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All eyes on Kohli's captaincy as India look to level series

Big Picture

This is Australian cricket's new reality at least for now. Even a win in a truncated T20I will be hailed as a significant moment in a possible renaissance. Wednesday in Brisbane was only their sixth win in 23 internationals since the sandpaper came out in Cape Town. Three of those wins have been against Zimbabwe and UAE. Imagine starting this big India tour with a defeat. India already have eyes set on their first-ever Test series win in Australia. A win at the start of the tour is expected to lift Australia's spirit, or at least not let them be dispirited.

Make no mistake, it was a good win. Everything was against Australia. They were batting first in an increasingly bowl-first game, rain robbed them of all the batting momentum they had built, and they had to contend with the disadvantage of being the side not chasing in a rain-affected match.

India should be bitterly disappointed they let Australia get away with this one. They were given a sneak peek into what Hardik Pandya's absence costs them. They are wary of going in without an allrounder, so Krunal Pandya had to play. They are also wary of playing three spinners, so one of their two match-winning wristspinners had to sit out. They didn't get their match-ups right - Jasprit Bumrah didn't bowl to Chris Lynn at all even though he has a great record against the big hitter. Captain Virat Kohli also sacrificed his No. 3 position to accommodate KL Rahul, which on the surface is an experiment worth trying two years before a World T20. But Kohli needs to ascertain the cost and benefit of it swiftly.

Given the slip-ups in the first game, all eyes will be on Kohli's captaincy on Friday.

Form guide

Australia WLLLL (last five completed games, most recent first)
India LWWWW

In the spotlight

Kuldeep Yadav has started his Australia tour much as he did England. His 5 for 24 in Manchester restricted England; here he took 2 for 24, and would have benefited greatly from pressure at the other end too. His slow pace, and batsmen's inability to pick his wrong 'un continue to be a big weapon in T20 cricket.

Marcus Stoinis played the perfect allrounder's role for Australia in the opening match, scoring 33 off 19 and then backing it up with an excellent final over with only 12 to defend. He is what India don't have: a proper bowler who can bowl his quota of overs and play the big shots when needed.

Team news

India should make the bold decision of playing three spinners. Dropping Krunal after an off-night will diminish their batting. With the MCG's big boundaries, India should have the confidence of playing Chahal over Khaleel Ahmed. KL Rahul should continue now that he has been shown faith in.

India (possible): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt.), 4 KL Rahul, 5 Rishabh Pant (wk), 6 Dinesh Karthik, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Khaleel Ahmed/Yuzvendra Chahal

Australia shouldn't have any reasons to change the combination that delivered them with a rare win.

Australia (possible): 1 Aaron Finch (capt.), 2 D'Arcy Short, 3 Chris Lynn, 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 Marcus Stoinis, 6 Ben McDermott, 7 Alex Carey (wk), 8 Andrew Tye, 9 Adam Zampa, 10 Jason Behrendorff, 11 Billy Stanlake

Pitch and conditions

Friday in Melbourne is expected to be cloudy with showers on and off. Don't rule out another shortened match.

The drop-in pitch is usually slightly slow with spongy bounce.

Stats and trivia

  • Kohli has played 178 of his 235 T20 innings in the top three and averages 45 in these innings. He averages 27 outside the top three. The change in the strike rate is not significant.

  • Kuldeep is a great starter. Or rather, batsmen take time to get used to his bowling. In the first match of all the series he has played - across formats - he averages 11 with a wicket every 14 balls. His average goes to 29 and strike rate to 22 in the remaining matches.

Quotes

"We have got good memories in the team. We dominated T20s last year. We were in good form not so long ago. Obviously, things have not gone our way but we know we are still a good side."
Australia allrounder Marcus Stoinis

"It was a game where we had to target all the bowlers. We didn't have much time [in the chase]. We tried to target him [Adam Zampa] but he got us out. Next game, we will have better plans against him, and implement them in the middle."
India batsman Shikhar Dhawan