New Delhi: Team India once again begin their home season and this time they start of their proceedings against Steve Smith-led Australia in a limited-over series that kicks off at the M Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on September 17.
Virat Kohli's army have been up and rolling in the 50-over format of the game. The skipper had led his side to the finals of the ICC Champions Trophy in England but thereafter suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of their arch-rivals Pakistan. The team then regrouped to bag the ODI series in the Tour of West Indies winning the five-match series 3-1.
Returning back to the sub-continent, Men in Blue took on a beleaguered Sri Lanka side and crumbled down their hope in a historic 9-0 'tour-wash', clinching victories in all formats of the game. Coming back to their homeland, fresh from the Sri Lankan party, Kohli and Co. now welcome the team from Down Under for a five-match ODI series and then a three-match T20I series.
Talking about the visitors, the summer hasn't been the one to be remembered. Under unfortunate circumstances, which was basically the poor weather condition in England, Steve Smith's side, who were the potential champions, were shown the exit gate in the very league stage of the Champions Trophy.
Then came the pay dispute that kept more than hundred Aussie cricketers unemployed for about a month. Finally with the debate ending, the team travelled up to Bangladesh for their first summer tour, a two-match Test series. Bitter humiliation strolled in as the team suffered a defeat in the first match, but efforts of David Warner and Nathan Lyon helped the toursists to end series in a 1-1 draw in Chittagong.
And now they are back to India, after around seven months. This time for a limited-over series with both team gearing up for the 2019 Cricket World Cup. While for India it will be their second step at experimentation, the visitors will look forward to implement their first plan in a bid to create a formidable side for the coveted tournament.
Here are the five talking points as the fierce rivalry between India and Australia begin on September 17 in Chennai...
ODI rankings at stake – Despite Australia's current downfall in their standar of cricket in the ODI format, they are ranked higher than the Indians in the ICC ODI Team Rankings, but just by a mere decimal. Both have 117 points, but the team from Down Under stands at position two on the list head of the Men in Blue by a decimal mark.
And now with the ODI series lined up, both have the opportunity to overhaul table-toppers South Africa (119) only if either can finish the five-match series with a score of 4-1 or better.
Could the ODI series see Brain-fade Episode 2? – The word 'brain-fade' does tickle your brain with a bit of laughter as you may travel down to Benglauru where the entire incident had fared up. It was during the second Test match. Steve Smith was caught looking at the Australian dressing room moments before appealing for a DRS. And thus started the entire fiasco.
Words were been fired at each other in post-match conferences. Legends of the game too involved themselves in the battle of words – some blamed Kohli and his aggressiveness while some used phrases of disppointment towards Smith. Even the cricket boards of the two nations came forth to step into the fiasco.
So much so that after the conclusion of the Border-Gavaskar series, either captains were asked about the status of their friendship. An India-Australia battle without such showdowns, doesn't make sense to the fans, right? Is the creating fraternity waiting for an Episode 2? – Yes, without a doubt.
Debutant David – Not many would have guesssed it, but yes, David Warner, on Sunday would make his ODI debut against India in India. He was part of the Test squad in the Border-Gavaskar series and has always displayed his ruthlessness with the willow during the IPL seasons.
Adding to it, he has played an ODI match against the Men in Blue, but all at home. He had scored a total of 391 runs in 10 matches against India, which includes a ton and two fifties. But unfortunate for the opener, he failed to make it to the World Cup 2011 squad that was held in India.
Looking at Sunday's encounter, he would definitely be the player to look out for.
The top-order debate – Virat Kohli at No. 3, with not an inch of doubt. The skipper has been in top form off late with a renewed discussion saying that yes he can beark Sachin Tendulkar's record. Ergo, one spot filled. Looking at No. 4, it is Manish Pandey or KL Rahul.
With the Sri Lanka series, Team India took one step towards their plan of rotation and experimentation to create a batting-order line up so versatile that batsman can produce as in when required from any position. That is what Kohli and the selctors are looking at. Thus, Rahul, who generally is an opener in Tests was given the role of No. 4 in the Sri Lanka series, but things faild to pan out for the batsman. With scores of 4, 17 and 7 in three matches, he was dropped from the fifth game.
At a presser in Chennai on the eve of the opener against Australia, Kohli said, "KL (Rahul) is an outstanding talent. He is proved himself in all formats. And he is someone who needs to be backed. Because we believe that he has the ability. Once he gets his role done, he will start winning us games. We are very sure of that." No. 4 spot filled in too.
Battle now resolves between Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav. The latter has been part of the team since India's Champions Trophy campiagn. But in the Sri Lanka series he failed to live upto the expectations scoring 1 and 0 in the second and third match, both going down to the wrong-uns of Akila Dananjaya. Pandey replaced him for the fourth ODI and he notched up a 50. Jadhav returned for the final in place of Rahul and scored a splendid 63. Ergo, a tussle between the two and who would Kohli pick, would unviel at Chidambaram.
Writsy preference – Since Kuldeep Yadav's brilliance against Australia in the decider of the Border-Gavaskar series at Dharamsala, Kohli and Shastri has grown a sort of fondness for wrist-spin action. It has rather turned out to be a policy for Team India to have at least one wrist-spinner in their squad.
The chinaman has delivered an astounding performance in the Tour of West Indies and then again in the Sri Lanka series too. Off late, Yuzvendra Chahal has been roped in too and the spinner proved his worth in the one-off T20I against the Islanders.
But Kuldeep will always hold the upper edge in the battle between the two and Australians know that how dangerous he can be. "Kuldeep Yadav is difficult to pick", remarked Smith at a presser in Chennai on Saturday. So, the team brought in KK Jiyas to practice how to counter a chinaman.
"He is a guy Sri (team consultant Sridharan Sriram) has organised to come down and bowl. They have got Kuldeep Yadav in their squad and he is likely to play. There is a chance to train against someone like that. There aren't too many in the world," Smith said.
"A few of the guys played against him in the IPL and he is a good young talent and can be difficult to pick at times. He is someone who you have to watch a little bit closely. Hopefully we can put him under pressure early in his spell and try and take him for as many as we can," he said.