Australia v India, Commonwealth Bank Series, Sydney February 25, 2012

Embattled India on the brink

Match facts

February 26, Sydney
Start time 1420 (0320 GMT)

Big Picture

India are usually known to be slow starters, but in the CB series, they were top of the table at the halfway stage. A week later, India are now sliding towards the exit. Not only have they lost their previous two matches, there has been plenty of off-field drama as well.

"Rift" and "communication breakdown" are the words dominating India's sports pages over the past few days, with board officials reverting to the usual "he was misquoted" refrain to try to douse the controversy. The Indian media manager addressed the press to ostensibly bring clarity on the matter, though the mantra of that session was "let's look ahead and forget about the past".

With India most likely needing to win both their remaining matches to qualify, their rotation policy is being shelved. All three of their experienced batsmen - Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir - are set to feature despite MS Dhoni's now famous claims that playing all three together would cost the team 20 runs in the field. Dhoni himself will return from a one-match suspension, adding steel to the listless lower middle-order.

Australia, on the other hand, have had far fewer problems in giving their youngsters opportunities. Ricky Ponting and Brad Haddin have been eased out of the side, and their place has been taken by Peter Forrest and Matthew Wade. They have an easier route to the final as well, with one win guaranteeing them qualification.

Form guide

Australia LWLLW (Most recent first)

In the spotlight

India's death bowling has cost them dearly in the last couple of matches: 101 against Australia at the Gabba when Dan Christian and David Hussey took them apart; 91 against Sri Lanka on Tuesday, when Virender Sehwag decided to use Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli for the final two overs instead of the specialists. Who will Dhoni turn to on Sunday?

David Warner had a glorious Test summer, defying critics with his strong performances at the top of the order. His one-day form has been less bright - he has still to make a half-century after eight matches. With Shane Watson returning to full fitness, Warner has had to give up the vice-captain's spot. He might give up a place in the XI as well, if he doesn't provide the selectors another reminder of his explosive ability.

Team news

The main question for Australia to ponder is how to accommodate Watson in the XI. One of David Warner and Daniel Christian will have to make way if Watson is to play his first home game of the summer. Michael Clarke pulled up with a stiff back against Sri Lanka when he scored a half-century. He expected to be ready for Sunday's game, but if he pulls out, Watson could be captaining Australia in his comeback game. The other change the hosts may consider is bringing in Clint McKay for Ryan Harris, who was feeling his knee rather gingerly after taking a tumble while fielding against Sri Lanka on Friday.

Australia (possible) 1 David Warner, 2 Matthew Wade (wk), 3 Michael Clarke (capt), 4 Peter Forrest, 5 Michael Hussey, 6 David Hussey, 7 Daniel Christian/Shane Watson, 8 Brett Lee, 9 Clint McKay/Ryan Harris, 10 Xavier Doherty, 11 Ben Hilfenhaus.

India are missing their most experienced bowler, Zaheer Khan, to a calf injury, while a hamstring problem is likely to sideline their regular new-ball bowler Vinay Kumar. That means Praveen Kumar, a revelation during the CB series four years ago, will return to the XI.

India (possible) 1 Sachin Tendulkar, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Gautam Gambhir, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Suresh Raina, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Irfan Pathan, 9 R Ashwin, 10 Praveen Kumar, 11 Umesh Yadav.

Pitch and conditions

The only match of this series in Sydney proved to be a low-scoring encounter with Sri Lanka's medium-pacers dismantling Australia. Sunday is expected to be a pleasant day for cricket, with a maximum temperature of 29C.

Stats and trivia

  • India had lost all 11 of their ODIs against Australia at the SCG, before beating them in the 2007-08 CB series final
  • Over the past 12 months, Dhoni averages 80 in ODIs, at a strike-rate of 89.97


"It [yesterday's result] has made the calculation easier. Rather than thinking of anything else, we need to win games. How we win is not really important."
MS Dhoni looks ahead to the final leg of the league phase

Edited by Nikita Bastian

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo