Batsmen expected to dominate one-off T20
Thursday October 10, 2013
Start time 1930 local (1400 GMT)
The eight-match limited-overs series, starting with the one-off T20 in Rajkot, kicks off India's home international season of 2013-14 following three weeks of Champions League action. The concept of the T20 series is still struggling to find context, and more so in a series like this, with the one-off match dwarfed by seven ODIs. By the time the tour ends, it's likely that the result of the T20 game will be forgotten and that memory of this tour will only be restricted to the result of the one-dayers.
Perhaps two ODIs could have been culled for the sake of two extra T20s, just to give the shortest format more context. It would also give a team a chance to come back in the series. However, from a commercial perspective, more ODIs generate more revenue so fans and players will have to be happy with this arrangement, whether they like it or not.
This will be India's first T20 since December 2012, so it will be interesting to see how the group settles. Eight of India's T20 squad took part in the Champions League, and the rest have been busy taking part in various tournaments, including the A tours and the Challenger Trophy. There's no question of rustiness that tends to affect some teams at the start of a season. That two IPL sides made the final shows that certain key players have already warmed-up well.
Five of Australia's T20 squad were part of the Champions League final (Mitchell Johnson didn't play). The tournament would have helped them acclimatise to Indian conditions. Much will depend on Shane Watson to fire at the top, and given his IPL experience, it wasn't surprising to see him mentoring his team-mates at practice. They have Aaron Finch at the top who can provide strong starts and Glenn Maxwell, who can be relied on to finish an innings. James Faulkner had a very successful IPL for Rajasthan Royals as a left-arm seamer, and he will be a key member of the attack.
Australia's recent T20 results haven't been impressive, having lost 6 of their last 7 T20s. A win will give them a chance of starting the tour on a high, something they will need as they face a vastly experienced India ODI squad later on.
In the spotlight
A leaner, fitter and younger looking Yuvraj Singh has stormed back into the national side after some solid showings against West Indies A, and the Challenger Trophy. Dropped for several months, Yuvraj Singh spent the summer in France to take part in a rigorous fitness regime, but there were doubts as to whether he was match ready. In his first competitive knock since the IPL, Yuvraj blazed 123 off 89 balls against West Indies A in a one-dayer, and followed it up with three more fifties in the next four innings. Among the seniors who are trying to force their way back into the Indian side, Yuvraj's has been the only success story to date.
Aaron Finch was at his destructive best in the tour of the UK recently, shredding England for a world-record 156 in a T20, and then following it up with 148 in an ODI against Scotland. The opener's follow-up wasn't great, as he failed to pass fifty during the England series. He has scores of 2 and 5 in the Ryobi one-day cup in Australia leading up to this tour. Finch is not unfamiliar to Indian conditions though, given his captaincy stint for Pune Warriors in the IPL. The friendly batting conditions in Rajkot should help him in his quest to regain form.
Australia had an injury scare before the tour, when Adam Voges flew home from the Champions League. The batsman is fit and has returned to India, training with the rest of the team in Mumbai.
Australia (likely) 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Shane Watson, 3 George Bailey (capt), 4 Adam Voges, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Moises Henriques, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 James Faulkner, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 and 11 Nathan Coulter-Nile/ Clint McKay/ Xavier Doherty
India captain MS Dhoni said that all 15 in the squad were fit for selection, but didn't hint at what the team composition would be. A Yuvraj return looks certain.
India (likely) 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suresh Raina, 5 Yuvraj Singh, 6 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Amit Mishra, 10 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 11 Ishant Sharma
Pitch and conditions
The news on the weather front in Rajkot hasn't been encouraging. The city has experienced rains in the last few days and more has been forecast on match day. India managed to practice on Wednesday, and the hosts are confident the drainage facilities at the new ground will allow a full game. Rajkot has generally produced the best batting pitches in India and the curator, Dhiraj Parsana, said the surface in Khanderi shouldn't be any different.
Stats and trivia
- Australia and India have played just one T20 in India, back in 2007. India won by seven wickets in Mumbai
- The Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium will be hosting its second international game, after England played India in January 2013
- Shane Watson is the only batsman in the current squad with more than 1000 T20 international runs. There are no Indian batsmen in the list, with Gautam Gambhir the highest with 932 runs
"He performs very well in big matches. In tough series he does well so we are hoping that he will come back strong."
MS Dhoni on Yuvraj Singh
"What we have lost is a lot of experience. We are trying to rebuild that. Guys are getting used to being in this side, being used to the scrutiny and pressure of international cricket, and to the different roles they play."
Australia captain George Bailey assesses the current state of affairs
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo