India-Australia has been a rivalry that has grown quite a bit in the last couple of decades. In fact, they’ve had some great battles over the years and some cricketing heroes have emerged from these contests. Australia have largely dominated this rivalry. Since the start of this 21st century, the Aussies have won 45 out of the 80 ODI games that the two sides have played while India won just 28.
However, most of those came in the first decade of the 21st century. Since the start of 2010, it’s been all square as India have won 16 and lost 16 out of the 34 ODIs. India and Australia play very often these days. In fact, almost every year they have some or the other series in at least one of the formats. Thus, two decades of the 21st century have gone by and the first ODI series of the new decade just about to get underway.
Hence, we look back at the best India-Australia combined XI from the 21st century before the start of the new ODI series:
(Note – Purely based on stats of games between India and Australia)
1. Rohit Sharma
No player has scored more runs than Rohit Sharma in the 21st century in the India-Australia encounters. The Mumbai player who batted in the middle order for the first six years of his career has amassed 2037 runs at an average of 61.72. In fact, his 2037 runs are the third-most in the India-Australia rivalry in ODI cricket after Sachin Tendulkar (3077 runs) and Ricky Ponting (2164 runs).
Sharma simply loves playing against the Aussies and it brings the best out of him. He has scored seven hundreds and eight fifties against them. In fact, his maiden double ton (209) also came against the Australians. In fact, each of his seven hundreds are colossal ones as each of them have been a score of 120+.
Thus, given the current Indian white-ball vice-captain’s exploits and record, he becomes an automatic pick. He pips the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Shikhar Dhawan to start in this XI.
2. Matthew Hayden
There were very few players who could dominate as Matthew Hayden did. He was strong and could belt the ball harder than most cricketers of his time. He had a very good record across formats in international cricket and averaged in excess of 43 in each of the three formats (though he played only 9 T20Is).
Moreover, the left-handed opener had an excellent record against India. He averaged 53.70 while amassing 1450 runs against them. Out of those, 1402 of them came in the 21st century. Those are the second-most runs for any Australian batsman against India since January 2000.
Hayden struck three tons and ten half-centuries against the ‘Men in Blue’ and invariably did well. The fierce opener overtook former opening partner Adam Gilchrist to make it to the XI and it was a tough choice to make between the two.
3. Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli is arguably the best No. 3 in the game has ever seen in white-ball cricket. There’s hardly any player who has dominated ODI cricket the way Kohli has since his debut. Every time he steps on to the field, he breaks or sets some or the other record.
At the moment, when overall ODI numbers are considered, he is second only to Sachin Tendulkar in terms of hundreds and is tipped to go past most of his ODI records. The current Indian skipper likes playing against the Aussies. He loves the fight Australia bring to the table and that charges him up as well.
Kohli has the fourth-most runs for any player in the history of India-Australia rivalry. The Delhi lad has amassed 1727 runs at an average of 53.96. He has eight hundreds against them which is the second-most for him against a single opposition.
4. Ricky Ponting (C)
Here is another player who will give Virat Kohli a run for his money to be the best No. 3 in world cricket. Ricky Ponting was simply brilliant throughout his career. He finished as the third-highest run-getter in the history of ODI cricket as he made 13704 runs. Moreover, he struck 30 tons in the 50-over format.
2164 of those runs came against India. In fact, 1776 out of the 2164 runs he scored against India came in the last two decades. Moreover, all of his six ODI tons against the ‘Men in Blue’ came after 2000. Hence, Ponting was a prolific run-getter for the Aussies when it comes to facing India.
In fact, two of those tons against India came in World Cup cricket, including the 2003 World Cup final. Hence, he is a big-match player and is hard to ignore. With Kohli batting at 3, Ponting could slot in at 4 in this XI.
5. Michael Hussey
Michael Hussey was one of the best finishers Australia has ever seen in ODI cricket. He was the perfect replacement for Michael Bevan who played that role beautifully. Hussey was no less. He may not be in the top run-getters list but the impact he had was excellent.
He played ODI cricket for nearly a decade and a middle-order spot was fixed for him. The left-hander got 5442 ODI runs at an average of 48.15. Against India, he holds the record for the third-best average (59.23) after George Bailey and Rohit Sharma in India-Australia encounters.
The Western Australian batsman scored 770 runs from 19 innings against India between 2004 and 2012. He also had a strike-rate of 90.80 against them which is more than his career ODI strike-rate.
6. MS Dhoni (wk)
There were largely only two players competing for the wicket-keeper’s slot. One is MS Dhoni and the other is Adam Gilchrist. With the latter opening in white-ball cricket, it wouldn’t be fair to put him down the order. Moreover, Dhoni is one of the best finishers in the history of ODI cricket and also has excellent numbers.
The most successful Indian skipper in ODI cricket has played 350 ODIs in his career. 55 of those came against the Aussies. While he did have an average against them less than his career average, but Dhoni is one of the best in the business when it comes to finishing games/innings.
The Ranchi-born cricketer has aggregated 1660 runs at an average of 44.86 against Australia. He has also scored two tons and 11 fifties against them. Also, his glovework is unorthodox but he is one of the best wicket-keepers of the modern era.
7. Shane Watson
There were a few candidates for the all-rounder’s spot, someone who can bat well and also give 10 overs. The likes of Ravindra Jadeja, Irfan Pathan, Andrew Symonds were among the favourites who had good numbers. But the impact and the numbers back Shane Watson and thus, he makes it to the XI.
Watson is someone who can bat anywhere in the batting order and can float around. He can be destructive when he gets going and is a proper six-hitter as well. Against India, the pace-bowling all-rounder has scored 717 runs at an average of 37.73 and has a strike-rate of 98.08.
With the ball, he is a partnership breaker and has often proved to be vital in the middle overs for Australia. He can also bowl at the death. Overall, Watson has picked up 17 wickets against India in his ODI career.
8. Brett Lee
Brett Lee made his ODI debut in 2000 itself and he was a tormentor in white-ball cricket. He bowled with great pace and rattled the opposition batsmen. Lee had almost every delivery in his arsenal. Be it the pin-point yorker, sharp bouncer or movement with the new ball, Lee could do it all.
And he loved playing against India. In fact, no other player has more wickets than him in the India-Australia rivalry. The ace Aussie pacer is the only one to take over 50 wickets. Lee has picked up 55 wickets at an average of 21.00 and has an economy of 4.49.
He picked up a wicket once every 28 deliveries against the ‘Men in Blue’. Also, four out of his nine five-wicket hauls came against India. Hence, there is no better fast bowler than Lee in this XI.
9. Mitchell Johnson
If Brett Lee is at the top of the tree for dominating the wicket charts in India-Australia games, Mitchell Johnson would come second. The left-arm fast bowler always picked wickets when he played against India. In fact, people remember for his red-ball exploits but he had an equally good (if not better) ODI record.
Johnson is the second-highest wicket-taker for Australia against India in ODI cricket. He has picked up 43 wickets at an average of 26.06 and had a strike-rate of 30.7 against them. He may have not picked up wickets in clusters always but he always prized out the key men from the opposition line-up.
Moreover, Johnson could tonk the ball lower down the order. He has played some vital cameos as well. 171 out of his 951 ODI runs have come against India.
10. Ajit Agarkar
Ajit Agarkar is the lone Indian pacer in this line-up. The Mumbai-born fast bowler was a pretty underrated ODI cricket. Only Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath had more wickets than Agarkar’s 288 ODI scalps in the history of Indian cricket. However, Agarkar had a better strike-rate and average than the other two.
Moreover, it is not spoken about much but his numbers against Australia are very good too. He has picked up 36 wickets against them which is the second-most for an Indian bowler in ODI cricket against Australia. Only Kapil Dev (45 wickets) has a greater number of wickets.
26 out of those 36 wickets which Agarkar took against Australia in his career came in this 21st century. The nippy pacer last played in 2006 but it’s his numbers that force him into this XI.
11. Harbhajan Singh
Harbhajan Singh is the lone spinner in this team. The Punjab off-spinner has a big history against Australia and he was always up to the challenge. He constantly forced the Aussies to raise their game and they brought the best out of him as well.
While he has outstanding numbers against them in Test cricket, Harbhajan’s ODI numbers aren’t too bad either. He has the most wickets for any spinner in India-Australia contests.
The ‘turbanator’ picked up 28 wickets and had an economy of 4.57. Harbhajan’s inclusion largely comes on the back of his fiery nature which is ignited especially when he plays against Australia.
12th man: Sachin Tendulkar
It’s tough to leave Sachin Tendulkar out of most XIs of the 21st century. The master blaster churned out runs consistently across both formats, Tests and ODIs. There is hardly a need for his introduction and the records he’s broken and set in world cricket.
However, one of the main reasons why he didn’t make it to the XI was his dip in form against Australia post-2000. Overall, Tendulkar had fabulous numbers against them. He has amassed 3077 runs at an average of 44.59, including nine hundreds and 15 half-centuries. However, in the 21st century, while Tendulkar scored runs against the Aussies, they didn’t come as consistently as before.
Since January 2000, he scored 1803 runs at an average of 39.19. Moreover, he scored just four tons from 48 ODIs against the mighty Australians. Despite middling returns, Tendulkar is the second-most on the list of most runs in India-Australia encounters since 2000.
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