With its World Cup preparations derailed by successive losses, India would look to re-ignite the spark and keep itself afloat in the ODI tri-series when it takes on an unbeaten Australia in a must win game here on Monday.
With three victories in three matches, the hosts have already qualified for the final in Perth on February 1.
The heavy loss to England in Brisbane means that India will not only have to win both its remaining games, in Sydney and Perth against the English, but win by a decent margin. It will probably need to garner bonus points in both matches.
In that light, perhaps it is good news that Ishant Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja are available for tomorrow’s game. It remains to be seen though if they will be picked in the playing eleven, especially Jadeja, as there still remains some doubt over his fielding capability in the outfield.
Meanwhile, Rohit Sharma has been ruled out of this match as a hamstring injury continues to bother him. However, at this point his participation in the World Cup is not in doubt.
As such, India’s batting order is nearly pre-decided.
The possibility of debate will be whether Virat Kohli will continue to bat at No. 4.
Statistically, Kohli has done well at both No. 3 and 4. He averages 51.97 at No. 3, scoring 14 of his 21 ODI hundreds there, a run of form that has seen parallels drawn with the likes of Sir Vivian Richards and Ricky Ponting.
The second point of discussion in the Indian dressing room will be the lower-middle order, particularly from the point of view of scoring quick runs in the death overs. Stuart Binny enjoyed a good outing at the Gabba — both with bat and ball — and he is in the World Cup squad to play this double role.
With R. Ashwin, A. Patel (or Jadeja) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar batting after him, it will prolong the batting and strengthen the lower order.
While Mahendra Singh Dhoni has mentioned on a couple of occasions that Binny’s presence will come in handy on helpful wickets, it remains to be seen if the skipper will entertain the thought of playing him on slower tracks as well, like the one at Sydney Cricket Ground.
While India needs to find a balance between experimentation for the World Cup and its best playing eleven for the must win next two matches, Australia has no such worry.
George Bailey is back in-charge after Steve Smith did the job against England on Friday.
Shane Watson is still ruled out due to injury, while Mitchell Marsh has recovered.
Australia is looking to play Xavier Doherty and drop one of its regular pace bowlers on this spin-friendly wicket.
No players with niggles
Dhoni said unfit players will not be risked keeping in mind next month’s World Cup here.
“In the last two matches, we were playing the best XI possible. But we were also bothered by injuries,” said Dhoni in the pre-match press conference.
“At the same time, what’s the point looking to win games where you are pushing an individual who has quite a significant niggle. You may end up winning the game but you may end up losing him for the World Cup. You have to take a call. So close to the World Cup, there is no time for errors when it comes to actually managing the players because we want the fifteen to be part of the World Cup squad,” he added.
The teams (from):
India: M.S. 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, Gurinder Sandhu, Moises Henriques and Shaun Marsh.
Match starts at: 8.50 am IST.