🏏Australia tour of India: 1st ODI at Mohali on 22/09/2023 at 1:30PM IST🏏
On paper, this is a brilliant prospect. India playing Australia in conditions where the World Cup is set to be played in two weeks. Both have well-rounded teams, seem to possess an extra gear for big tournaments, and spur each other on like few other teams can. So, this opportunity to go up against each other before the World Cup showdown in Chennai is worth its weight in gold, but look closer and the series feels like a surplus in a very crowded international calendar.
No wonder Pat Cummins, addressing the media ahead of the series opener, spoke of not wanting to "already be cooked" for the World Cup. And that's what the signalling has been from India too; the hosts have decided to catch a breath after a rainy yet rigorous campaign at the Asia Cup and will be, as a result, without several first-choice players for the first two ODIs. Regular captain Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have been rested alongside Hardik Pandya and Kuldeep Yadav, whom India "don't want to expose a lot" ahead of the World Cup, according to captain Rohit Sharma. So the onus will be on Australia to take what they can out of this series.
India, even without the full World Cup squad at their disposal, look strong and have a few questions to answer. Can KL Rahul finally get on a roll with good form behind him? Can Suryakumar Yadav crack the ODI format, especially with Tilak Verma breathing down his neck? Can Ravindra Jadeja, India's second all-rounder, find a way to get back among the runs? And can Ravichandran Ashwin be the saviour again if India's condition-dictated bowling allrounder in Axar Patel, doesn't make it in time? And don't forget Shreyas Iyer, who missed most of the Asia Cup with a back spasm, but is likely to audition for his form and fitness in the three ODIs that follow.
On the other hand, Australia will be licking their lips at playing India in India before a World Cup; there's perhaps no better preparation. They will be bolstered by the return of Steve Smith, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Glenn Maxwell, whose experience they missed in the 3-2 loss to South Africa that they succumbed to after being 2-0 up in the series.
This series will also be about life without Travis Head, whose fractured left hand has made him an unlikely candidate for the World Cup. His absence, though, would mean that Mitchell Marsh returns to open the innings, a position he had given up (as stand-in captain) for the returning David Warner. However, as fate would have it, he's all set to partner Warner up top come Friday, and come the World Cup.
It's perfect that the teams have the first knockout in Mohali, the setting for many a heart-stopper between the sides. The venue, having missed out on hosting the World Cup, will be looking forward to this contest with extra sincerity and emotion. Luckily for them, India vs Australia seldom disappoints, and never in Mohali.
India vs Australia Pitch Report
Expect the PCA Stadium pitch in Mohali to favour the batters in this clash. Over the last five ODI matches here, the average first innings total has settled at 253 runs. Teams winning the toss may opt to chase, given that four out of the last five games were won by the side batting second.
India vs Australia Weather Report
Anticipate a temperature hovering around the 30-degree Celcius mark throughout the game. The atmosphere is expected to stay clear, providing ideal conditions for this match.
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.
Where: Punjab Cricket Association IS Bindra Stadium, Mohali
What to expect: A lot of runs. Mohali hasn't hosted an ODI in over four years but expect a flat pitch like you find here for more regular T20 cricket. The longer square boundaries should again add a tactical dimension to the cricket on display. In the last five ODIs here, pacers (43) have picked more wickets than the spinners (22) but have also been less economical. The weather is set to be warm with clear skies.
India WLWWW (last five matches, most recent first)
Axar Patel is unavailable at the moment and Kuldeep Yadav has been rested, so Ravichandran Ashwin should slot in straightaway. Ishan Kishan, who India see as a spin-hitter in the middle overs, is also a back-up opener and is likely to partner Gill at the top. Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj and Mohammed Shami are all available for the three ODIs but expect the first two pacers to feature in Mohali.
Probable XI: Shubman Gill, Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (c, wk), Tilak Varma/Washington Sundar, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj
Yet another well-directed bouncer has meant that Marnus Labuschagne, who was left out of the World Cup squad, is back in the scheme of things. Glenn Maxwell, who missed the ODI series against South Africa with an ankle injury, will be rested in Mohali in view of a "more managed preparation" for him in the leadup to the World Cup. Australia captain Pat Cummins also confirmed that Mitchell Starc won't feature in the first ODI. The team management will have an eye on Adam Zampa, who has been a mixed bag in India so far.
Probable XI: David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (wk), Marcus Stoinis, Sean Abbott, Pat Cummins (c), Josh Hazlewood, Adam Zampa
Did you know
. Australia have won six of the seven ODIs they have played in Mohali
. In the last four ODIs where he's batted, Jadeja has scored a total of 43 runs. His record against Australia could do with some improvement too; in 28 innings against them, Jadeja has 515 runs at an average of 24 and strike-rate of 74.
. Pat Cummins hasn't played an ODI since November 2022
. In Mohali, Ashwin has picked only two wickets in the 29 overs he's bowled in ODIs here
. KL Rahul averages 19 as captain in ODIs
What they said
"At the moment, he's fit. That's why we picked him in the squad. We are hopeful that he gets through all these three games" - Ajit Agarkar, India chief selector, on Shreyas Iyer
"We want to strike the balance between getting used to these conditions, hopefully winning some games, but we also don't want to get to that first game [of World Cup] and already be cooked" - Pat Cummins, Australia captain
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.
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.
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