Big Picture

The SCG. Australia and New Zealand played an ODI here in March, in eerie silence. It was to be the last bit of international action for four months.

Cricket has been back for a while now, but the silence hasn't gone away. On Friday, though, we could witness something close to normalcy - something like the old times - with the SCG filled to 50% capacity when Australia meet India for the first of three ODIs.

Fans at the ground, and India. You have both been missed.

The match will open a long and an important Australian summer for both teams, who are looking to address two major long-term goals: to build towards next year's T20 World Cup, and to win the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and firm up their respective chances of qualifying for the World Test Championship final.

There's plenty of wider context to the ODI series too. It's part of the new ODI Super League, and for the India players who will be featuring in the Test series too, it's also a chance to get back into the rhythm of longer innings and longer spells after a long IPL season that followed months of dormancy. For once, though, the wider context will be secondary.

The context, on Friday, will be the game itself, and for India fans especially, all those familiar pleasures you may have regretted taking for granted. Two of the best teams in the world filled with some of the most competitive characters in the sport, clashing in front of a crowd. What more can you ask for?

Form guide

Australia WLWWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
India LLLWW

In the spotlight

An average of 15.42, a strike rate barely scraping above a run-a-ball, and no sixes in 106 balls. Glenn Maxwell had a horror IPL with the bat, but he's back in home conditions. And in the ODI format too, which should give him a little more space and time - only a little, mind you, down at No. 7 - to play himself back into form. He batted magnificently in his last ODI series, in England just before the IPL, tonking 77 off 59 balls in the first ODI and 108 off 90 in the third, turning two dire situations into wins for Australia. But can Maxwell recapture that sort of form after a lean patch, and how will he go against his old nemesis Yuzvendra Chahal?

Hardik Pandya didn't bowl a ball right through IPL 2020, and while that didn't necessarily hurt the Mumbai Indians' campaign, it could upset India's ODI balance given none of their other batsmen is a viable sixth bowling option. Pandya was in terrific hitting form right through the IPL, but he may have to show a little more versatility as a top-six batsman in ODI cricket. He has the game for it, but it will be interesting to see how he adapts, especially given that he hasn't played an ODI since the World Cup semi-final against New Zealand in July 2019.

Team news

Steven Smith, who missed the ODI series in England with a concussion, is all set to slot back into the side in place of the injured Mitchell Marsh, with Marcus Stoinis vacating the No. 3 slot in all likelihood.

Australia: 1 David Warner, 2 Aaron Finch (capt), 3 Steven Smith, 4 Marnus Labuschagne, 5 Marcus Stoinis, 6 Alex Carey (wk), 7 Glenn Maxwell, 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood.

In the absence of Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal is likely to partner Shikhar Dhawan at the top of the order with KL Rahul continuing to keep wicket and bat at No. 5. If India pick both Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah, they will have to choose between Navdeep Saini's pace and Shardul Thakur's lower-order batting for the third seamer's role. Also, Chahal's IPL form may help him edge out Kuldeep Yadav for the lone wristspinner's slot.

India: 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Mayank Agarwal, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 KL Rahul (wk), 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Shardul Thakur/Navdeep Saini, 9 Yuzvendra Chahal/Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Jasprit Bumrah.

Pitch and conditions

The game should be high-scoring if the pitch plays true to recent form. Teams batting first have won six of the last seven ODIs at this ground, and the average first-innings total in that period has been 312. The weather is expected to be warm and sunny, with a high of around 24 degrees Celsius.

Stats and trivia

Quotes

"If you look at his record, it's second to none. It really is remarkable. So I think what we have to keep in mind is we have to keep looking to get him out. When you go away from that and you're looking to contain players, you can miss a trick there. He's probably the best one-day player of all time, so it's about sticking to our plans and being really committed in that regard."

Aaron Finch on how he wants Australia to approach his counterpart Virat Kohli this time around

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo