Pune: A dominant force in One-day cricket, India would look to retain its top spot in the rankings when they clash with a relatively inexperienced Australian side in a seven-match series, beginning here from Sunday.
India have enjoyed exceptional results in One-day format this year. Except losing a three-match series to Pakistan at the start of 2013, the world champion side has had tremendous success, winning series after series.
The hosts had whitewashed Australia 4-0 in the February-March Test series and avenging that loss would be a herculean task for the visitors, who have come without inspiring skipper Michael Clarke even as their batsmen gave a good account of themselves in the one-off Twenty20 in Rajkot.
Australia did beat England in ODIs post their Ashes debacle but India are a tough nut to crack in home conditions. And the visitors have got a fair idea about the task ahead after failing to defend a 200-plus total in Rajkot.
The Australian attack was subdued by the Indian batsmen, specially the comeback-man Yuvraj Singh, who took the game away from them with his blitzy 35-ball 77.
The left-hander has always been a vital cog in India`s middle-order and the way he batted in his first game, Australia would be wary of him.
The Australians lack an effective spinner in their attack hence the pacemen need to come up with something very special to stop the rampaging Indian batting line up.
Bowling would be a little worry for Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni also as paceman Ishant Sharma and spinner R Aswhin were carted around by the Australians in T20.
Ashwin usually is a reliable weapon but he bled 41 runs in his two overs and Sharma conceded 52 in his four, forcing introduction of part-timer Virat Kohli in the attack.
The saving grace was Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and R Vinay Kumar, who picked up three wickets apiece. Left arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja bowled very effectively with his flatter trajectory.
Luckily for the Indians, barring a stroke-filled 89 from 52 balls by opener Aaron Finch, other Aussie batsmen could not capitalise fully on the poor Indian bowling.
The Aussies would require their batsmen to stay longer at the crease and make good starts count in the 50-over game.
They certainly would expect better contributions than single digit scores that they fell for from captain Bailey and key all rounder Shane Watson.
Watson, who is the most experienced player in the side and also knows conditions well, flopped in bowling also and he needs to fire on both fronts if Australia are to succeed and win the series.
Even though the matches commence one hour earlier than is the custom in India, the team bowling second would obviously have to factor in the dew fall which makes the ball skid off the track and trouble the spinners from having a firmer grip.
This game is the first ODI to be played at the newly built Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium that became an international venue last year when India and England clashed in a T20 International.
The fact that India have won the last two ODIs played at home against Australia in October 2010 and March 2011 (World Cup quarter final) also provides an indication of who, between the two teams currently, holds the edge in these conditions.
India: M S Dhoni (C), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, R Vinay Kumar, Amit Mishra, Jaydev Unadkat and Mohd. Shami.
Australia: George Bailey (C), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Xavier Doherty, James Faulkner, Callum Ferguson, Aaron Finch, Brad Haddin, Moises Henriques, Phil Hughes, Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Clint McKay, Adam Voges, Shane Watson.
Umpires: Richard Kettleborough and Vineet Kulkarni
Third umpire: C Shamsuddin
Match Referee: Roshan Mahanama.
Match starts at 1:30 pm