Mahendra Singh Dhoni also finding himself among runs in Sri Lanka. Not having Shikhar Dhawan for the three ODIs is a blow as the southpaw has been among runs in all formats lately.
Ajinkya Rahane is expected to take his place at the top of the order alongwith opener Rohit Sharma. KL Rahul is also an option.
For the Aussies, not having Aaron Finch opening the batting with David Warner is not a perfect arrangement with the dashing right-hander nursing a calf problem. Peter Handscomb has been called on to replace him but Travis Head looks to be the likely partner of Warner.
Ahead of the 2019 World Cup in England, India chief coach Ravi Shastri will get to look at his back-up spin options in this series with Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja rested.
The likes of chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, left-arm spinner Yuzvendra Chahal and all-rounder Axar Patel would vie for spots in the team.
Kuldeep and Chahal have done pretty well in the limited chances that they have got since then and even though there's a perception that wrist-spinners can go for runs, the leggie has an economy rate of 4.14 and the chinaman 3.97 in ODIs.
"I look at them as mystery spinners. You never know what's coming out of their hand. The captain is comfortable to get them into the fray as they can get crucial breakthroughs we look forward to in the middle part of the game," vice-captain Rohit said on Friday.
The Aussies too will rely heavily on their tweakers to get them the wickets. While skipper Steve Smith has made it amply clear that Zampa is a certainty in the playing XI, Agar is also tipped to play a part.
The fact that Kerala chinaman bowler K.K. Jiyas flew in to help the Aussies practice on Friday is a clear indication of how seriously the tourists are taking spin.
The Aussies have not played ODIs since the ICC Champions Trophy and will look to put aside their disappointing loss to Bangladesh in the first Test in Dhaka. They fought back to triumph convincingly in the second rubber. The Aussies lost 0-2 in New Zealand in the ODIs before the Champions Trophy.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Ajinkya Rahane, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami.
Australia: Steve Smith (captain), David Warner, Ashton Agar, Hilton Cartwright, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Patrick Cummins, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade (wk), Adam Zampa