All set to defend its cricket World Cup crown in less than a month, India will get its preparations underway with the aim to find the right combination for the marquee event when it takes on Australia in the ongoing ODI tri-series here on Sunday.
While this tri-series provides the perfect setting for experimentation, the need of the hour is to get a settled combination going ahead to instil confidence in the side.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni will return to international cricket after a little over two weeks since his Test retirement at the same venue, and he will have some decisions to make. The first order of business will be to make a firm choice about the opening combination.
Ahead of Sunday’s game, the team management has failed to specify whether it will be Ajinkya Rahane or Rohit Sharma pairing up with Shikhar Dhawan at the top of the order, or indeed whether a third possibly surprising combination might be thrown up.
The choice of openers will have an effect on the rest of the batting order as well. If Rahane opens with Dhawan, where will Rohit fit in? Indeed, if Rohit opens, will Rahane return to No. 4, a position he has not been comfortable with.
Or, will Virat Kohli be moved down a spot from his favoured No. 3, a move he experimented with while leading the side at home against Sri Lanka?
Unlike the team’s preparations ahead of any Test match, its net sessions for an ODI do not throw up any suggestive patterns and it was the same on Saturday as well. In no particular order then, all batsmen enjoyed a decent hit in the nets including Ambati Rayudu and Stuart Binny.
Among the bowlers, playing two spinners is definitely par for the course for India, with R. Ashwin and Axar Patel slated to take up those spots.
Ravindra Jadeja is still some distance away from full fitness. Meanwhile, Ishant Sharma too has been ruled out of this match with the management not willing to risk him at this stage in the light of his left knee niggle. It remains to be seen whether Bhuvneshwar Kumar will make the cut given his not-so-impressive showing in the Sydney Test.
Mohit Sharma and Dhawal Kulkarni are in the 17-man squad, and have been confirmed as back-up options for the World Cup, should one of the chosen bowlers break down. And so, the team management will be keen to rely on them and manage others workload.
The teams (from):
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt. & wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Stuart Binny, Axar Patel, R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, Dhawal Kulkarni and Mohit Sharma.
Australia: George Bailey (capt.), Pat Cummins, Xavier Doherty, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Brad Haddin (wk), Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Shane Watson, Kane Richardson and Gurinder Sandhu.
Match starts at: 8.50 a.m. IST.