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February 4, 2012
Depending on the player, an ODI series can either be little more than a speed-bump on a long cricketing road or a pivotal juncture in the journey. So many are played that the importance of the series often depends rather more on the career arcs of the players involved than the results of the matches themselves. In Australia over the next month and a half, some will be scrapping to win more permanent places, others fighting to build their team again. ESPNcricinfo looks at six of the more fascinating individual subplots of the triangular series.
News : 'I think we're favourites' - Clarke
Analysis : Triangular shapes as big series for India
Players/Officials: Tillakaratne Dilshan | Peter Forrest | Mahela Jayawardene | Rohit Sharma | Matthew Wade | Umesh Yadav
Every innings Wade contributes to, either with the bat or behind the stumps, takes him closer to usurping Brad Haddin as Australia's No. 1 gloveman. Over the years, the national selectors have often taken a long time to be convinced of the credentials of the next in line, Adam Gilchrist waiting more than four years between his ODI debut and a baggy green cap, while Haddin endured a similarly long spell in in waiting. Wade's position is further complicated by Tim Paine's uncertain recovery from a badly fractured finger, an injury that has clouded over the Tasmanian wicketkeeper's previously firm grip on the Haddin succession. Guaranteed a start for the first three matches of the series, Wade can make life very difficult for Haddin, Paine and the selectors by making runs and pouching chances.
Ostensibly the reserve batsman for the start of the series, Peter Forrest is actually on the first of what may be several Ashes auditions. Never sure of his place in New South Wales, Forrest ventured north to Queensland this summer, and has emulated the opening batsman Ed Cowan by making runs on a challenging, adopted surface to attract the interest of the selectors. In doing so he has edged ahead of the contracted Callum Ferguson, among others. Possessing a sound technique and solid temperament, Forrest's potential currently outstrips his record of performance, but should he get a chance to bat against India and Sri Lanka, he can make the first step towards an England trip in 2013. Depending on the fates that befall Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey, his role could either be as the reserve batsman or as a member of the top six. Either way, Forrest's hopeful journey begins here.
Last time Rohit Sharma was in Australia for a triangular ODI series, he was a young player with infinite promise and a chance to make his name with a string of savvy innings on bouncy surfaces. Five summers later, he returns in much the same position, having tread uncertain waters in the interim to still be without a Test cap. The reasons Rohit has not gone on from the sturdy start he made in 2007-08 are many and varied, but he now has another chance to show he is ready for longer-form assignments. The difference is that next time, there should be a vacancy for him in India's middle order that had, until the Australia Tests, been considered infallible. That will add to Rohit's motivation, but so should the memory that his last trip down under did not provide the final word on his future, though he played well. At 24, he must do it all again.
An unbridled aggressor during the Test series, Umesh Yadav showed he had the speed, swing and attitude to dismiss the best batsmen. In between times, however, he was taken for plenty of runs by opponents who knew they could sweat on his errors in line and length. Another contributor to his wickets was the strong, silent work of an unrewarded Ishant Sharma at the other end. If Yadav is to develop his undoubted promise, he must learn discretion as well as valour, and in that sense a few ODIs in Australia may be helpful. The return of Praveen Kumar and the continued fitness of Zaheer Khan provides Yadav with a pair of more measured practitioners to work alongside, and MS dhoni will be hoping to see him make steps towards becoming complete, and not merely fast.
Exhaustion pushed Mahela Jayawardene away from the Sri Lankan captaincy, but duty has drawn him back. At the end of a year of interim boards, upheaval and no fewer than four national coaches, leadership has returned to the hands of the man who led the team to the 2007 World Cup final. Through the recent unsteady period Jayawardene's batting has dipped - he averages 24.61 in Tests in 2011 - though his ODI output has remained steady. At 34 he is not a long-term solution, but may at least be able to lead Sri Lanka back into a vein of consistency until the heir-apparent Angelo Mathews is ready for the job. In confronting Australia and India, Jayawardene has the chance to once again stamp himself as leader, while also identifying the players he wants to take with him to the assignments beyond.
Having lost the captaincy to Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan may again be cast as the batting maverick and fielding action man that made him one of the more watchable players in world cricket. It was in Australia, during the 2006 triangular series finals, that Dilshan stunned Australia by engineering four run-outs and taking a catch at Adelaide Oval in a matchless fielding display. It is that sort of energy that went missing from Dilshan's game under the burden of leadership, a role he never quite seemed ready for or suited to. Having returned to the ranks at the age of 35, Dilshan must make an impression this series, or he may soon be counting down the days to the end of his international career.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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