Ind vs Aus: Rohit-less India takes on mighty Australia in first ODI

The absence of an injured Rohit Sharma will certainly leave a gaping hole, something that skipper Virat Kohli wouldn’t have fancied at the onset of the tour.

India will be without the services of Rohit Sharma, who is nursing an injury.   -  VIJAY SONEJI

A new world and a different shade of retro blue awaits a circumspect Team India which re-enters the international arena without a white-ball colossus in Rohit Sharma, facing the might of a menacing Australia in the first ODI here on Friday.

The absence of an injured Rohit Sharma will certainly leave a gaping hole at the top of the order, something that skipper Virat Kohli wouldn’t have fancied at the onset of a gruelling two-month tour.

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Kohli’s men, who had been on a COVID-enforced international break since the disastrous away series against New Zealand that ended early March, now kick-start their international calendar in a series where a lot of probing questions are expected to be asked.

For those who believe in superstition, the return of the 1992 World Cup’s navy blue jersey isn’t a good omen as one of India’s worst performances (7th in 9 teams) happened in that particular edition.

For the more pragmatic, it will be more about how Kohli’s men get their combination right in the absence of Rohit, whose injury has been a topic of national debate.

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Whether it’s the young Shubman Gill or the slightly more experienced Mayank Agarwal, whoever partners an in-form Shikhar Dhawan, the challenge of facing a Mitchell Starc or a Pat Cummins first-up will still be an onerous one.

Kohli again has his task cut out as he gears up to combat a high-quality pace attack, which is likely to be complemented by the wrist spin of Adam Zampa, who has at times been the Indian captain’s nemesis.

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Facing Australia in its backyard with a Steve Smith, who is getting back his rhythm, an eternally hungry David Warner and a future great in Marnus Labuschagne isn’t the best of propositions and thus some priorities will be tested.

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For the next two years, 50-overs cricket is the least important format, so will it be a “win-at-all-costs” approach by Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri or a more easygoing mindset keeping the Test series in mind.

India skipper Virat Kohli will aim to start the tour on a winning note. (File Photo)   -  VIJAY SONEJI


For starters, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami could both start but the team management may have to rest one of the two alternately, keeping in mind their importance in the more traditional format.

Hence Shardul Thakur and Navdeep Saini need to up their respective games by a few notches if one of the two seniors are rested.

Then there will be an acid test in store for KL Rahul, a stylish batsman, who will have to find those gaps with ease, expect his skipper to have an ear for his suggestions and take those tricky DRS calls while successfully reading Yuzvendra Chahal’s googlies behind the stumps.

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It’s an inspired move to ensure an extra batting or bowling option that will lend the necessary balance to side, something that has been compromised a bit because of Hardik Pandya’s inability to bowl due to an earlier case of stress fracture.

If it is Pandya’s explosive hitting at No.6 or 7 that will give his captain the confidence to play two spinners, Shreyas Iyer’s show at No.4 during the last tour remains a feel good factor for the Indians.

Chahal could be the man that the Australian middle-order, especially the likes of Marcus Stonis, Glenn Maxwell and Alex Carey, would be wary of.

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But, in the absence of a steady death bowler like Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Bumrah will once again be expected to carry the maximum workload.

The three ODIs will be followed by as many T20 Internationals before the Test series beginning December 17.

The series will see a return of the in-stadia crowds with Cricket Australia approving occupancy of 50 per cent of the available seats.


India: Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Shubman Gill, KL Rahul (vice-captain & wicket-keeper), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Mayank Agarwal, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd. Shami, Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur

Australia: Aaron Finch (Captain), David Warner, Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood, Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Cameron Green, Moises Henriques, Andrew Tye, Daniel Sams, Matthew Wade (wicketkeeper).

Match Starts: 9:10 am IST

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