Skipper Virat Kohli will be back at his regular number three position as India’s saving grace, after the strategy of including all openers in the top-order backfired in the opening game, against Australia in the must-win second ODI in Rajkot on Friday (January 17).
The hosts enter the second game of the three-match series 0-1 down after the tourists registered a 10-wicket win in the lung-opener in Mumbai riding on David Warner and Aaron Finch’s unbeaten centuries.
In a bid to play all three in-form openers – Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul -, the skipper dropped himself two-down the order but the plan boomeranged as he was unable to convert his start.
Kohli ahead of the first ODI said that he is ready to play down the order so as to accommodate both Dhawan’s experience and Rahul’s consistency in the playing XI but looking at the debacle in that game the skipper would be more than willing to walk-in one down.
“Big possibility. I would be very happy to do so. Look I am not possessive about where I play. I am not insecure about where I bat,” Kohli said during a pre-match press conference in Mumbai.
Opener Dhawan later said he was ready to bat at number three if asked to by the team management, but since Kohli has been successful at that position and the captain batting at three also provides stability to the middle-order it would be a better buy.
With a concussed Rishabh Pant out of the second game, Rahul is a certainty as he will keep wickets.
So, like in the last game, Rohit and Dhawan, who made a dogged 74 off 91 balls in Wankhede, could open, and there could be a toss-up between Rahul and young Shreyas Iyer at number four. Iyer had a rare failure on Tuesday.
Pant’s absence could pave the way for the inclusion of Karnataka batsman Manish Pandey, who made optimum use of the opportunity that he got in the third T20 against Sri Lanka in Pune.
It would also be interesting to see which among the experienced Kedar Jadhav and rookie Shivam Dube makes the squad.
Rohit, who had a phenomenal 2019, failed in the first game, but given the form he is in, the opener is expected to bounce back strongly here.
Ditto for Kohli, who is just one hundred short of equalling cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar’s record of most hundreds on home soil for India.
The bowlers led by Jasprit Bumrah had a forgettable outing at the Wankhede and they would be more than eager to make a strong comeback and prove their mettle.
Bumrah, since his comeback, has not been as effective as earlier and he would like to change the perception.
It would be interesting to see whether India play Delhi speedster Navdeep Saini or persist with Shardul Thakur, who gave away 43 runs in Mumbai.
Ravindra Jadeja looks a certainty and so the choice would be between chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, who conceded 55 runs in the first ODI and Yuzvendra Chahal as the lead spinner.
On the other hand, a high on confidence Australia will be looking to seal the issue to register back to back series wins in India, a rare feat for any visiting team. The Finch-Warner combination will look forward to carry the momentum.
Their middle-order comprising the experienced Steve Smith, in-form Marnus Labuschange, Ashton Turner and Alex Carey looks more or less settled.
If all of them fire in unison, along with the openers, then it will hard for the opposition bowlers.
However, it will be quite a test of their middle-order at the Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium.
Australian bowlers also showed at the Wankhede, why they are considered among the best.
Led by pace spearhead Mitchell Starc, they bundled out India for a sub-par 255 and Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins would be raring to go once again.
Spinners Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar, not only contained the runs, but provided crucial breakthroughs and are expected to play a similar role again in the middle overs.
The track here is expected to be a belter and India can draw confidence from the home series against New Zealand in 2017, when they won 2-1 after losing the opener, co-incidentally in Mumbai.
India: Virat Kohli (Captain), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, K L Rahul (wicketkeeper), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur and Mohammed Shami.
Australia: Aaron Finch (Captain), Alex Carey (Wicket-keeper), Patrick Cummins, Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Marnus Labuschange, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Ashton Turner, David Warner and Adam Zampa.
Match starts at 1.30 PM
(With inputs from agencies)