It was a humiliating defeat for Team India at Wankhede Stadium in the series opener as the mighty Aussies chased down the target of 256 runs in just 37.4 overs without a loss of a single wicket. Openers David Warner and Aaron Finch proved too hot to handle for the hapless Indian bowlers who were left clueless throughout the Australian innings.
With a 1-0 advantage in the three-match series and an emphatic 3-2 series win last year, Finch’s men with have the edge over the Men in Blue to clinch the series once again with a win at Rajkot.
India will be looking to make a strong comeback by thrashing the Aussies in the next game to keep their series hopes alive and travel to Bengaluru with a 1-1 scoreline for the series decider. But that won’t be easy for Team India who must make certain changes and be at their very best to stop the five-time world champion.
Let us look at three strategic changes Virat Kohli’s men must make to have any chances of levelling the series against this ruthless Australian side at Rajkot:
1. Navdeep Saini in for Shardul Thakur
Shardul Thakur who plays for Mumbai in the domestic circuit was picked ahead of Saini due to the obvious reason that the game was being played at his home turf, Wankhede Stadium. Despite impressing everyone with his bowling against Sri Lanka in the recently concluded T20I series, the 28-year-old pacer couldn’t live up to the expectations against Australia as he was taken to the cleaners by Warner and Finch (finished with the figures of 0-43 runs in five overs at an economy of 8.60).
Having proved himself with the bat low down the order against West Indies during the ODI series decider at Cuttack and against Sri Lanka at Pune in the third T20I, the 28-year-old edged over the fiery Navdeep Saini in the race for third pacer’s spot at Mumbai.
Saini who has played just one ODI in his career so far was outstanding with the ball against Sri Lanka tormenting the batsmen with his pace, yorkers and accuracy (five wickets in two matches). After failing to pick up a wicket in the first ODI despite having proven pacers like Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami in their ranks, India might be tempted bring in a wicket-taking bowler like Saini to rattle the Australian batsmen.
With Saini in a red-hot form, it will be a decisive move for India who need to win at Rajkot to avoid the series defeat and an opportunity for Saini to extend his domination in the ODIs.
2. Virat Kohli should bat at his usual No.3 spot
With the intent of accommodating both Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul in the XI, Virat Kohli moved himself down the order to No.4. Though it was good to experiment, the move backfired with Kohli being dismissed for just 16 runs off Adam Zampa. It did not go down well among the fans, who were rather surprised and disappointed with the Indian skipper’s decision of playing at the much-debated No.4 spot.
In fact, Shreyas Iyer who managed just four runs at the Wankhede Stadium coming in at No.5 scored two half-centuries out of the three innings batting at No.4 in the ODI series against West Indies last month and the Delhi Capitals skipper seems to be the best bet for the No.4 spot at which Team India tried several players over the last two years.
It will be better if both Virat Kohli (who averages over 63 at number three) and Shreyas Iyer bat at their respective number three and four spots in the ODIs hereafter.
3. Kedar Jadhav in for Rishabh Pant
Well, this might be surprising but Pant, who suffered a concussion after being struck on the head by a bouncer from Pat Cummins (and was eventually dismissed in that delivery) in the 44th over of India’s innings, didn’t don the gloves behind the stumps. The 22-year-old wicket-keeper batsman who is ‘under observation’ and ‘being monitored’ was replaced by Manish Pandey on the field. KL Rahul looked after the proceedings behind the stumps in Pant’s absence.
Despite being a regular wicketkeeper for Kings XI Punjab during the past two IPL editions, this was the first instance of Rahul doing the glovework for Team India. With Kohli unlikely to rest either Dhawan or Rahul and India missing the sixth bowler option at Mumbai, all-rounder Kedar Jadhav might come in for Pant at Rajkot.
In that case, KL Rahul might have to bat at No.5. With Rahul serving as the wicketkeeper, Jadhav who has made the ODI squad mainly for his useful off-spin spells will provide the extra bowling option should India decide to rest young Rishabh Pant who suffered concussion for the second ODI.
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