After weeks of damp squibs, mismatches and one-sided encounters, we finally have a mouth-watering series in prospect with the Men in Blue locking horns against the visiting Australians in a three-match ODI series, starting on January 14th at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
Both these sides played a total of nine ODIs in 2019 in which India won five while the Aussies won four. While India won the ODI series (2-1) Down Under and the all-important World Cup fixture against the Kangaroos, the Aaron Finch-led Aussies turned the tables when they reversed the 0-2 scoreline to 3-2 in India last year
So, with redemption on the minds of Virat Kohli and co, what will be the playing XI that the hosts will field at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai?
Here’s India predicted playing XI for the first ODI:
Openers – Rohit Sharma & Shikhar Dhawan
There is something about Australia that always brings out the best in the Hitman- Rohit Sharma especially when it is the first ODI of a new year. In the past three occasions where Sharma has started the New Year with an ODI against the Aussies, he has ended up scoring a hundred in each of those matches. The right-hander sat out of the T20I series against Sri Lanka and will take centre stage at his home ground against the Aussies on Tuesday.
But, who will open with Rohit? In the past whenever we have talked about Indian ODI set-up, the first three names-, Rohit, Shikhar, and Virat- have always invariably picked themselves. But, the resurgence of KL Rahul in both ODI and T20 cricket, it has made tough for the team-management to pick one out of Rahul and Shikhar.
However, with Shikhar boasting off a good ODI record- overall as well as against Australia- and given how successful Rohit and the southpaw have been at the top, KL Rahul may have to sit on the bench once again.
Middle-Order – Virat Kohli (C), Shreyas Iyer & Rishabh Pant (wk)
Virat Kohli loves batting against the Aussies. The Indian captain was the leading run-scorer for his side against Australia last year when he racked up 444 runs in 9 matches at an average of 49.33 with 1 hundred and three half-centuries. The Indian captain needs just one hundred to become the joint-highest century-maker alongside Ricky Ponting  and what better way to level and possibly overhaul Punter against his own country.
Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant showed why Indian cricket is so excited about their prospects during the series against the West Indies. In the Chennai ODI, both the youngsters played matured knocks after India had lost three quick wickets. Iyer has grabbed all his opportunities with aplomb since the World Cup thus far, but facing the Australians will be a different kettle of fish, something he’ll be looking forward to.
Rishabh Pant, on the other hand, showed signs of coming back into form during the ODI series against the West Indies. The southpaw scored a mature 71 in the first game when the chips were down while in the second game, he, along with an Iyer was instrumental in propelling India’s score to a 5-387.
But, once again, the final ODI saw Pant play another reckless shot against the run-of-play, something both he and the team management will hope that it does not happen against Australia.
All-rounder- Kedar Jadhav & Ravindra Jadeja
There has been a lot of contention around Kedar Jadhav‘s spot in the Indian ODI set-up. The right-hander had a forgettable series against the West Indies, and questions galore around his viability in the ODI squad. One of the reasons which bowling coach Bharat Arun gave for Jadhav’s selection is the sixth bowling option that he offers to the captain.
But, in the ODIs against the West Indies, Jadhav bowled just a solitary over in the entirety of three games, and it will be interesting to see whether his services with the ball are employed against Australia.
Ravindra Jadeja’s resurgence with the bat was once again testified in the series decider against the Caribbeans where he scored a 31-ball 39 to steer his side past the finishing line. While his bowling on flat tracks still remains a concern, the fact that he has the ability to give 10 overs every game and is the only spinner who can bat, the southpaw will take up the all-rounder’s spot in the playing 11.
Bowlers- Shardul Thakur, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah
With Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah coming back into the set-up, India will have a tough task of choosing between Shardul Thakur and Navdeep Saini for the 3rd seamer’s spot. Both Shardul and Saini impressed during the T20I series against Sri Lanka, but the ability of the former with the bat may just go in his favour.
India has been playing just one out of the two wrist-spinners in Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. And, the same is expected to be the case in this series. Yadav played the entirety of the ODI series against the West Indies and the second T20I against Sri Lanka, and the team management, given the fact that they already have one left-arm spinner in Jadeja, might slot-in Chahal as the second spinner.
Just like Rohit Sharma, Mohammed Shami had a stupendous 2019 where he finished as the leading wicket-taker in ODI cricket for India [42 wickets]. The right-handed bolter will be looking to start 2020 from where he had ended 2019 when he marks his run-up on January 14th.
And, he’ll have his partner-in-crime for company-Jasprit Bumrah, who will be playing his first ODI since the 2019 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand. Bumrah made his comeback in the recently concluded T20I series against Sri Lanka and the Australian series will be another opportunity for the No.1 ranked ODI bowler in the world to get back into the groove as the all-important tour of New Zealand looms.
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