As the clock ticks for the World Cup, every single game counts for India. With just four limited-over fixtures remaining before the ICC showpiece event, India’s aim is to take stock of things and narrow down on the final squad that will fly to England.
This will remain the approach when it takes on Australia in the second ODI at the VCA Stadium here on Tuesday.
Ahead of this series, the national selectors and India captain, Virat Kohli, had indicated that there could be, at the most, ‘two available spots’ in an otherwise settled squad.
After conceding the T20 series, India has started the one-dayers on a winning note. It will be hoping that opener Shikhar Dhawan, who had a poor outing in the opening encounter, gets back into his rhythm.
Though he has not enjoyed a fruitful run in the last four one-dayers — three against New Zealand and one against Australia — the team management is backing him to come good.
At the nets on Monday, Dhawan batted for nearly an hour with head coach Ravi Shastri keeping a close eye. That also means K.L. Rahul — who last played an ODI in 2018 — will have to wait for his turn. Ambati Rayudu, too, had an off-day and will be hoping for some runs under his belt.
The team management will draw confidence from Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s form in the ODIs in 2019. His unbeaten 59 in Hyderabad was the perfect foil to Kedar Jadhav's quickfire 81 as India got over the line with more than an over to spare.
In the bowling department, Kuldeep Yadav is expected to retain his place in the XI, having snapped up two wickets for 46 in the first match.
There will be a toss up between Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravindra Jadeja for the second spinner's spot. Jadeja was miserly in his spell but did not take a wicket. The effectiveness of Yadav and Chahal bowling in tandem could play a role in selecting the XI.
Australia has lost all its three previous encounters against India at the Jamtha, and the Aaron Finch-led side will have to play out of its skin to stem the rot.
The captain’s indifferent form is a major concern. After scores of 0 and 8 in the T20I series, Finch failed to open his account in the first ODI.
Australia will be wary of Usman Khawaja, the flamboyant Glenn Maxwell and all-rounder Marcus Stonis squandering starts in the first match.
Leg-spinner Adam Zampa troubled the Indian batsmen in Hyderabad, but a flat wicket in Nagpur will pose a different challenge.
With both the sides looking at the series as auditions for the World Cup, an exciting contest could be in the offing.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Vijay Shankar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Rishabh Pant, Siddarth Kaul, KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja.
Australia: Aaron Finch (captain), D’Arcy Short, Shaun Marsh, Marcus Stoinis, Usman Khawaja, Alex Carey, Peter Handscomb, Ashton Turner, Adam Zampa, Jason Behrendorff, Jhye Richardson, Pat Cummins, Andrew Tye, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Nathan Lyon.
Match starts at 1.30 pm.