Life is a constant battle of wits and capabilities and Cricket epitomizes the same. The viral dance videos of Indian Team took all fans to euphoric delight. Now, the ODI series appears on the horizon.
On one side are the wounded tigers (or Kangaroos?) and they are smarting under the first Test series loss against a sub-continent side. On the other side are India’s Young Turks, who are labeling this victory as superior to world cup wins of 1983 and 2011. The result, however, is obvious in team selection and it displays the mindset of team management. Second ranked Team India is complacent whereas sixth ranked Australia is clenching its teeth.
Let us have a closer look at each team.
Australia ODI Squad
Aaron Finch (c), Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey (wk), Peter Handscomb, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Peter Siddle, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa
This is a radical selection as top three bowlers have been replaced by virtual newcomers.This is considering Starc and co. had minimal impact in the Test series. In batting the fruits of Big Bash League has been plucked in the form of Carrey, Stoinis, Marsh brothers, Khawaja etc. A brave selection indeed.
India ODI Squad
Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma (vc), KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohd. Siraj, Khaleel Ahmed, Mohammed Shami
India is ensconced in their victory and has given Bumrah a break. He was the death bowler and India will certainly miss him. Pant has not been selected and performer of last two tests Mayank, does not find his place. Their omission and inclusion of Karthik, Jadhav and Dhoni definitely deserve a debate.
I have been incessantly making a point that India is not selecting according to pitch conditions and that is the reason they lost in England and the Perth test. The pattern is continuing and probably India will meet the same fate.
Strategy of Australia
Omission of Chris Lynn signifies that Australia is preparing pitches which are not suitable for stroke play. Lynn did exceptionally well in IPL and in the BBL. He is continuing to dazzle.
Inclusion of Jason Behrendorff, Billy Stanlake and Jhye Richardson has stated that pitches will have little extra bounce and will be similar to the 2015 WC match, where India could not face the pace of Australian bowlers and lost miserably. They have picked up batsmen who can play square of the wicket rather than in the V. Khawaja, Marsh brothers, Stoinis and Handscomb are exponents of cut and pull, so these shots will dictate the proceedings.
Australia has made a squad which signifies that it will be difficult to score 300+ scores and with their bowlers backing up they hope to defend the score.
Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit and Kohli can make mincemeat of any attack and that’s it. If one of them scores a century India can post a good score otherwise there are worries. India’s middle order consists of Kedar, Karthik, Rahul and Rayudu. None of them can swat the high bounce created by tall pacers of Australia. In view of this, India will face problems in combating run rate in middle overs. As those overs constitute the skeleton, problems are looming.
India’s late order and tail is worrisome. Dhoni is a liability is and his slow run rate causes havoc. The same was uttered by Gambhir in 2012 after a match winning inning and he never played after that. Dhoni’s average is 35 in Australia and in his last series it was only 17 so when he could not perform in his peak so how he can perform Down Under in his twilight.
Probably his desire to play 2019 World Cup is adversely affecting India’s chances. Pandya can be an asset but his batting is not equipped to handle chin music. He can hit or lift in V along and cut. If the ball rises to chest level he will come croppers. Looking at current scenario I do not expect him to play a very long innings, but he’s good to play knocks of 30-35.
Readers will be shocked to note that India’s run rate in last 10 overs is among the lowest in the world. Do we expect Kuldip, Shami, Bhuvaneshwar to accelerate? It is foolhardy. They can only provide support and rotate strike and if on the other hand Dhoni is there, then if he hits sixes then India may win. As per current trend, it will be a letdown so run rate at the end of innings will remain a cause of worry.
Positives for India
Kuldeep can throw Chinaman and no one in Australia is able to fathom his balls. He can control the run rate, take wickets and restrict Australia to sub 270. He is well suited to fashion India’s victory.
Shami and Bhuvneshwar can rattle the top order and again restrict Australia. Last but not the least, Kohli has hit 19 centuries in successful chases and he can always script a victory. Rohit in his sublime form and Dhawan in his pugnacious way can be the architects of India’s Victory. So if two of them perform India can achieve a win.
The Final Prediction
Against the norm and mood of fans I am predicting a 2-1 series win for Australia. B team of Australia could create flutters for India in Tests. So, in ODIs where India are Paper Tigers with three players in top 10 of batting and three bowlers in top 10 of bowling, may bite the dust, Australian team selected with a strategy and vision will take the fight to a team basking on the exploits of Kohli, Rohit and Dhawan.
If these three musketeers do the dare devil act, then only India will be salvaged otherwise this young team of Australians will have a last laugh.