Aus vs Ind, 3rd T20I Preview: India eye clean sweep

Australia’s batsmen may have been better at milking the bowling through the middle overs during the one-day series, but such advantages have been nullified.

A victory at Sydney on Sunday would be a huge cause for optimism ahead of the World T20.   -  AP

India’s players have spoken of treating this tour as a series of eight matches, by which token they trail Australia 3-4 now. However, right or wrong such score-keeping may seem, the fact remains that in these conditions, India is a vastly different side over 20 overs than it is over 50.

Australia’s batsmen may have been better at milking the bowling through the middle overs during the one-day series, but such advantages have been nullified. India’s spinners are back in the game, while its top order has simply been relentless.

The shoe is on the other foot now as the visiting side approaches the final game of the KFC T20 Series with the opportunity to record a clean sweep. A victory at the SCG here on Sunday would be — irrespective of the ODI results — a huge cause for optimism ahead of the World T20.

“We’re getting completely outplayed on the field in every department,” Australia’s acting head-coach, Michael di Venuto, admitted here on Saturday. “Their batters are in outstanding touch and have been all summer. We’re just struggling to get early wickets and get into their middle order.”

That has meant that Yuvraj Singh and Hardik Pandya have not had to bat. If India wishes to settle on its best team ahead of the World T20, it may wish to see the two players, and Suresh Raina, tested.

M.S. Dhoni, however, seemed reluctant to make changes or shuffle the batting order around in the final T20.

“The word ‘experiment’ can’t be there with the Indian team,” he said after the win at the MCG. “We can’t experiment! We always use different phrases, like, ‘We want to try this individual who is doing this or something else’. Yes, we want to see what Yuvraj will do with the bat, what Hardik can do — but where is the opportunity? We can’t make them open.

“Virat is batting very well at No. 3. And if a partnership goes on, and it’s the 15th or the 16th over, then it’s my time to come in and play the big shots. With a few more games coming up, maybe they will get better chances. But as I said, there won’t be any experimentation. If an opportunity arises, they will definitely get a chance to bat.”

In stark contrast, half the likely Australian squad for the World T20 is away in New Zealand preparing for an ODI series — talk about priorities. There were six changes in Melbourne and there will be more here. The nationwide clamour for Usman Khawaja’s inclusion has been answered, with the left-hander drafted in for the injured Aaron Finch. Shane Watson, who last year believed his international career was over, will captain the side. Cameron Bancroft is the only ‘keeper in the team, having replaced Matthew Wade.

Rohit Sharma was struck on the thumb by Andrew Tye at the MCG and did not take the field during the Australian innings. The team is expected to make a decision, however, only on the morning of the game. The forecast is for clear skies, although it rained heavily on Saturday.

Squad:

India: M.S. Dhoni (captain), Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Rishi Dhawan, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, Virat Kohli, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Ashish Nehra, Hardik Pandya, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh and Umesh Yadav.

Australia: Shane Watson (captain), Cameron Bancroft, Scott Boland, Cameron Boyce, James Faulkner, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Chris Lynn, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Shaun Tait and Andrew Tye.

Umpires: Simon Fry and John Ward. TV umpire: Paul Wilson. Match referee: Jeff Crowe. Reserve umpire: Geoffrey Joshua.

Match starts at 1:45 p.m. IST