The World Cup is nearly here, but not quite. These two teams will meet to open their campaigns on October 8 in Chennai, but first there are three games in six days that, while useful for fine-tuning plans, and for a number of key Australia players returning to action, will also provide a challenge in ensuring against any further last-minute injury alarms.
Australia have suffered a big one in recent days with Travis Head's fractured hand likely to rule him out of the World Cup. India, meanwhile, have some concerns over Axar Patel who is not available for the first two matches of this series.
India are coming off their Asia Cup success where they skittled Sri Lanka for 50 in the final and Australia arrive having seen a 2-0 series lead overturned by South Africa into a 3-2 defeat. In terms of performances, form of players and confidence, there is probably more riding on these three games for them rather than India.
In the lead-up to the World Cup, Australia have not yet been able to have what could be considered a first-choice XI on the park. That combination has now been changed due to Head's injury, but captain Pat Cummins, Steven Smith and Mitchell Starc are all back and Glenn Maxwell arrives on Friday. Smith will likely play all three matches and Cummins is also keen to. As far as Maxwell goes, there remains some uncertainty over how much condensed 50-over cricket he can get through.
One intriguing name will be Matt Short, who has been called in for this series as Head's replacement. As a destructive opener who can also bowl good offspin he is very much a like-for-like. It would be a meteoric rise should he make the final 15, but it can't be ruled out.
For India, the Asia Cup ticked a lot of boxes and they've taken the opportunity to give some of their big names a rest with Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Kuldeep Yadav and Hardik Pandya sitting out the first two games of this series. The main interest is around R Ashwin and Washington Sundar, who will be vying to replace Axar should he be unavailable for more than two games.
This will also be an opportunity for Shreyas Iyer and Suryakumar Yadav to have some time in the middle. Iyer suffered a back spasm during the Asia Cup while Suryakumar played just once, making 26 off 34 balls in the defeat against Bangladesh.
India WLWWW (last five matches, most recent first) Australia LLLWW
In the spotlight: Ashwin's chance and Cummins' return
R Ashwin has not played an ODI since January 2022 and when a replacement was needed a few days ago for the Asia Cup final it was Washington who made the dash over. Still, should Axar not make the World Cup squad, Ashwin's experience could yet tilt the scales his way. He and Ravindra Jadeja have certainly given Australia some sleepless nights in Test cricket.
Pat Cummins was appointed Australia's ODI captain last November, but has so far captained them in just two matches. He is entering this series off the back of a wrist injury sustained in the final Ashes Test and will strengthen a pace attack that was put under pressure in South Africa. However, there is also an interesting selection debate that could occur around Cummins if - or when - Australia only want to field two frontline quicks.
Team news: Ashwin vs Washington and Smith's return
All three spin-bowling allrounders could play in the absence of the rested Pandya. The selectors may also consider giving Mohammed Siraj a game off after his Asia Cup heroics. Ishan Kishan will have the chance to open alongside the in-form Shubman Gill.
India (possible): 1 Ishan Kishan, 2 Shubman Gill, 3 Shreyas Iyer, 4 Suryakumar Yadav, 5 KL Rahul (capt, wk), 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Washington Sundar, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Mohammed Siraj/Shardul Thakur, 11 Jasprit Bumrah.
This game could give the first indication of how Australia plan to fit together Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, although they may look to squeeze in Short. Without Head, Maxwell or Ashton Agar, Tanveer Sangha could come into the mix. Starc isn't available for this game, which could open the door for Spencer Johnson to make his ODI debut after he picked up a hamstring injury in South Africa. Sean Abbott and Nathan Ellis both left Johannesburg with injuries.
Australia (possible): 1 David Warner, 2 Mitchell Marsh, 3 Steven Smith, 4 Marnus Labuschagne, 5 Alex Carey (wk), 6 Cameron Green, 7 Marcus Stoinis, 8 Pat Cummins (capt), 9 Spencer Johnson/Tanveer Sangha, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood.
Pitch and conditions
It's early in the Indian season, but Cummins said he didn't expect that to affect the surfaces much. Mohali hasn't staged an ODI for four years, but has produced some high scores in the IPL. The forecast is for a hot, dry day.
Stats and trivia
The last ODI played in Mohali featured these two teams back in 2019 when Australia chased down a record 359 thanks to Peter Handscomb, Usman Khawaja and Ashton Turner.
Steven Smith needs 61 runs to reach 5000 in ODIs.
The last time India faced Australia in ODIs, Suryakumar Yadav bagged three consecutive golden ducks.
"We'll try and strike the balance between getting plenty of game time into everyone but also [have] an eye to the World Cup in a couple of weeks." Pat Cummins