IND v AUS: Series win in sight for Kohli & Co.

Australia has to win in Ranchi on Friday to stay alive in the five-match series.

Out of the park: M. S. Dhoni at a training session at the JSCA Stadium in Ranchi on Thursday.   -  R. V. Moorthy

India has three One-day Internationals (ODI) for fine-tuning its strategies before it drives out of the pit-stop and enters straight into the World Cup, in May, 2019.

In Australia, the Virat Kohli-led India has an able sparring partner to test its skills. It has done well so far by going 2-0 up and has the chance to clinch the series at the JSCA Stadium, M.S. Dhoni’s home ground.

India has played four ODIs here, having won one and lost two. One of the contests — also against Australia, in 2013 — was washed out. In the last ODI here, in 2016, Dhoni scored 11 and Kohli 45 in India’s 19-run loss to New Zealand.

In both the matches in the series so far, no team has completely dominated the proceedings, but they had their moments. For India and Australia, the problem area looks to be the same — the middle-order. Despite Kohli’s century in Nagpur, if not for Vijay Shankar’s 41-ball 46 and a useful contribution from Ravindra Jadeja down the order, India would have struggled to put up 250 on the board. Australia, too, struggled; in both matches, the middle-order misfired and no batsman took the initiative to score big.

Team combination

India is unlikely to change the winning combination unless the team management wants to rest Mohammed Shami and bring in Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who landed here on Wednesday evening. There could be a toss up to draft leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, but Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav have done well so far. Shikhar Dhawan’s form has been a concern and K. L. Rahul, after having a successful run in the two T20Is, stands a fair chance to replace the left-hander. Since the Asia Cup, Dhawan has managed only 376 runs in 15 innings at an average of 26.85. But India would still like to persist with Dhawan and give its successful limited-overs opening pair a chance to succeed.

During India’s optional practice on Thursday, Dhawan and Rahul were seen having extended net sessions under the watchful eyes of head coach Ravi Shastri and batting coach Sanjay Bangar.

Shikhar Dhawan at the nets on Thursday. The opener will hope to halt his poor run of form. Photo: AP

 

In Nagpur on Tuesday, it was redemption for Vijay after the Nidahas Trophy final. His contribution in the last match with both bat and ball has made his case strong for World Cup selection. There were doubts raised about his bowling but those talks must have ceased as he and off-spin slinger Kedar Jadhav give India its fifth and sixth bowling options.

Must-win for Australia

On the other hand, Australia would like a win to stay afloat in the series and for that to happen, it would want its captain Aaron Finch to score runs top of the order. Peter Handscomb and Marcus Stoinis have so far proven to be the batting mainstays, but it is time now for Shaun Marsh and Glenn Maxwell to rise to the occasion. Taking the conditions and pitch into consideration, Nathan Lyon could well make way for Jason Behrendorff or Jhye Richardson. Australia still has five ODIs in UAE against Pakistan to figure out its right combination for the World Cup.

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The bigger focus for India in the remaining three ODIs will be to find the missing blocks of the puzzle before the World Cup in England and Wales in May.

Teams (from)
  • India: Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, M. S. Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Vijay Shankar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Rishabh Pant, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, K. L. Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
  • Australia: Aaron Finch (c), 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: 13:30 IST.