India would play a two-match T20I series against Australia before kicking off a five-match ODI series. This is the last few international matches for India before the World Cup in May. Hence, India would look to give chances to all players to make a final bid for a World Cup berth.
The team selection will be interesting as India would not only have to make sure adequate opportunities are given to everyone, but also the team wins the twin series to carry some momentum into the World Cup.
India start off the first T20I at Vishakapatnam on February 24, Sunday. Cricwizz takes a look at what should be the ideal combination of the team to not only meet all needs but also win the match for India too.
Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan
India might be tempted to open with KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan to give Rohit Sharma a break and Rahul the much-needed chance to shine as the third opener of the squad and the World Cup too. But India would not like to risk Rahul as the opener yet, especially when he is making a comeback after a poor show in Australia and the controversial talk show. India would go with the tried and tested opening combination of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan to give India a fiery start for the explosive middle-order to make merry.
Indian skipper Virat Kohli would be fresh after the international break and raring to have a crack at Australia again. He will look to lead from the front and seal another T20I series win for India whose unbeaten streak of 10 T20I series was broken in the New Zealand series. Kohli at No 3 leads the batting line-up. India missed the presence of Kohli in the New Zealand series, which India lost narrowly.
Rahul had a few decent knocks in domestic cricket and the team management would be eager to give him a chance to make amends. The recall of Rahul implies Indian selectors are looking at him as the third opener for the World Cup. Now, the ball is on Rahul’s court to do well and book a ticket to England. Rahul would be tried at the expense of Rishabh Pant who is favourite to take the second keeper’s spot in World Cup and would be drafted in the XI in the following ODI series.
Dhoni continues to enjoy the support of his skipper Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri. Dhoni’s place is confirmed till the World Cup. Dhoni is like a bowler on his own as he earns a wicket through his sharp stumpings and pieces of advice to spinners from behind the stumps. His form with the bat too has been impressive. No one in this world can displace Dhoni now till the 2019 World Cup.
Karthik is not part of the ODI series. Hence, the two T20Is are extremely vital for Karthik to shine and seal a World Cup berth. Karthik seems to be undone by the lack of support from selectors. He has been replaced by Pant in the ODI series and can miss the World Cup bus if selectors go for the youngster as a second keeper. Hence, Karthik has to produce a couple of magical performance in the two T20Is to all but seal his World Cup berth.
The first-choice spinner is YS Chahal, but India would look to give him a rest and try Mayank Markande instead. Mayank brings with him an air of uncertainty and the mystery factor. Australia have played Chahal Down Under and can play him again without much trouble. But Mayank, who impressed in the last IPL, would be making his international debut if he gets the chance and can outwit the opposition with his variations and big turners. India would be more than tempted to try out Mayank in the T20I series.
The Pandya brothers
Krunal impressed with bat and ball in the T20I series. He and Karthik almost took India to T20I series win against New Zealand. But they faltered at the last hurdle. Nevertheless, Krunal will be the preferred choice in T20Is although he is out of the race for the World Cup. Krunal will join his brother Hardik Pandya in the line-up. Hardik has done well and seems to have put behind his controversial talk show. He faces competition from Vijay Shankar for the all-rounder’s spot in the XI, but Pandya’s experience will outweigh the latter.
Bumrah will be back to lead the pace attack after being rested post the historic 2-1 Test series win Down Under. He has been the most successful pace bowler for India across all formats. His death-overs bowling in limited-overs cricket is extremely handy. Bumrah can make life difficult for Australia once again in the limited-overs series as he did in the Test series Down Under.
With Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar rested for the T20I series, Umesh Yadav has the best chance to make a comeback in the limited-overs cricket for India. He was relegated a bowling hero only on Indian soil in Test cricket. But Umesh has a lot to offer and this will be his last chance to knock at the door of World Cup selection as India might go in for a fourth bowler in addition to Shami, Bhuvi and Bumrah. Hence, Umesh will be preferred over Siddarth Kaul in the XI for the T20I series.
Playing XI: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, MS Dhoni (keeper), Dinesh Karthik, Krunal Pandya, Hardik Pandya, Mayank Markande, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav.