Questions for both sides in opener
Sunday, October 13, 2013
Start time 1330 local (0800 GMT)
If you trace a line through the venues for this ODI series, it starts from western India and runs across the northern, eastern and central parts of the country before culminating in the shape of a question mark in the south. As India and Australia traverse that line for the next three-and-a-half weeks, they will doubtless ask questions of each other. The foremost for Australia will be - can this squad, sorely lacking experience compared to previous sides, come close to matching their limited-overs deeds in India?
The last ODI Australia played in India was the quarter-final of the 2011 World Cup. The churn Australian cricket has gone through since then is reflected in the fact that only three members of that XI are part of the current touring party. Previous Australia ODI visits to India have been successful due to two big factors; powerful, dominating batsmen who have taken toll of India's relatively weaker attacks on benign pitches, and bowlers of real pace who have squeezed enough out of those surfaces to prevent the home batsmen from running amok.
Names such as Brett Lee, and later, Doug Bollinger, come to mind, hustling India batsmen with extra speed. Mitchell Johnson is the only such bowler in the present squad, although Nathan Coulter-Nile can produce bursts as well. However, Australia are well served on the power-batting front, Aaron Finch, in Rajkot, providing enough evidence of that.
India's No 1 ODI ranking is on the line, although it will require a 1-6 hammering, something that would leave Australia captain George Bailey "very surprised" if it happens. For MS Dhoni, as always, the question is not how to make runs, but how to prevent them from being made by the opposition. The new ODI rule restricting deep fielders to a maximum of four has only added to his problems. "I don't know where to bring in that one fielder inside in the last ten overs when the batsmen are intent going for the bowlers," Dhoni said. "That's one area where we have to work on. We have to see how to use that channel to put pressure on the opposition."
Form guide (Most recent games first)
In the spotlight
Rohit Sharma has reinvented himself as an ODI opener following successful outings in the Champions Trophy, in the West Indies and in Zimbabwe. The promotion had come at home against England earlier this year. But his strike-rate has taken a beating at the top of the order. The needs in overseas conditions were different, but in Indian conditions, he will be required to provide explosive starts.
The last time Australia toured India for a bilateral ODI series, in 2009, Shane Watson was their highest wicket-taker and third-highest run-getter, after Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting. Those two are no longer around, meaning extra responsibility for Watson. More pertinently, he had an agonizing time during the Test tour earlier this year leading to much upheaval within the team and will have to play a role completely different from the divisive one he did then.
India have the same squad that played the solitary T20 and should stick to the same XI, unless Vinay Kumar, who hurt his left wrist in Rajkot, fails to recover.
India (probable) 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Vinay Kumar/Mohammed Shami/Jaydev Unadkat, 11 Ishant Sharma
Callum Ferguson and Phillip Hughes are the additions to the Australia squad from the T20 one. Nic Maddinson impressed on debut in Rajkot, but he isn't part of the ODI group, which means one of Ferguson and Hughes should come in.
Australia (probable) 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Phillip Hughes, 3 Shane Watson, 4 George Bailey, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Brad Haddin (wk), 7 Moises Henriques, 8 Nathan Coulter-Nile/James Faulkner, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Clint McKay, 11 Xavier Doherty
Pitch and conditions
The Maharashtra Cricket Association's new stadium on the outskirts of Pune will make its ODI debut. Its pitch has played notoriously and stubbornly slow and low during IPL seasons. The IPL comes at the end of the season, but even during the early-season Ranji Trophy matches, the venue hasn't seen much life. Last November, Maharashtra declared on 764 for 6. Uttar Pradesh replied with 669 for 7, and their coach Venkatesh Prasad was moved into terming the surface "pathetic", albeit for a four-day match.
The start time for all games this series has been advanced by an hour to 1.30pm to try and counter the autumn's prospect of dewy nights. Before that, the match will have to weather the 50% rain that is forecast for the day, although not much of it is expected in the evening.
Stats and trivia
- India have won their last eight ODIs
- The MCA Stadium in Pune will become India's 44th ODI venue. The Nehru Stadium, the old international venue in the city, hosted the last of its 11 matches* in November 2005.
"I don't think there's any advantage. It's a nice statistic though but there's no advantage to be gained from this. I don't worry about it too much. I am not really thinking about maintaining the streak."
George Bailey on Australia's ODI record in India
"Australia have good batting depth and can bat up to No 9. That's their strength and that is why in the T20, they were not too concerned about losing wickets and adopted an aggressive approach."
*October 13, 0640GMT The number of matches hosted by the Nehru Stadium has been corrected.
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo